Monday, August 4, 2008

For School Success, Don't Coddle Your Kids

Parents want their children to succeed in school. However, sometimes their best intentions are misguided. Attempts to provide children with a wonderful life can, in fact, increase the stress of the entire family.

One of parents’ most common mistakes is to want to make everything easy for their children. It’s painful for parents to see their children struggle. If children never do anything difficult, however, they never learn that they can successfully meet a challenge.

Here are some things parents can do to promote their children’s success in school:

• Make school attendance a family priority. Try to schedule doctors’ appointments and family vacations when school is not in session. Have your child arrive at school in time to organize for the day.

• Show your child that you consider school to be important. Attend parent meetings and conferences. Talk with your child about school. Don’t overemphasize grades.

• Read to and with your child. Let your child also see you reading alone.

• Either rule out or treat physical difficulties, such as vision problems, hearing problems, or attention deficit, that may impede learning.

• Don’t overschedule your child. Be sure at least three hours between school and bedtime are free of extracurricular activities.

• Encourage healthy sleep patterns. Because of the changes their bodies are undergoing, adolescents actually require more sleep than younger children, perhaps nine hours per night.

• Provide your child with nutritious foods (limited in sugar, fats, caffeine, and additives). Be sure your child starts the day with breakfast.

• Make dinner a family activity, complete with conversation on a wide range of topics.

• Provide a place, with minimal distractions, for your child to study. Be sure the study area is well lit, well ventilated, and equipped with all the supplies your child is likely to need: pencils and pens, dictionary, ruler, stapler, etc.

• Establish a definite time each day for homework, reading, or other academic activities.

• Don’t allow TV or video games in the morning before school. Limit total time for these activities to 10 hours per week.

• Don’t give your child everything he or she wants. Doing so will teach the child that desires can be satisfied without work.

• Be sure your child has household chores to complete without reminders.

• Help your child develop the habit of writing all assignments in an assignment notebook. It works best if assignments are written on the date they are due.

• Help your child learn to organize time and materials. Begin to wean your child from this help as soon as he or she is able to assume partial responsibility.

• On nights before a test, have your child review material just before bedtime and then go to sleep without reading or listening to music. This will aid retention of material studied.

• Make homework your child’s responsibility. This lets your child know that you recognize him or her as a capable person.

• Be sure your child gathers together each evening all the materials that he or she will take to school the next morning.

• Allow your child to experience the natural consequences of his or her actions. For example, don’t retrieve things the child forgot.

• Have realistic expectations for your child. If his or her abilities are slightly above average, do not expect the child to be at the top of the class.

• Recognize that your child’s teachers are striving for the academic, social, and emotional development of many children besides yours. Seating your child next to a best friend, for example, may not be in the best interest of the class -- or even of your own child.

• Recognize that there will be times when your child will be frustrated by a difficult task. Resist the temptation to solve the problem yourself. Your child will learn and grow from this experience and will emerge with confidence to face the next challenge.

A successful school year depends on the cooperative efforts of parents and teachers -- and, of course, on the students themselves. Each member of the team must fulfill his or her own responsibilities -- and allow the other members to fulfill theirs.

A parent and former teacher, Fran Hamilton is the author of Hands-On English, now in its second edition. Hands-On English gives quick access to English fundamentals and makes grammar visual by using icons to represent parts of speech. The book is for anyone 9 years or older, including adults. Fran also publishes companion products to Hands-On English and free e-mail newsletters: LinguaPhile, published monthly, is for people who teach and/or enjoy English; Acu-Write, published weekly, addresses common errors in English. Both are available at

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vision: 20/20 Is Not Enough!

Now is an excellent time to have your child's vision checked. Don't be too quick to say, "My child's vision is fine: 20/20!" In many cases that is not enough.

The Snellen chart, the instrument most frequently used to test eyesight, often gives people a false sense of security about their vision. It measures only acuity -- and that at a distance of 20 feet. How much does your child read at that distance?

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that about 25 percent of children enter school with vision problems that can impede their school progress. Almost 50 percent of children with learning difficulties have vision problems, and up to 94 percent of children with reading problems have reduced visual skills.

Why does the Snellen chart leave some of these problems undetected? Vision involves much more than the sharpness of an image. It involves focusing -- and refocusing as attention shifts between far and near (as when copying from the board). It involves binocularity, the two eyes working together to capture accurate pictures of our world and of the printed page. Vision also involves perception, the brain's interpretation of the images taken in by the eyes.

Many people believe that vision should be checked by an ophthalmologist, the person with the highest credentials. While it is true that an ophthalmologist is an M.D., he or she has spent about the same amount of time studying the anatomy, functions, and diseases of the eye as an optometrist has spent studying vision alone. To check my child's vision I would seek an optometrist, specifically a "developmental" or "behavioral" optometrist. Not only will the vision exam be more thorough, but the developmental optometrist may prescribe a course of "vision therapy" to remedy problems.

Often we take vision for granted and do not think of it as a learned behavior. Because it is learned, however, through practice we can improve it. Experts speculate that the frequency of vision problems may be increasing because with television, video games, and computers, children today do not use their eyes in as many different ways as children did formerly; overall the vision of children entering school is less developed than it was a few decades ago.

What symptoms might indicate a vision problem? Any time a bright person struggles with reading, further investigation is warranted. Consider these specific questions in relation to yourself as well as in relation to your children or students. Answering yes to even a few of the questions justifies further examination. Do not discount a "yes" even if it is limited to special circumstances, such as fatigue.

Do you (or does the child) . . .

• hold reading material extremely close or far away?
• have poor posture or an unusual head tilt while doing close work?
• squint the eyes or open them very wide?
• cover one eye?
• frequently blink or rub the eyes?
• suffer from headaches, eyestrain, or fatigue?
• require excessive time to complete schoolwork or other near tasks?
• lose a place often when copying?
• skip words or lines when reading?
• report that words on a page blur or move?
• have poor comprehension of material read?
• run words together when writing?
• have poor hand-eye coordination?

I have first-hand experience with vision problems. I will be eternally grateful to Jane Porchey, my younger son's kindergarten teacher, for identifying his vision problem in October. She noticed that although he could count, he kept getting the wrong answer when counting dots in a square. Working with him individually and having him point to the dots as he counted them, she discovered that for him the dots moved. It is not unusual for children with vision problems to have words and letters swim on the page, appearing and disappearing, doing flip-flops. Imagine trying to read under these circumstances! Even if you could manage to decode the words, you would have very little reserve attention to devote to comprehension.

Life can be very frustrating for people with vision problems. The world as a whole is likely to be fluid and chaotic for them. School in particular is likely to become a source of failure. It has been found that 70 percent of juvenile delinquents have vision problems that interfere with their ability to achieve. In one study, however, the rate of recidivism dropped from 45 percent to 16 percent when offenders received on-site vision therapy.

People with vision problems usually do not realize that they have them; they have no reason to think that their view of the world is different from everyone else's.

My son's story has a happy ending. After a few weeks of vision therapy, his eyes began working together better. Letters and numbers were less mobile. He was able to corral his writing into primary triple-rule. By spring his penmanship looked like the handwriting chart. His behavior improved, too. The frustration he had experienced in school -- and in the world in general -- had often made him sad, contrary, and belligerent. Once he discovered order in his world, he became cheerful, confident, generous.

Two self-portraits -- both made in kindergarten -- show how John changed as a result of vision therapy. The first, made in September, shows the most forlorn-looking child I have ever seen. I did not even recognize him as the child I had lived with for six years. The crayon lines are rather faintly drawn. One eye is about an inch lower than the other; he has no nose or mouth. Stringlike arms issue from his sides, the right arm about three times longer than the left. His right arm sprouts three fingers; his left arm, five, the shortest of which is longer than the arm itself. Although a patch of magenta represents his shorts, he has no legs or feet.

The second self-portrait, done in May, includes me. The lines of the drawing are firm. We both have noses, U-shaped smiles, and eyes that are directly across from each other. We both have legs and feet. We are, in fact, nearly identical as we stand with our arms around each other.

Preschoolers -- even infants -- can benefit from examination by a developmental optometrist. If a problem is identified very early, correction might be possible before the problem has a chance to cause difficulty in school. Adults, too, can benefit from vision therapy.

I urge you to have your children's vision evaluated by a developmental optometrist as soon as possible, particularly if your children are having learning difficulties or if vision problems run in your family. Such an evaluation can only work for good. If a problem is discovered, you can begin working to correct it. If no problem is identified, you will have ruled out one possible cause of learning difficulties. That, too, is worthwhile.

For additional information about symptoms, therapy, and parent support groups, visit this site sponsored by Parents Active for Vision Education (P.A.V.E.), a national non-profit organization:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The 411 on Natural Colic Remedies

Any parent whose baby has suffered from colic can tell you that colic is one of the most excruciating experiences ever imaginable. Nothing is worse than seeing one’s baby in pain and not being able to help take it away. Finding relief for colic quickly becomes a top priority. There are many different colic remedies that may come to the rescue for your particular baby. Each baby is unique and may only respond to some or a combination of colic remedies. Unfortunately, parents may have to use the old trial and error method to determine which provide the greatest amount of relief for their little colic sufferer. One thing is certain…the days of “waiting it out” are long gone for those determined to find an answer. There is no need to suffer needlessly along with baby. If you’ve tried all proper feeding and burping techniques and baby is still crying, try the following list of the most effective remedies available:

#1 Music / Sound - Traditional lullabies, classical music composed for infants and heartbeat/womb CDs are very popular external remedies that relax many babies suffering from colic. You can find some particularly good ones at the SlumberSounds web site. Some parents have had great success by placing baby in carseat on top of running dishwasher, washing machine, dryer or near running vacuum cleaner. A gentle “shhhhhhh”ing sound in baby’s ear can work magic, as can soft whispers and humming or singing.

#2 Diet - Bottlefed babies with colic may show improvement if switched to a different formula, such as soy. The mothers of breastfed babies may have to pay close attention to their own diet to make sure that babies are not having negative reactions to certain foods. Try eliminating the following common culprits one at a time for a week to see if there are any signs of improvement for baby: dairy, caffeine, chocolate and gas-producing foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, peppers, melons, tomatoes, citrus fruits, beans and peanuts.

#3 Gripe Water - Be sure to check the ingredients before buying a gripe water. Many claim to be natural but include artificial ingredients and preservatives. Colicky infants’ digestive systems certainly do not need any of these potential irritants. Some gripe waters are not very helpful. There is a new, very effective and safe gripe water on the market called ColicCalm, which you can purchase online at Colic Calm Gripe Water. It has the highest success rate on the market.

#4 Warm Aromatherapy Bath / Massage - Add a few drops of lavender to a warm bath and follow with the soothing touch of massage. Focus massage on the tummy area to relieve painful trapped gas. You can research baby massage techniques on the web or pick up a book on the subject. A good one to try is The Practical Art of Baby Massage by Peter Walker. You can buy lovely lavender, chamomile and fennel massage oils specifically designed for baby massage on the Web. There is also a popular baby massage tool called “Snukkles” which may work well for you.

#5 Swaddling - Babies are often soothed when swaddled or held close to a parents chest and heartbeat since they are reminiscent of the comfort and safety of the womb. Newborn babies are soothed in nurseries with swaddling. Techniques on folding soft, stretchy blankets are easy to learn. Find instructions and diagrams online or pick up a book/ magazine on the topic. A good ready-made wrap to try is “Swaddleme”, easy to find on the Web.

#6 Motion - Walking, rocking and movement are very comforting to most infants. The good old rocking chair may be all it takes. Some parents have been known to push stroller or drive around in car until baby falls asleep. Try putting baby in an infant chest carrier or sling so that your hands can be free. Walk with baby facing down across arm with hand under abdomen, applying gentle pressure. This position is often referred to as “the colic hold”. Many babies like to be outdoors. Almost all babies love swings. Try a combination of the above to see what helps soothe baby the best.

After experiencing colic firsthand, it fast became this mother and educators mission to conduct extensive research on colic towards finding a solution. This article outlines some useful techniques including music, motion, swaddling, gripe water, and diet.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Better Behavior Wheel - A New Kind of Calm in the Family

There's a new kind of fun and calm out there in the name of the Better Behavior Wheel, invented by Julie Butler and her family in central British Columbia. In an interesting twist on charts and discipline, this versatile wheel can be hung on a wall or toted with you in the car and on vacations.

It's a way to get whole family involvement, and a little bit of humor to get us over the discipline bumps. Kayla Fay, publisher of Who Put the Ketchup in the Medicine Cabinet? says, "This is the proverbial spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down! Only a loving parent could come up with such an effective way to discipline children."

As the Wheel Turns

Originally, the wheel sprang from constant battles between Julie's 9- and 12-year-old children, David and Laura. With battles raging in their home, Julie and her husband decided they must find some way to keep the peace. Julie says, "We hated the atmosphere of tension that would invariably follow these exchanges. Our once happy home was being turned into a war zone, and it felt like there were land mines scattered beneath our feet. One night, in desperation, we called the kids into the living room and told them how upsetting their behavior was. We asked them for suggestions on how we could restore peace and serenity back into the family."

The kids were sent to their room to come up with at least six appropriate consequences for their next fight. David and Laura presented the family with consequences like:

Clean the other person's room Do dishes for the other person Make the other person's bed for a week Lend your favorite CD or game to the other person for a week Make a list of ten good things about the other person Hug and make up….

These suggestions were arranged around the perimeter of a board, and a spinner attached to the middle. The premise was that the spinner would choose the consequence for them, and they would hang the board in plain view in the kitchen. Julie remembers, "We crossed our fingers, and waited. And waited. It was amazing. Just the presence of the board, hanging on our kitchen wall, had an instant calming effect on the atmosphere in our home. Occasionally we'd see one of the kids standing in front of the board, idly flicking the spinner, checking it out. But the fighting had stopped."

Of course, the battle was won, but not the war. Ten days later, the fighting began again, but this time they were prepared. Says Julie, "We called them both into the kitchen, took the board down off the wall, and placed it on the table. They knew what they had to do. How could they refuse? They chose the consequences. They practically invented the board. It landed on the most dreaded consequence of all: Hug and make up!"

Once the fighting subsided, Julie realized there were other behaviors she also wished to curb. "It seemed like the kids were always leaving the lights on when they left a room. Or they'd leave the TV on when they went to bed. Why not make another wheel with consequences related to wasting electricity?"

Eventually, eight themes were added: Excessive Arguing Leaving the Lights On Not Putting Things Away A Job Poorly Done Stretching the Truth Taking Without Asking Talking Back Wheel of Just Desserts (rewards)

Forty-eight consequences and 16 rewards are printed on peel-and-stick paper with colorful eye-catching graphics, enabling parents to customize the wheel to meet their family's needs. Just cut them out and stick them on. It's very easy to make up your own consequences and themes.

Interestingly, Julie says the wheel lowers her stress, keeps the consequences appropriate, and removes parents from the "Bad Guy" label. In the past, she and her husband would have to repeatedly ask David to do something, only to hear him say, "I know." This would come to a boil, and in anger they would yell and exact a punishment too harsh for the infraction.

Now, the wheel does all the work.

"David, it's 8:15; you haven't started the dishes yet. I'm afraid we'll have to spin the wheel."

"But, Mom!"

"I'm sorry, Dear. It's really not up to me. Those are the rules we all agreed on. Gee, I hope you don't land on a really bad consequence."

Julie says, "The amazing thing is, we're no longer the bad guys. We can actually root for the kids as they drag themselves up to the wheel. It's no longer 'us against them'. It's the wheel that they have to answer to. But the greatest thing of all is that we hardly ever have to use the wheel. It hangs on the kitchen wall, acting as a watchdog and reminder."

What Else?

The Butlers' website, , shows some parents of ADHD children have found the wheel to be a wonderful program. That is great news for many! Every parent should work with their child's personality and decide if the wheel is right for them, keeping in mind that every program doesn't work with every child.

There are a couple of letters on Julie's site from parents asking for help with children who are completely out of control. One mother says her five-year-old "beats (his big sister), kills animals, curses, and destroys everything in his path." Another mother said her six-year-old adopted daughter has angry outbursts and goes in cycles. She wondered what to do when her child refuses the consequences and it starts another battle.

These are warning signs of something more serious than just a discipline problem. Often, young children and teenagers exhibiting these symptoms have a physical problem that can cause behavioral changes, such as infections, Lyme Disease and thyroid problems. Mental disorders such as early-onset bipolar disorder can also cause very similar symptoms and must be diagnosed and treated immediately.

In these cases, the Wheel would not be appropriate and medical intervention is needed immediately. For help, contact your pediatrician and look for information on these diseases and disorders on the Internet.

However, there is still a possibility that the wheel will be valuable with a child who is stabilized. Again, parents will have to make the decision to try the wheel according to each child.

The Last Word

Parents of children with normal behavior and discipline problems are encouraged to try this wheel and have a little fun with discipline! Bringing the whole family into the discipline decision-making is an excellent way to work as a team and come to a peaceful solution. The wheel isn't meant to exact negative punishment on a child, but rather remind them to pick their battles and mind their parents.

Teachers and parents alike will find the wheel very useful in classrooms and homes everywhere with children ages four and up!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How Two Quarelling Kids Helped Invent the Better Behavior Wheel

When David was nine and Laura was twelve, the battles started.

Prior to that, they got along great. Laura was always protective of her little brother, and he in turn, doted on her.

Perhaps it was about needing space, asserting independence…whatever the reason, it drove my husband and I crazy. It would start over the tiniest of excuses. One minute the house would be quiet, and the next they'd be shouting at one another.

"Mom, Laura won't give my CD back!"

"It's not yours. It's mine!"

"No it isn't. I got it for Christmas!"

"No you didn't. I did!"

And on and on it would go. Until, finally, one of us would have to intervene. And there would be a truce…sort of. At least until the next blowup.

We hated the atmosphere of tension that would invariably follow these exchanges. Our once happy home was being turned into a war zone, and it felt like there were land mines scattered beneath our feet.

One night, in desperation, we had a conference. We called the kids into the living room and told them how upsetting their behavior was. We asked them for suggestions on how we could restore peace and serenity back into the family.

Off to their rooms

Well, we didn't resolve anything on the spot. We sent them to their rooms with instructions to each come up with a half dozen appropriate consequences that we could impose the next time they had a fight.

The following day we were presented with a list of consequences from each. Some even looked pretty good. Examples: Clean the other person's room; Do dishes for the other person; Make the other person's bed for a week; Lend your favorite CD or game to the other person for a week; Make a list of 10 good things about the other person; Hug and make up….

We decided to arrange the consequences around the perimeter of a board, and then we attached a spinner in the middle. When you gave it a spin, the spinner would eventually stop and point to one of the consequences. Then we hung the board up in the kitchen, in plain sight. We crossed our fingers, and waited.

And waited.

It was amazing. Just the presence of the board, hanging on our kitchen wall, had an instant calming effect on the atmosphere in our home. Occasionally we'd see one of the kids standing in front of the board, idly flicking the spinner, checking it out. But the fighting had stopped.

Well not forever. It took about ten days before they forgot about the board and peace was shattered by another battle.

We were ready.

We called them both into the kitchen, took the board down off the wall, and placed it on the table. They knew what they had to do. How could they refuse? They chose the consequences. They practically invented the board. It landed on the most dreaded consequence of all: Hug and make up!

The tension was broken as they awkwardly gave each other a hug, mumbling apologies. We all had a good laugh, and life resumed.

Maybe we're on to something

Wow, we thought days later when there'd been no further skirmishes…if this thing works so well for arguing, what about some of the other issues that we seemed to be always struggling with. Wasting electricity, for example. It seemed like the kids were always leaving the lights on when they left a room. Or they'd leave the TV on when they went to bed. Or they'd take half hour showers. Why not make another wheel with consequences related to wasting electricity?

Well, eventually and inevitably, we ended up making consequences to cover seven different issues, or themes. Excessive Arguing was joined by A Job Poorly Done, Leaving the Lights On, Stretching the Truth, Taking Without Asking, Talking Back, and Not Putting Things Back.

And then, because we felt that extra good behavior should be recognized, we added another theme called Just Desserts, consisting of rewards.

We called it The Better Behavior Wheel.

It has worked beyond our wildest expectations.

In the past we'd often let behavior slide.

"David…it's 8:30. Get the dishes done."

"I know." From downstairs where he's watching TV.

"David. It's 9:00. Get these dishes done right now!"

"I know."

Until we'd get angry. And then the consequences would end up being out of proportion to the infraction. And blood pressure would rise, and anger would reign.


But with the wheel…

"David…it's 8:15…you haven't started the dishes yet. I'm afraid we'll have to spin the wheel."

"But, Mom…"

"I'm sorry, Dear. It's really not up to me. Those are the rules we all agreed on. Gee, I hope you don't land on a really bad consequence."

The amazing thing is…we're no longer the bad guys. We can actually root for the kids as they drag themselves up to the wheel. It's no longer an us against them issue. It's the wheel that they have to answer to.

But the greatest thing of all…we hardly ever have to use the wheel. It hangs on the kitchen wall, acting as a watchdog and reminder. It's mere presence has worked miracles.

We want one too

After sharing our experience with our friends, and demonstrating the wheel to them, we have received widespread encouragement to make them on a commercial basis. Ultimately we thought, why not? It's a great product. We know it works. If it can help others the way it has helped us, it almost seemed a shame not to make them.

We even made a Virtual Wheel - a download version that can be played on the computer. (This is my husband's favorite because he spent so many sleepless nights working on it.)

It's been four years since we had to send them to their rooms, but David and Laura get along great these days. They've both turned into wonderful teens, and we'd like to think that the Wheel shares a huge portion of the credit for that.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Want To Further Your Children's Studies?

Being in a competitive world, the lowest qualification to secure a good job is a degree. However, a degree subject may be perceived as too general and the acquisition of a specialist skill through professional courses or a post graduate program may help improve employment prospects.

Before you jump into a specific course or program, do take a look at the following considerations:

  1. Studying overseas is better than studying locally? Well, we might not be sure about the education quality but in terms of exposure and character building, studying overseas definitely has its advantages while studying locally is more cost effective.
  2. Be prepared and plan your application. When do you want to start your course? When can you start applying for the course? Apply early to avoid disappointments. There are many different institutions offering similar courses. To increase your chances of getting a place on the most appropriate course for you, do not rely on getting on to one particular course. Sometimes, it is not easy to get the desired course.
  3. Where to get financial support? Family or scholarships? If scholarships, what are the requirements?
Hmmm...looking at the things to consider, we all need some luck for our educational and academic pursuits. Chinese Feng Shui principles denote that those looking to further their studies should place a globe in the Northeast sector of your home or even better, your children's study. The globe will enhance the energy for this sector and thus bringing luck to your educational and academic pursuits. Professors, teachers, writers and those involved in scholarly studies are also highly advised to display a globe on their study tables. Just twirl the globe towards you three times a day before 12am to enhance the luck of each day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

7 Ways to Survive the Start of the School Year

It happens every year. Just when you are settled in to the lazy days of summer, you are startled to find Back to School catalogs in your mailbox and bikinis going on sale in favor of turtlenecks. Your local store has devoted an entire aisle to pencils, notebooks, and lunch bags. Soon there will be no more long days at the beach, late nights watching movies with popcorn, or mornings free of alarm clock jitters. It’s enough to make you dread September, but it doesn’t need to be that way. With a slight change in attitude and a plan in place, September can be one of the best months of the year.

1. Practice
Don’t wait until Labor Day to get ready for the changeover to the school year. Begin pulling back bedtime during the last two weeks of August—around 8:30 to 9:00 PM for elementary school kids.

2. Lower Your Expectations
Major transitions equal disruption. Routines change and priorities shift. Allow yourself extra leeway when it comes to chores and tasks. Avoid scheduling appointments during the month surrounding the start of the school year.

3. Carve Out Extra Time
Clear the decks of added responsibilities so that you can get through the transition with less stress. Don’t sign up for your usual extra-curricular activities. Keep your family commitments to a minimum.

4. Motivate Your Kids
Preparing for school isn’t a job only for parents. The students themselves have things they must do to get ready. Make all the back to school activities, like shopping for school clothes, a fun family event. Devote the first week of school to getting settled and having fun as a family. Plan pizza nights and ice cream socials. Schedule extra game nights and buy a new puzzle.

5. Ask for Help
Reduce your stress during this transition. Enlist help to complete all the back to school tasks. Hire a babysitter to watch your younger children while you take your older children to buy school clothes. Ask grandparents to supervise school supplies purchases.

6. Set the Tone
Set a positive tone for the new school year. If you approach September with the kind of dread usually associated with prison terms, you can be sure your kids aren’t going to be too happy about going to school. On the other hand, if you show interest and excitement in what lies ahead, then your child will be eager to get started.

7. Focus
The beginning of a new school year is an important time for a child. The whole family should be interested and involved in the process. Express interest about the upcoming year, classes, and school friends. Share your school memories. Celebrate this new beginning!

The beginning of a new school year can be an exciting time for a family. It’s a fresh start with new teachers and classmates, and perhaps even a new school. Planning for the best possible beginning to the year shows your child how much you care. The more effort you put into it, the more you and your child will reap the rewards.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

End Homework Battles

Ask parents what their biggest school year challenge is, and you’ll likely hear that it is the difficulty they face in getting their kids to do homework. With so many other attractive ways for kids to spend their time, getting them to buckle down and complete that extra bit of schoolwork can be like pulling teeth. As with any chore, though, there are strategies you can use to get it done and make it more fun.

1. Make Time for Homework
Fitness gurus have known this for years: you are more likely to stick to an exercise regimen if you do it at the same time everyday and make it an inviolable part of your schedule. The same goes for homework. Don’t leave it up in the air as to when homework will be completed. This only ensures that it won’t get completed until you have an extended argument with your child about it—usually one hour after bedtime. Instead, sit down with your child and review your family schedule for the upcoming semester. Decide where homework will fit in your daily schedule and make it non-negotiable. It is always helpful to anchor homework time to some other regular activity. Good choices are: directly after school or right before or after dinner. (Scheduling homework in the hour before bedtime is usually not a good practice since your child may be too sleepy to do a good job.)

It is also important to dedicate a set amount of time for homework. This will discourage students from rushing through homework so that they can watch the latest Disney video. What is a reasonable amount of time to spend on homework? That varies with age. Check with your child’s teacher. It is generally accepted, though, that First and Second graders should spend about a half hour on homework each night while Third and Fourth graders might need to spend as much as an hour per night.

2. Don’t Accept No for an Answer
A common refrain from students is “I finished my homework in school” or “The teacher didn’t assign us any homework today.” It should not matter that they don’t have a specific assignment. Homework is an extension of the learning that occurred that day in school, and what they learned that day can be extended in any number of ways. Students can read silently during their allotted homework time, they can look up information in an encyclopedia to enhance what they are learning in Science or Social Studies, or they can look at flashcards, practice math facts, and test their spelling. This is how to teach your child to be a self-directed learner. You will be giving them a gift to get them in the habit of doing this now. When they are in high school, having this extra study habit will bring them academic success.

3. Establish a Partnership with Teachers
Early in the school year make an effort to get to know your child’s teacher. Make an appointment to talk with the teacher in the first few weeks of school, so that you can express your desire to be a good partner in your child’s education. She will appreciate it, and you will be one step closer to a smooth school year. Find out what her homework policy is so that you know what to expect. It is also helpful to know how high her standards are, so that you can ensure that your child’s homework is acceptable.

4. Provide the Right Environment
Most people’s advice on homework is to set up a desk in your child’s room and make sure that they have a quiet and distraction-free work environment. This sounds very reasonable, but few people seem to be able to follow this advice. I know many students who instead do their homework on the living room floor, at the kitchen counter, or at the dining room table. It seems that some people work best when they aren’t isolated from household activity. If that is the case with your child, then provide a small traveling office for him so that he has all of the necessary items at hand and won’t waste time running around the house looking for a sharp pencil. With all the supplies nearby, and distractions limited to the general background noise of family living, your student ought to be able to concentrate on homework.

5. Set a Good Example
“Do as I say not as I do” is no longer considered appropriate parental advice. In order to instill the proper values in our children, we must model them. If we expect our children to be conscientious, hard-working students, then that is what they must see in us. Make an effort to show your child your work ethic by reading trade magazines and business books while they do their homework. Take out a pencil and write notes as you read. Investigate ideas fully. If you read something interesting in the newspaper, look up information about it on the Internet. Always be eager to learn something new. Sign up for an adult education class, teach yourself to knit, or write that novel you’ve always dreamed of. The more that you can show your child that learning is a lifelong adventure that requires their involvement, the more likely it is that homework will cease being a chore and start being an integral part of a life well-lived.

If you take the time to set up these parameters around homework, you’ll find that you waste less energy arguing over homework and making up for lost assignments. You’ll have more time and energy for other pursuits, and so will your child. What’s more, you’ll discover that the benefits of hassle free homework add up to more than just scheduling efficiency, they equal a better education.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How to Stop Bad Behavior Before it Starts

Coping with a child’s bad behavior, perhaps more than any other aspect of parenting, can cause stress, family disfunction, and a general loss of harmony in your home. Over time, negative behavior cycles can become ingrained in a family’s way of interacting with each other
1. Be a Benevolent Dictator
In today’s times it is tempting to think of our family as a small Democracy, giving equal weight to the wants and needs of every member. Families schedule meetings to discuss rules. Negotiation is a skill learned even before tying shoes. Rules apply only if children choose to obey them. Giving children lots of choices seems to be of paramount importance. Parents who operate these types of Democracies think that they are showing their children love and respect. In fact, what these parents are showing their children is that they don’t have the fortitude to do what is right.

This approach belies the fact that we parents usually have decades more life experience than our children, we have had more education, and we are more mature (hopefully). In short, we should be the ones in charge. Contrary to what children might say, they in fact, want us to be in charge. They know better than anyone what their limitations are, and if they are given too much responsibility, it scares them. Imagine how you would feel if you were suddenly put in charge of a small country in a foreign land. You might feel powerful, but I dare say, you wouldn’t feel secure. It’s like being the captain of a sailboat and not knowing how to sail. Eventually you would run aground.

Research has shown that in order to raise well-adjusted kids, parents need to be authoritative. Authoritative parents were described as people whose motto is, “I love and respect you, but since I am the parent, you have to do what I say regardless of whether you agree with me.” Taking this type of approach with your child ensures that they know they are loved, and that they will be saved from making bad choices because they have a parent looking out for them. Setting limits for your kids makes the world more manageable for them. They feel safer knowing what the boundaries are, and in knowing that they have your help to stay within them.

2. Consistency is Key
Choose a small number of rules that are absolute and stick to them! These rules should be non-negotiable and carry with them clear and immediate consequences if they are broken. In my family, rules about safety are set in stone. If you ride your bike without a helmet, you lose bike privileges for a week. No exceptions. This way I know my child is always going to wear his helmet, and I save myself the hassle of arguing with him each day after school about whether he can ride his bike without it.

A psychologist I know stated that the surest way to have kids who misbehave is to be inconsistent. By having limits that are fluid and that change depending on circumstances, kids spend most of their time with you testing those limits. They know that sooner or later, they’ll wear you out, and they’ll get what they want. So, if you want to be worn out day after day, then the secret is to be wishy-washy about rules. If you don’t want to battle day after day with your kids, then set good rules and stick to them!

3. Know Your Child
Every child has a unique style which includes their own set of triggers for bad behavior. For my son, transitions always cause him to become unglued. A temper tantrum always ensued at the end of play dates, the beginning of a school day, or the call to the dinner table. So, I learned early on that to avoid that type of misbehavior, I needed to be savvy about transitions. I give plenty of warning before a transition, and I usually sweeten the deal to make it easier. For example, I play his favorite music in the car on the way to school so that he focuses on looking forward to his songs rather than his nerves about having to leave the house and head to class.

Your child might have similar issues with transitions, or she may act up when tired or hungry. Your child might feel uncomfortable in crowds, be afraid of loud noises, or become easily overwhelmed in stores. By knowing your child’s triggers for bad behavior, you’ll know what to avoid. For those things you can’t avoid, you’ll at least be able to develop helpful strategies for coping with problems.

4. Know Yourself
In addition to being in tune with your child’s style, you need to be aware of what your particular needs are. It will always lead to trouble if you expect lots of peace and quiet after work, but your kids need your help with homework and a ride to soccer. If you are tense and irritable, it will most certainly translate to misbehavior in your kids. Busy schedules rarely enable parents to have a peaceful dinner hour, but perhaps you can insist on twenty minutes to unwind in your room before you join the fray downstairs. My mother made a rule that we couldn’t ask anything of her until she had changed into her jeans. That was our signal that she had decompressed after work and was ready to engage in the family hubbub.

5. Pay Attention
Children often misbehave simply to get their parents’ attention. Though it confounds adults, children would rather be yelled at than be ignored. Perhaps it is Darwinian—in the wild, to be ignored by a parent meant that you weren’t safe. Whatever its origin, this aspect of child-rearing can be especially trying. Negative cycles can so easily begin by a child learning that acting up is the surest way to get a parent’s attention. The only way to avoid this is to lavish love and attention on your child when they are behaving well. Enjoy their company and play games with them. Praise them with words and gestures often. Reward your child with special activities with you—not with toys and treats. If you sense that your children are acting up more than they should, then that is a sign that you need to stop waiting for your children to misbehave before you give them your attention. With all the love and attention from you that they need, there won’t be many reasons to misbehave!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Teaching Children Good Manners

Last week in my newsletter, I mentioned that my children knew how to behave in nice restaurants because they had been exposed to the atmosphere at an early age. My idea of well behaved might be different from yours, however, I think there are certain basics that are important and universal.

When my daughters were babies, we would take them wherever we went. If they began to fuss or cry, one of us would promptly remove them from the room/restaurant/market/wherever. Not because we felt their crying or fussing was a bad thing. No, it's a perfectly normal occurrence for infants and toddlers. We removed them as a courtesy to others who we felt did not need to be as tolerant as we were with our children's noise. In consequence, my daughters know that other people are not as wildly in love with their racket or with them as we are. Nor should they be expected to be.

As our children grew older, they were always told the rules of our outings, how to behave and to always speak softly if other adults were present. Sometimes, it's fine to let them get a little crazy ... just know your audience! If we are at a five star restaurant where many other diners have come to enjoy a gracious and expensive meal, would we expect everyone there to be enthralled with junior's vocal or behavioral outbursts? Would we really expect them to care if our child is having a bout with walking pneumonia and coughing uncontrollably? Nope. It's rude. And rudeness is basically nothing more than bad manners. If there is an emergency with your child, by all means don't give a flying flamingo about what others think. But this is the exception. Besides, children who are that sick belong at home, not in public.

Last night, my girls and I were in a department store. There was a toddler carrying on and screaming for more than 15 minutes when my younger daughter said:

"Now his mommy is going to tell him to stop because there are other people in here that don't want to hear it!"

Unfortunately, his mommy did not tell him any such thing. She let him wail and scream and cry, much to the chagrin and annoyance of everyone else in the store. You know what? As much as I love kids and cannot bear to see or hear them suffering, I disliked this kid immensely!

My reasoning is this: if our kids learn that they are free to trample on the peace, space or rose gardens of others, they will develop into spoiled and inconsiderate brats. And then who will like them? Who will want to spend time with them? Who, besides their forgiving parents, will be able to tolerate their lack of social graces and good manners? No one … except maybe another ill-mannered person who feels at home with a similarly clueless individual. Do we really want our children reduced to such horrible options? I think not.

We teach our children not to steal, lie or punch their brother in the nose. Shouldn't we teach them respect for others at the same time? That their whining and out-of-control behavior is something no one really wants to hear or witness, especially strangers who have no vested interest in their developing minds or self-esteem? A simple reminder of the rules, consistently, works wonders ... eventually. ;-)

Good luck. Kids need to learn manners and social graces. They will go farther in life if we teach them well.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

10 Steps to School Year Success

One of the most important aspects of parenting, is ensuring that your child gets a good education. School is a place where your child not only learns skills such as reading and writing; it is also where your child will learn about friendship, responsibility, and fairness. In short, school is a test run for the ‘real world’, and your child needs your help to navigate this complicated arena. When your child was a baby, you set your life around nap times and diaper changes,

1. Establish Consistent Routines
Take the ‘year at a glance’ approach. If you have a child starting first grade and one in fourth, one a musician and the other an athlete, then you must sketch out how you will achieve a balance between school, their activities, your work, and your activities. It is best to look at all of these areas at once, so that you can spot the trouble areas. Once you have the big picture, it is time to ask how you can set up a regular routine to ensure that everyone’s needs are met, including yours.

Early in the school year, decide which activities will fit, and which will have to be postponed. One of the biggest areas of concern for modern families is activity overload. Avoid it! Now that you know what activities you will be engaged in, decide where homework fits and set a regular time for it. Whether there are assignments or not, this should be the time of day that your child always does a little extra school work. When will you have dinner? If possible, make it at the same time everyday and expect all family members to attend. Don’t eat on the run! If you have to eat in the car in order to make everything fit, then you are doing too much!

2. Set Reasonable Bedtimes
Open any magazine in America and you will find a story on the cumulative sleep debt that Americans are suffering from. It causes accidents, ill health, and poor work performance. It has the same effect on young students. Without enough sleep, their learning suffers as does their behavior. Additionally, lack of sleep makes kids prone to getting sick, which means they miss school and get behind in their learning.

Avoid these problems by setting a reasonable bedtime for your children and sticking to it. According to Dr. Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., a member of the National Sleep Foundation, elementary age children need between 10-12 hours of sleep each night. She also recommends allowing an additional 10-20 minutes to that amount in order to account for the time is takes your child to fall asleep. Keeping these times in mind, your child’s bedtime should be no later than 8:30pm.

3. Learn to Say No
There are many demands placed on our time. There are after school opportunities galore: sports, music, drama, art, and more. Parents have an equal number of options for after work activities. Parents want to provide the best for their children and many believe that giving them access to numerous opportunities is the best way to enhance their learning. In fact, the best way to enhance a child’s learning is to allow them to slow down and think about what happened in class and to talk to them about it. This type of reflection can only come when parents and children have some downtime together. I advocate the motto: “Just Do Nothing”.

4. Limit TV
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I love TV. I loved cartoons as a kid, and I love sitcoms and drama shows now. But I’m careful not to watch TV to the exclusion of all other forms of entertainment. Kids are not as good at moderating their exposure to TV. They need the help of their parents to make good choices and to limit the time spent being a passive observer. Kids learn best when they are actively involved in what they’re doing. Reading, talking, exploring, drawing, building, playing—these are all important parts of childhood. Make sure that they don’t get squeezed out by too much Scooby Doo.

5. Encourage Reading
Research has shown that one of the greatest predictors of academic success is the amount of time a student reads. When asked by the parents of my students what they should do to help their child learn, I always answer, “Get them to read.” Books not only open new worlds and ideas for children, they build their vocabulary, improve their memory, grow their imagination, and teach them valuable thinking skills. Time spent reading is an investment in your child’s future.

6. Support Your Child’s Teacher
It is an unfortunate fact of modern day society that teachers feel less support from parents, administrations, and governments than ever before. This is a shame, not only for the hard working teachers who deserve to feel respected as professionals, but for the students they teach. Students receive the best education when they are part of a committed triumvirate. For a child to truly learn in school, all three members of the team need to work together. The teacher, student, and parents need to be all working towards the same goal with commitment and help from one another. All parts of the triangle must be connected for the goal to be met. Go against the tide, give your child’s teacher the respect she deserves and the support she requires. Your child will thank you.

7. Enlist Support
It truly does take a village to raise a child. Too often these days, however, parents find themselves struggling to do it all with very little support. If you live near grandparents, aunts, or uncles, ask if they can occasionally go to the soccer game, or pick up the art materials, or buy the new notebook. Very often it is the little tasks that combine to make parents feel overwhelmed. Spreading the small tasks around to willing volunteers may give you more time to focus on the important aspects of the school year. If family members aren’t available to help, exchange help with neighbors and friends.

8. Practice what you Preach
In order to make the school year go more smoothly, it is important that your child is responsible, timely, and well-behaved. You are far more likely to have a child who behaves this way, if you model appropriate behavior for them. If you are frequently late, often forget important items, and are stressed and irritable most of the time, you are far more likely to have chronic problems with your children—especially during the school year when time is tight. Give your child the skills to succeed by working on them yourself. Nobody’s perfect, but if you show that you ask of yourself the same things you ask of them, then you are more likely to garner their cooperation.

9. Plan Ahead
If you fail to plan, then plan to fail. Harsh though that statement may be, it often happens that you’d experience more success at school if you’d take the time to plan ahead. If you know that your daughter is going to appear in a play during the month of November, and that it will require lots of rehearsals after school, don’t enroll her in tap class and swimming. When you know that time will be tight, it also makes sense to speak to your child’s teacher in order to advise him of the situation and to get his help with scheduling homework. Always keep in mind what is coming up next week and what may be required due to the seasons. Getting to school in September may not be much of an issue, but what will you do when the snow flies?

10. Keep your Eye on the Prize
Being committed to managing the school year well takes effort. Keeping your family balanced despite all of the demands on everyone’s time can be difficult. All of it can be managed better if you always stay focused on your purpose. Your purpose as a parent is to raise well-adjusted children who can enter society and forge a good life on their own. They need a good education in order to do this. How to ensure that your child receives the best education possible ought to be the first thing you think about in the morning and the thoughts you keep as you close your eyes at night.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Importance of Mothers

Moms, did you ever question your value as a role model, caretaker, administer of hugs and Band-Aids? I think we all have in today's climate of "do more, get more, have more." Many of us work to bring home a paycheck and others work for our sanity. Have you ever wondered if your children were better off with the baby sitter than you? Scientific studies are beginning to point to the overwhelming value of a mother's love, hugs and support. Nannies, baby-sitters and relatives are terrific. They just aren't as terrific as Mom.

I have had the best of both worlds, I suspect. I worked a high-powered executive job until my older daughter was 2 and a half. At a crossroads in my career, I opted to "get pregnant and stay home for a year." HA! Little did I realize I was about to take a ten-year hiatus from my much-loved life! I didn't get pregnant right away, but, after having spent a year basking in the glow of being Mom, I couldn't bear giving up the care and nurturing of my daughter to another nanny, no matter how wonderful. I think it was the best career move of my life.

Well, ten years later, I am back in the work force and thriving. Yes, I felt bored much of the time. Yes, our family sacrificed the bigger house, fancier cars and vacations some of our peers were enjoying. But it was a conscious decision to sacrifice for the benefit of our children. We wanted our morals, our ethics and our life lessons to influence our children.

I think moms can work at home, be homemakers or work outside of the home and still be great moms. The most important part of mothering, I feel, is being there for our children. Maybe your sacrifice is going to work but spending your precious little free time reading your child a bedtime story every night, taking him to the park on Saturdays or chaperoning your daughter's school dance. What matters is our input, the confidence in our roles as mothers and knowing we are the best person for the role ... to understand how valuable we are to society.

Pat yourselves on the backs ... you've accomplished a miracle! There is no greater sacrifice on earth, in my opinion, than making the decision to be a parent. Know how important you are. Know that your children need you to be as solid an individual as you can be. Therein lies your strength as a mother, whether you spend all day at home or in an office. We are all exceptional women in our motherhood.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Back to School Feng Shui

Every school year parents and students dutifully trudge through the malls in search of the perfect sneaker or the cool new outfit for the coming school year. However, it’s unlikely that the new shoe or shirt will benefit them as much as a new design in the bedroom. That’s because a bedroom makeover will create new interest and energy – what feng shui calls “chi” – in the bedroom that will benefit a child.

According to feng shui, the Chinese technique for design and arrangement, rooms that have good energy, or “chi”, create happier, well-adjusted children. Feng shui theories suggest that for a child’s room to have good “chi,” the room must follow certain guidelines such as that they must be restful, promote good relationships others and generate good self-esteem. Perhaps most importantly, harmonious children’s bedrooms encourage good study habits and promote greater success in school.

What does it take to promote greater success in school? According to feng shui, the following seven tips are key to creating rooms that inspire kids to study.

1. The room has a desk.
It sounds obvious, but many kids’ only workspace is either a bed, the bedroom floor, or the family dining table. Every child needs a suitable study area in the bedroom that includes a desk, chair, and a lamp. Children with study areas are more likely to study. Better still, having a study area keeps all the school books and papers confined to the child’s room. Feng shui also believes it’s best for children to study facing the northeast, the direction of wisdom and learning.

2. Ground your kids.
Buy your kids a globe to promote interest in geography and to help “ground” them and encourage them to study. Add a globe in the Northeast corner of the bedroom, if possible.

3. Create an achievement corner.
Every child needs to have recognition for a job well done. A perfect way to gain this is to create an achievement corner on the South wall of the bedroom. According to feng shui, this is the recognition area and is a good place to pin up awards, papers with good grades, letters of recommendation, ribbons or trophies.

4. Hang a crystal in the Northeast corner of the room.
Crystals are used to make computer chips faster. Hang a crystal in the study location to create more “study” chi and to help sharpen the child’s ability to “process” or think!

5. Put your child in the command position.
Avoid having children face a wall when studying because this represents an obstacle. They should be able to see the door when someone enters.

6. Display maps and other educational artwork.
Maps are another way to ground educational pursuits. They encourage “worldly” interest and curiosity and they make suitable images for a child’s room. Avoid scary creatures, pictures depicting violence, or sad or dark subjects.

7. Eliminate TV from the bedroom.
Sadly many of today’s children have TVs in their bedrooms. This is a feng shui no-no because it can make children much less likely to study and rest fully. If your child doesn’t study as much as you would like and has a TV in the bedroom, ask yourself what is more important: television or school?

8. Shells and fish are symbols of education.
Conch shells and koi or goldfish are excellent symbols of educational success. Place the conch shell in the Northeast corner of the bedroom. Or, hang a picture of koi or goldfish in the Northeast corner. It is not recommended to keep live fish in the bedroom as water in the bedroom is associated with loss.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Teaching Moments - Top 10 Ways to Motivate Your Student

As the new school year begins, parents play a pivotal role in their child’s success. Here are 10 tips for motivating your student from

1. Stress "I’ll Make It Happen" words. Encourage your child to use positive, motivating words like yes, I can, and I will.

2. Minimize "Bummer Words." Avoid using negative or limiting language in discussions with your children. Some of the most common bummer words include no, can’t, won’t, never, maybe, and if.

3. Do the Basketball Shuffle with your child. Play the Basketball Shuffle to encourage independence and responsibility. Write "It’s in your court NOW" on a basketball, and place it in the kitchen or family room to emphasize how the entire family gets the school year off to a good start. Then "pass" the ball to your child to show how he or she is now responsible. Your child can "pass" it back when they need help. The basketball becomes a fun, visual and practical way to emphasize your child’s role in his or her education.

4. Thank You, Ben Franklin. Ben Franklin used the following process week after week for fifty-seven years and claimed it made him a better and happier man. Develop thirteen character traits you and your child want to work on together. Consider honesty, fairness, self-control, order, sincerity, responsibility, self-respect, and kindness to others. Each week select one character trait, and, as a family, work to improve this trait. Provide rewards to the family member who shows the most improvement. Continue the process until you complete all thirteen weeks of character traits.

5. Stress the Importance of Goal Setting. Sit down with your child and set goals for the school year. According to John Bishop, author of the workbook, Goal Setting for Students®, "Students will take more personal ownership for their education when they learn how to set and achieve goals and how to use these principles in the classroom. They will embrace your efforts to help them succeed."

6. Accountability is a Two-Way Street. Both parents and students need to be accountable for a child’s success in school. As adults, parents have to model responsible behavior for their children. Did you promise to volunteer at school, or help with the latest class project? Make sure you follow through.

7. Answer the "BIG" Question. At least three times per week have your child write down the following question, "Did I give my best effort to today’s activities?" and record their answer. If their answer is "yes," reward them. If their answer is "no," have them list two things they will do tomorrow to improve their effort. Writing this question on paper (instead of just discussing it) will imprint the words in their minds.

8. Help Them Manage Their Time. Have a family meeting to discuss the weekly schedule. At the beginning of the school year, it is easy to sign up for too many activities, events and committees. How many activities will each child participate in? When will you have dinner together as a family? When will homework be done? What chores are each family member responsible for and when will they be done? Create a family calendar in a centralized location to keep everyone aware of the day’s activities.

9. Make it easy to study. Create a study area that fits your child’s personality. Do they work best at a desk in a quiet area of their room? Or is the dining room table a better place to work? Does music distract them, or help them focus? Help your child determine the best way to study. Fill a tackle box with commonly used school supplies and keep it stocked. Prevent last-minute runs to the discount store by keeping poster board, extra notebooks, paper and other supplies on hand.

10. Define success—in your child’s eyes. Help your child define what success means to them. Bishop says, "Children need to know that success takes time; success takes planning and a strong desire; success takes setting and achieving goals; success involves helping others. Students need to know it’s their achievement, not ours."

With a few simple steps, parents can get their children off to a good start for the new school year.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Should you Limit Your Kids Time Playing Video Games?

Whether to limit the time that a child plays video games is a question that almost every parent has battled over at least once and often many times. However, just because one parent has a specific opinion about it does not mean that another parent holds the same opinion. In other words, whether a parent should limit his or her childs time playing video games is a largely subjective, opinion question. There are, though, some signs that a parent should look for when trying to make a determination as to whether the time that his or her kid is spending on video games is too much.

If a kid who is playing video games is paying so much attention to them that his or her schoolwork is suffering, a parent might want to limit the video game time that child has. In addition, if relationships are suffering because of video games, this might also be another reason to limit the amount of time spent playing them. Video games are supposed to be for fun and enjoyment only. Unfortunately, they can actually become addictive. When someone is addicted to video games, the rest of that persons life suffers. He or she will generally not do well at all with school or work, and the relationships that have been built with others will be ignored, at least to some extent.

The person may also lose sleep, not eat well, and exhibit other behaviors consistent with focusing too much on video games and not enough on reality. This is, of course, very detrimental, especially for a child who is just developing habits. Because this is such a serious issue and can lead to many problems in the future, any parent who is concerned about how much time his or her kid is spending playing video games or any parent who sees a change in his or her child because of video game playing should limit the time each day that the child is allowed to play the video game.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Eight Tips for Improving Communication with Your Kids

Are you content in the thought that your communication with your kids is spot on, or do you worry that you might be missing the mark? If your interface is overwrought with emotion, you might need these tips to gain a more peaceful relationship with your children. I experienced wonderful things with my daughters when I used these eight tips.

Be Your Word.

Everything you say to your children is a promise or an agreement. Do what you say you're going to do and you build trust. Trust carries you through when they're sixteen years old, driving around with their friends and you don't know what they're doing.

There was a recent article about the Florida football team which was about to go into the National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Florida had a new coach named Urban Meyer. Everyone agreed he had turned the program around. Their season had dramatically improved, even though they essentially had the same talent and schedule. So what was the difference?

To a man, they all emphasize the fact that the new coach had built a greater sense of trust among the players and coaches. They discussed some of his techniques. There were things like practices at midnight and certain competitions he had dreamed up. The important point was he had created a high level of trust.

Your children will be tempted, and since you won't be there looking over their shoulder, you have to instill character in them. The first step in instilling character is that they see character in you. You are their role model.

Be 100% Responsible

Having integrity means being 100% responsible for everything in your life. It means giving up your reasons and your excuses. Every truly successful person I know lives their life as though they are 100% responsible for everything in their life.

At first blush, many people think this is ridiculous or unrealistic. Other people get the concept but they don't really live it. This may at first sound like a burden; in reality it's a freedom.

When you really get that you are 100% responsible for everything in your life, it's a tremendously freeing experience. It allows you to create your life. This idea isn't just some quotation you can read and pooh pooh. It's real. Think about it: if you're not responsible, if you don't have control over your own life, then you're just a victim and whatever makes you unhappy will always make you unhappy because you can't change it, get rid of it. I know you can see this truth.

Be Genuine

This means being straightforward in your communications and take what you get. This means don't use force or manipulation as a way of trying to get what you want. We know that we can't control other people. When you really understand that and accept it, you'll stop trying to manipulate or force others into achieving the results that you want. Force and manipulation will, at best, only get you a temporary result. Human beings always resist force and manipulation. Force and manipulation are really a product of fear.

When my children were young and they told their mom they wanted to live with Dad all the time, her response was to tell them that if they did that she would disown them. Obviously, I knew she wouldn't disown them and I told them that. But she got what she wanted temporarily. They went back to live with her for a month. But in short order, they realized Mom wasn't really going to leave them and then they moved into my house permanently.

Be Free

Learn to give up being right. How many times have we used that as justification for our actions?

When I say give up being right, I'm not saying forget about the concept of right and wrong. It's incredibly important to teach your children the difference between right and wrong. Giving up being right really relates to the whole idea of control. More specifically, it deals with the fact that you don't control anyone else. If you're having an argument with your ex or you're mad at them because you're right and they're wrong, this has nothing to do with making them right and you wrong. It has nothing to do with forgetting about right and wrong. It doesn't meant that you have to give in to the. I just means you aren't going to convince them that you're right. It just means, let it go. Again, think long term. Think what will be effective and what your kids are seeing as you interface with your ex.

Be Courageous

Always deal with issues with your children head-on. My daughters told me throughout high school that their friends were always amazed at all the things they could talk to me about. My daughters would tell me "My girlfriends are amazed about the things I tell you." Of course, I was forced into this because there was no mom around. The result is that my kids can talk to me about anything - sex, drugs, rock-n-roll. However, our goal here is to raise these children so they become productive and healthy young adults.

When you communicate clearly and openly with your children and develop trust they will come to you with the important issues in their life. Be their guide. You are their anchor. You want them talking to you, not their friends.

Be Peaceful

This comes back to being accepting about what you're really trying to achieve. Don't take the easy way out. Develop an early warning system. What are the things in your relationship with your children that irritate, aggravate or anger you? Think about what it is that really angers you.

Whatever you think it is, it really isn't that. Now you think I'm talking nonsense. Let me give you an example. When my daughters were in high school I used to get really aggravated when they would leave the bathroom a mess. Typically, they would spend hours in the bathroom, doing what girls do, so that they could leave and be beautiful and get to that party. They would make a half-hearted attempt to clean up the bathroom and boom, they were out the door. I'd go upstairs, take one look at the bathroom and become angry because the sink was a mess and the towels were just lying on the floor.

On its face, I was angry because they left the bathroom a mess. When I really analyzed it, I knew I was mad at myself because I was failing as a parent to modify their behavior. That's what I mean when I say, look at whatever it is that upsets you and whatever you think it is, it's not really that.

Be Powerful

Don't be cynical; be inspiring. Act in a way that they are touched and that you make a difference in their lives. A last work about complete ownership: I've repeatedly talked about being responsible in your life. Successful parents are responsible. Responsibility in this context is not a burden. It's not something you have to do, like pay the bills. It's not about fault or blame. It's not about guilt of shame. It's not about getting credit. It isn't all about your ability to understand things or to say if a thing is moral or ethical. It's not about what's good or bad.

Being responsible means being wiling to deal with a situation in your life from the view that you are the creator of your life and of what you do. No one makes you responsible and you don't make anyone else responsible. It's a gift you give yourself.

Pass this lesson on to your children. Teach them to be responsible for themselves. Again, not a burden - acknowledge that they determine the consequences of their lives.

Take Nothing Personally

In all of your relationships, in all of your communications, take nothing personally. Observe the world around you. Notice how often people get offended. Look for it. As an experiment, see how many times you can notice someone being offended in a single day. The more you observe it as an outsider, the more comical it becomes. People act like little kids.

Don't be like everyone else. Step back and be an observer. Watch how people interact with each other. You'll find it humorous. The more you observe it in other people, the more humorous it is, the funnier it becomes, and the more quickly you'll realize when you're doing it, you'll be able to stop.

If you want your children to turn out great, your success in parenting and your communication with your kids will both benefit from using these tips.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

After 25 Years, Academic Summer Camps Now a Mainstream Choice for Many Parents

SuperCamp, the original Academic and Life Skills summer camp that launched in 1982 with 64 students is poised to enroll its 50,000th student in 2008.

SuperCamp, which broke new ground in the summer camp industry in 1982 with the first learning and life skills program for middle and high school students, is about to pass the 50,000 enrollment mark, reflecting both SuperCamp’s success and how more parents are turning to academic camps for summer enrichment.

When SuperCamp co-founder, Bobbi DePorter, held that first camp in Lake Tahoe 26 years ago, most parents wanted a traditional camp that would keep their children busy for a week or two during summer vacation.

“We were not interested in starting a summer babysitting service,” says DePorter. “Our goal from day one was to help make great kids greater. Over the years, as the pressure to excel in school and to get into the best colleges has increased, more and more parents have turned to SuperCamp to give their children every opportunity for success.”

SuperCamp remains unique in that it deals with the whole person, providing practical learning skills while developing the life skills of the teenage and pre-teen campers. The camp helps students get past barriers that hold them back by using metaphors such as board breaking and a ropes course, emphasizing positive peer support and carefully orchestrating many mini-successes for each camper.

As a result, most SuperCamp graduates return to their homes and schools empowered with a new sense of confidence, more motivated, and armed with an array of learning, study and test-taking skills. As one 2007 graduate says, “SuperCamp teaches great life skills and opens doors I didn’t even know had handles!”

Parents, aware of the fleeting value of traditional summer camps, see SuperCamp as an investment that pays lasting dividends. “SuperCamp was probably the single best investment we made in our daughter’s future,” stated Alice Keppler. “She feels so good about herself. Every time she remarks how her grades have improved, we remind her that this is a gift she gave to herself.”

SuperCamp offers four grade-specific programs for boys and girls from age 9 to 19, all the way up to a college boot camp for incoming college freshmen called Quantum U. The residential camps are held on eight college campuses in the U.S., including Stanford and Cornell, with the campers living in dorms for the duration of the 7- to 10-day camps.

SuperCamp has added a significant international presence over the years with programs now operating throughout Asia, in Latin America and in Europe. Additionally, over 30,000 teachers have been trained in the same Quantum Learning methods developed by Ms. DePorter and her associates for SuperCamp.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Teens Learn Communication Skills From Summer Camp

At Quantum Learning Network we use some powerful tools for achieving clear, constructive communication and teach these tools in all our academic summer camps, SuperCamp and Quantum U, and our many school programs. Communication is the key to positive, meaningful relationships in all areas of our lives—home, school, college, and career. Wherever we are in life, the ability to relate to others and communicate clearly gives us an added advantage.

One of our most useful communication tools is called Open the Front Door, or OTFD, which stands for Observation, Thought, Feeling, and Desire. This positive approach to communicating in uneasy situations opens a path for discussing disagreements, clearing up miscommunication, and creating solutions.

It's hard to communicate negative feelings without slipping into negative patterns such as laying blame, attacking, accusing, or insulting. But these approaches never accomplish anything positive. The only power they have is to damage, confuse, wound feelings, and inspire the other person to respond in a similar tone. But if we use a positive approach, even in a tense atmosphere, we have a chance to forge a bond of communication.

OTFD: Open the Front Door

OTFD is particularly good for communicating negative feelings, but it can be used in almost any situation, with almost anyone. This method communicates four vital pieces of information: Observation, Thought, Feeling, and Desire.

O - Observation is simply stating the facts of the situation, something you observed that anyone else could observe.

Example: I noticed that everyone left the meeting without helping to clean up and put the furniture back. (Not, I noticed you were inconsiderate.)

T - Thought is an opinion or thought about what you observed.

Example: I think that people are assuming I am responsible for cleaning up because I am the instructor.

F - Feeling is how you felt about what you observed.

Example: I feel frustrated because I have work to get back to just like everyone else.

D - Desire is what you want for the future.

Example: I would like us to take turns setting up and breaking down for the meetings.

Following these four steps tells the other person precisely what they need to know in order to understand the situation you're speaking about. Often, you’ll find when you finish communicating this way, the person you’re talking to will agree: “Yes, I see why you feel this way.” Compare this to what happens when you try to express an upset through blame, shame, judgment, or ridicule, and you’ll see the power in this tool.

SuperCamp summer programs fill up fast. Parents, go to now to learn about enrolling your son or daughter while space remains. Age-specific programs are available for students in grades 4-12 and incoming college freshmen. At the website, you also can get a free eBook that gives you an inside look at what works with teens from a world leader in youth achievement, SuperCamp co-founder Bobbi DePorter.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

JUST WORDS … or defining qualities?

Confidence, curiosity, hope … just words? What about safety, trust, wonder? More words. But what important words they are when they’re part of us … or more important still when they’re part of our children.

What if all children had all these qualities living inside of them? Let’s have a look at how defining these and other similar qualities can be – and what a difference it makes when they are an integral part of our children.

Acceptance: the quality of being accepted; approval
A child who feels accepted: gains confidence, sense of belonging
A child who does not feel accepted: feels alone, sad

Attitude: a manner of acting, feeling or thinking that reflects one's disposition, opinion, etc.
Child with positive attitude: open to ideas, ready, willing
Child with negative attitude: uncreative, negative, lonely

Confidence: a feeling of assurance, especially of self-assurance; belief in one's own abilities
Child with confidence: accomplishes great things, stands out in a crowd
Child without confidence: meek, afraid to try

Curiosity: a desire to know or learn
Child with curiosity: learns something new, discovers answers
Child without curiosity: does not search for understanding, does not seek to learn

Determination: firmness of purpose; resolve
Child with determination: sense of purpose, drive to accomplish
Child without determination: weak, lack of drive, hopeless

Hope: a wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment
Child with hope: eyes wide open, ready for good to happen, dreams
Child without hope: downhearted, discouraged

Safety: the condition of being safe; freedom from hurt, injury, or loss
Child who feels safe: open to trying anything, asking anything, free to be himself
Child who does not feel safe: self-conscious, embarrassed, closed off

Trust: firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing
Child who has trust: develops relationships, able to move forward in life
Child who does not have trust: shuts out the world, afraid to get hurt, vulnerable

Wonder: the emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or marvelous
Child with wonder: desire to learn and discover, excited about life
Child without wonder: lack of ambition, limited interest in learning

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Summer Camp Tells Kids How To Keep Balance In Their

At SuperCamp, the learning and life skills summer camps for students in grades 4 through 12, kids learn about the 8 Keys of Excellence. SuperCamp co-founder, Bobbi DePorter, has lived the 8 Keys for more than 25 years. They are principles of behavior that inspire people to try great things—and succeed. These Keys have the power to constantly propel you forward and to help bring purpose, meaning and fulfillment to your life and your work.

The first key is balance – living a fulfilled life by aligning your mind, body and spirit. You create balance in your life by apportioning your time according to your highest priorities.

What are the things that are most important to you? Family, friends, health, a talent you have, a cause you care about? Spending time on the things that are important to you brings a sense of balance. Staying in balance is an ongoing process that is affected by the choices you make every day. It brings a feeling of quiet peace you might not even notice.

Balance is a subtle, quiet Key

Balance is subtle. You may not always recognize it when it’s there, but you’ll feel its absence. Imbalance clanks loudly, like an out-of-tune piano. When you’re out of balance, you know it.

Keeping your balance is about bringing your life into alignment, recognizing when some part of your life doesn’t reflect your priorities, and rearranging your life in a way that creates an ongoing sense of peace and fulfillment. When you’re able to make time for what matters in your life, your life will be in balance, you will feel fulfilled, and you won't be plagued with a nagging sensation that some aspect of life is passing you by.

When she was in the process of developing the 8 Keys, Bobbi first tried to bring balance to her life by devoting equal time and energy to all the important aspects of her life. She made a pie chart and devoted equal slices to work, home, family, friends, charitable organizations, and so forth, and then set about trying to apportion her time to match the chart.

No matter how hard she tried to do strike a balance in her life that way, no matter how close she got to that goal, something still felt out of whack. Eventually, she came to realize that it wasn’t a matter of rigidly devoting equal time to everything that mattered to her, but of prioritizing and then finding the allotment of time and energy that created the greatest sense of fulfillment. That’s balance.

How to know when you’re out of balance

You may not recognize that you’re out of balance unless you take the time to step back and look at your life from a different perspective. And remember that the times we’re most in need of a new perspective are often the times when it’s most difficult to take that break.

1. Take a time-out—especially when you think you can least afford it

Sometimes when you’re going too fast in one or more areas of your life, you just have to call a time-out, just like a basketball coach whose team seems out of sync. Take your time out to do something fun and relaxing and make sure it’s a long enough break that it gives you a chance to evaluate how you’re spending your time and if aspects of your life might be out of balance.

Balance has little to do with the amount of time you spend in any area of your life. When you’re focused and excited about something, you can spend mega hours at it and feel fulfilled and balanced. So, don’t worry about whether you’re spending too much time at something. The secret to balance lies not in an allotment of time but in an awareness of your priorities.

2. Check your priorities daily

When you’re driving a car, you’re making constant small corrections. You’re steering, adjusting the gas, and braking almost automatically, but you are paying attention and constantly making corrections to accommodate changing situations along your route. Keeping your life in balance requires the same kind of ongoing correction process. Balance is about choices. When you’re keeping yourself in balance you’re making a thousand internal corrections each day. You’re constantly asking yourself, What do I value? What’s really important? Does this activity really need to be done now?

No matter how good you become at it, you won’t be in balance every moment of every day. Tune in to the signals your mind, spirit, and body send that warn you when you’re slipping out of balance. Compensate sooner rather than later. The quicker you realign yourself, the smaller the “wobble” you’ll have to correct.

The balance that comes from fulfillment acts as a lens. It clears the view to your dream. Balance and the big picture are self-reinforcing energies. Stay balanced, and you’ll be able to keep the big picture in sight—stay focused on the big picture, and you’ll see clearly the choices that will keep your balance.

Fulfillment creates balance—and balance creates fulfillment. Make choices that are consistent with what makes you feel fulfilled.

Use this Balance affirmation often: I give to the things that are important to me the amount of time that creates the greatest sense of fulfillment.

"The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness. It's the things you do

half-heartedly that really wear you out." —David Whyte

SuperCamp summer programs fill up fast. Parents, go to now to learn about enrolling your son or daughter while space remains. Age-specific programs are available for students in grades 4-12 and incoming college freshmen. At the website, you also can get a free eBook that gives you an inside look at what works with teens from a world leader in youth achievement, SuperCamp co-founder Bobbi DePorter.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Where To Take Your Kids When They Say "Mom I'm Bored!"

"Mom, I'm bored!"

How many times have you heard your ten year old exclaim this on a Saturday afternoon, only to follow you around while you tried to do laundry or iron or cook dinner? Children may expect you to be their entertainment committee, but there are things you can do to keep them entertained for hours without eating up your entire Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the process.

The roller rink is a perfect place to take your kids on a Saturday. Almost every town has a local rink, and it is good for many ages. For about $10.00 a child, skate rental money if they don't own their own, and perhaps some extra money for snacks or lunch, you can usually bet on a good three or four hours of entertainment. Many of the skating rinks have video games and a café as well, so if your child is done with skating he or she can still be entertained. If your child is young, a chaperone will obviously be needed, and perhaps you and a neighbor can take turns and alternate weekends. If he or she is of the age where "dropping off" is appropriate, there is usually an open skate complete with the music of the moment that your kids will surely enjoy. Of course, he or she is getting exercise along with having fun so you can rest easy that this is a positive activity all around.

Another good place, depending on the season and your locale, is your local commercial dairy farm. True, it is a bit different, but it can be packed full of things to do for children of all ages. For the little ones, a simple tour of the farm can be full of wonder and amazement. Usually all you need to do is ask and those in charge will be more than happy to show your little one around. He or she can see the cows up close and even pet them in their stalls. They may get a tour of the production facility if they are a bit older and it can hold their interest, which can take a good amount of time. Often there will be other animals on the farm, and both younger and older kids will enjoy visiting with the barnyard animals. If your child's boredom occurs during the warm spring or summer months, it may be strawberry season and you may be lucky enough to have a farm that honors the age-old tradition of strawberry picking! If it's October and pumpkin season, perhaps you will be able to find your next perfect jack-o-lantern with your kids or even take a haunted hayride if it's close enough to Halloween. A hayride might just be possible no matter the season, so it can't hurt to ask! Of course, before you leave the farm don't forget to get a taste of their sure-to-be-homemade ice cream. The tour guide will probably give a cone to your little ones for free. Again, this Saturday or Sunday treat will be an educational source of entertainment for your children and cost you almost nothing.

Almost every parent falls back on the movies or the mall, if their child is old enough, but what about getting them outside for some fresh air instead? Surely you can open your back door and let the kids play in the yard any day of the week, but if you physically take them to a playground it will be something different. Bring the dog, if you have one, and get the most ‘bang for your buck' - your dog will be worn out by the end of your visit, and the kids can help with the wearing-out process! Both your children and your pet will have the benefit of a new play yard, and there will likely be other children to join in the fun, or even other dogs. There is bound to be a swing set, sliding board and jungle gym. Even if you own these and have them in your own backyard, they will likely be different than your own and hence more entertaining for your youngsters. Bring a ball or your dog's favorite toy to play fetch, bring some snacks for the kids, and get out there and play with them yourself! If you are fortunate to share the park with a pond or lake, you may need to bring some bread and you can feed the ducks there as well. Just getting outdoors to the park really can be a good hour's worth of fun at the least.

Any of the above recommendations will force your child to stop the "I'm bored!" exclamation. By the time you get home from any one of the three, your little boy or girl will most likely be ready for a nap and you may too - so look forward to your relaxation.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Terrible Twos - How to Stay Sane When Your Child Is Not

If you have a little one who is anywhere between the ages of two and four, some days can seem like they last forty eight hours instead of twenty four. If you are the proud mother of a little girl this age, the only word in her vocabulary may be "No." If you try and counter her "no's" with "yes's", she may emit sounds so shrill your ears will bleed. If you are the proud mom of a little boy, his new habits may include coloring the dog with your lipstick or banging your favorite, and delicate, table with his toy trucks until they crack. How do you deal with this? One way of course is to leave the country and never return. There are, however, more reasonable ways in which to deal with your children's testing periods.

While you may not be able to move to China, you can remove yourself from the situation and help calm your frayed nerves. If your child is being rebellious or misbehaving, sometimes just stepping out of the room for a few moments, counting to ten, and taking some deep, calming breaths can make all the difference when you re-enter the room to deal with your misbehaving child. He or she may then start to associate your leaving the room with "Uh oh, Mommy is mad" rather than associate your screaming and yelling with being angry, which can only be detrimental. This may help calm the child enough that upon your return, he or she will be more receptive to your teaching him what behavior you didn't like. Since you will be calmer as well, the discipline will likely be more effective.

For a more long-term approach, taking some time for yourself and "getting away from it all" is a good bet to restore your sanity. Take a good block of time on a Saturday or Sunday, 2 hours, maybe, and mark this time in your calendar in pen, not pencil, as a recurring activity. Keep a standing appointment with yourself, and honor it as you would any other. Think you are too busy on a weekend to do this, between your toddler's play dates, errands, and your other family obligations? You will feel much more productive the rest of the weekend allowing yourself this little ‘refresher', rather than trying to cram some time in on a random Tuesday or other weeknight. Moreover, you will feel much more able to cope with your child's behavior. For this special "adult time-out" time, you can book a massage or a facial at your favorite spa. Take a couple of hours to go window shopping or visit a museum, by yourself or with a friend. Take in a movie with a couple of girlfriends. If your husband is willing to fly solo on a Saturday night, you can even steal away to your favorite local pub with the girls once in a while and let off some steam. If you don't have extra funds for these activities once a week, you can sneak yourself off to the tub with a good book, a bubble bath and a nice glass of wine and come out feeling ready to face the world and your terrible-two-year-old.

Getting involved with groups that highlight child behavior may also help you cope with issues that seem to rear their ugly heads again and again. Your child may be going through a developmental phase that has you frustrated to say the least. It can be comforting to have a support network or group of friends with similarly-aged children. Many of these groups are "Mommy and Me"-type groups that can be found in your community directory. If no such local groups exist in your area, you can always consult some educational reading material on child behavior and speak with your doctor if it is getting more and more difficult to control. Sometimes, just a different approach can give great results. For example, if you are used to taking away a privilege or a toy when your child acts up, perhaps you need another tactic. Calmly tell him or her why Mommy is upset with the actual behavior, and explain and speak as if he were older than his actual age. Your own child may surprise you!

On the flip side, sometimes just not reacting at all can be the best approach. Just like you are getting to know what makes your child tick, he is getting to know what makes you tick as well and will quickly learn how to push your buttons and command your attention. Rather than play into this, ignore his pushy requests and the negative behavior may just quietly go away.

The Terrible Twos are challenging, to say the least, but using some of these approaches can help you keep the loving bond between you and your child without you losing your mind in the process.