Unlocking Your Child’s Hidden Achievements

The Report Card

Unlocking Hidden Achievements

 When your child comes home with his next report card, sit down at the table together, graciously receive it from him without even really looking at it, set it face down on the table, and slowly push it with one finger to the side.  Then look your child right in the eye and ask, “What, about this report card, are you most proud of?”  The first time you do this, you may want to have someone with a camera standing by to capture the confused look on his face.  His first response may be, “What?” Just repeat the question, “Tell me what it is that you are most proud of on your report card?”  He may have to think for a minute.  Be patient.  He may know immediately what it is he’s most proud of.  Once he tells you, your next question is, “Why?”  Again, just give him time to feel why he is proud.  This is not about the grades on the report lying on the table.  This is about what your child considers to be his own personal achievement, but not necessarily reflected in any letter grade. He may feel most proud of the effort it took to go from a D to a C in a particular subject.  Or, it could be his sense of pride at mastering a subject he loves.

You want your child to be motivated from within, and to feel successful.  And, to build on that feeling.

Whatever your child shares, your job is to genuinely acknowledge his accomplishment, “Wow. I can see how good you feel about this.”  To finish, just ask, “Is there anything else you would like to share?  Is there anything you need help with?”
If there is nothing your child can find to be proud of, just empathize how that must feel.  You might say something like, “I’m sorry that this is so hard for you.” Or, share with him a time that maybe you were going through the same thing.  Ask, “How can I help you?”  Then just listen.  He may have to spew, cry, be angry, or any number of things.  Help him look at how he can be in charge and take action.  In assisting him in determining his next step say, “What is one thing that you could do — or we could do together — that would help you feel better?”  Sticking with one thing at a time makes it easier to focus and be successful.  The goal here would be for your child to experience feeling some success.
I found this method to be so rewarding — not just for my daughters — but for me, as well.  It felt like I was truly there for them.  Remember, have that camera ready.  The picture will be worth saving.

Teaching Your Child How to Make Decisions

So, What Will You Do?

Fostering effective decision-making skills in your child

The basic underlying goal of every parent is to prepare their child for life’s challenges. However, when you feel like you are “flying by the seat of your pants” every day, this can feel like a very daunting task.  So, what will you do?  How do you prepare your child for adulthood?  This question alone can bring up all types of issues and concerns about what to explain to your child and when.  The key is to keep things simple and consistent.  All parents want to see their child be successful and handle themselves well in the world.   So how do you begin to teach decision-making?  When do you start? You teach it by asking your child to come up with their own solution the very first time they ask you for one.
First…validate any feelings that are involved.
Your six-year-old comes home from school very upset.  You immediately ask, “What’s wrong?”  He’s sad and frustrated because the kids at school won’t play with him. You answer with, “I can see why you are upset.  I would be too”, validating his feelings.

Second…ask, in a genuinely concerned way, “So, what will you do?”
The most important thing is to show that you care, you are available and that you know they have what it takes to solve their own problems.  This is not about just leaving them on their own at first.  When you ask, “So, what will you do?”, you may just get a questioned look or “I don’t know.”  Then you could ask, “Well, how do you want it to turn out?”  You may have to go back and forth several times.  Stay with probing questions as much as possible.  At first you may have to assist with some suggestions while at the same time encouraging your child to come up with their own solution.  In the scenario here you might ask, “Why do you think they don’t want to play with you?” to initiate a deeper thought process.  You may have to revisit the same issue several times before arriving at a decision that actually works.  Resist the temptation to offer your solution, instead, look at it as an opportunity for practice.  You can also use phrases like “How will you handle that?” or “So, how will you fix it?”.

Third…listen, give feedback and coach.
Once your child starts the dialogue, your job is to listen, ask probing questions and help him stay focused on what he will do.  Your challenge is to stay away from coming up with the asnwer. Continue using responses such as, “Tell me more”, or “I see”, or “I don’t understand. Tell me again”, or “So, what you are saying is…”.   When a decision is reached you may have to help with some coaching on how to follow through.  In the example I’ve used above, if he decided that he needed to be better at sharing his toys, you could coach him in how to do that.

Teaching effective decision-making skills does not have to be hard.  Make it a game. Encourage flipping roles with your child to have her ask you, “So, what will you do?”. Of course, make sure it is age-appropriate.  It could be as simple as, “I don’t know what to prepare for dinner.”  Practicing these three steps now will just make those later life challenges easier to handle.  Like when you hear for the first time, “I am so sorry!  I crushed the fender on the car!”  You will be practiced enough to first ask if they are OK, then follow that up with, “So, how will you handle it?”

So remember…take care of yourself today. Be risky. And most of all…have fun.

You are your child’s best teacher.

As the beginning of school draws near it is important to recognize that you are your child’s best teacher 365 days a year.  As their best teacher one of the most important things you can do for them is to read together and encourage them to read on their own.  Being able to read builds confidence and self-esteem.  Here are three simple things you can do to help your child develop good reading skills and habits:
Read Out Loud    For younger children, one of the best things you can do is to sit together while you read out loud.  Be sure the books have plenty of pictures and are fun.  During this time consider turning off all electronic devices to convey to your child how important this reading time together is.  For older children, schedule a family reading time where everyone takes a turn to read aloud.
Get A Library Card    If you live in a community that has a library, get your child their own library card as soon as they are old enough to have one (make certain you have one , too!).  Make it an event.  Begin scheduling trips to the library together to get books, or to just sit and read.  This will reinforce the fact that you see the library as a valuable resource.
Focus On Interest    If your child is not interested in reading, or is having a difficult time with reading, be patient.  Find out what they are truly interested in.  Cooking?  Maps?  Spiders?  How things work?  The weather?  Take some time to observe their genuine interest.  Then, go to the library or do an internet search together to get some printed material to read.  It is important to not make your child’s interst your interest.  It can be fun to let them teach you about what they are learning.  This is such a great way to build self-esteem and solidify knowledge.

Emotional Intelligence:  Developing Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the first of the five Emotional Intelligence stages. Here are two simple things that you can do to help develop self-awareness in your child (or anyone).
1. Ask the question, “What do you think?”, often.  Once the question is asked your job becomes that of listener and encourager. You might say things like, “Tell me more.” or “I see.” to stimulate more response. Simply nodding your head signifies you are listening.  Don’t judge what is being said, just listen.  In general, we grow up being told what to do and what to think.  By asking, “What do youthink?” you are promoting the develpment of self-awareness.
2. Ask the question, “How do you feel about that?”, regularly.  Then listen, empathize and validate. You might say something like, “I see how you could feel that way.” or “I have felt the same way.”  Stay away from saying things like, “Don’t feel that way.” or “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  The goal here is to promote the understanding, and taking ownership, of one’s feelings.  Try asking at dinnertime or bedtime, “What were you happy about today?” or “What were you sad about doday?”  Stay away from asking what made them happy, sad or mad.  In using the words, “what made you…”, you are teaching that our feelings are a result of something outside ourselves and that we have no control over, or responsibility for them.  It is like the classic line, “He made me do it!”, when, in fact, the truer statement would be, “I chose to do it.”So remember…take care of yourself today. Be risky. And most of all…have fun

Listening…the most valuable tool…for anyone.

Like most people, particularly parents, I have to constantly remind myself to listen.  My daughters and wife tell me that I have a tendency to “lecture” or “repeat” myself.  I guess I just want to make sure that my verbal wisdom is being heard, when actually the receiver ends up just tuning me out.  Not the results I really want.  So I practice everyday the art of listening and “lecturing” less.  When instructing parents, one of the first things we tell them to do is “shut up” and just listen to their kids.  You want your kids to talk to you, so when they are talking don’t stop the flow.  Keep the conversation going with responses such as, “I see”, “Tell me more.”, or just nod your head.  These actions all encourage the speaker to continue.  Do not start injecting your opinion until it is asked for.  If you do this, you will be amazed at the things you learn.  This also works when younger kids are telling you about something they experienced.  Keep encouraging them to tell you more.  Don’t worry about the details or accuracy.  I have witnessed situations where a child is telling their story, and the parent keeps interrupting with corrections and additions.  Can you guess what happens?  Right, the kid finally just stops telling the story…they give up.  So please, when a child is telling a story just let them do it.  Also, it will be helping them develop their verbal skills and socialization with those around them.

Here’s a little tip that you can use to help you get better results when communicating with your kids:  give them a way to interrupt you in a respectful way.  When I was teaching high school I also did tutoring for younger students who were having math issues.  My goal was to work at understanding and not so much at mechanics.  Anyway, I was tutoring a young lady of about ten years old and told her that sometimes in my attempt to explain, she may just be hearing, “blah, blah, blah…” and that she was welcome to stop me so I didn’t go on and on and on.  One day I was trying to explain the intricacies of money when she looked up at me and said, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.”  It was so great.  I started laughing and she starting laughing.  I acknowledged her for taking care of herself by stopping me.   Encouraging her to do this made each of us better listeners and communicators.  To sum this all up…shut up and listen, it’s that easy.  Have fun today and remember…take care of yourself.  Ross

What did you do for yourself today?

In our course on parenting, the first thing we teach is taking care of yourself.  This seems to be one of the most challenging things for people to do, especially parents.  Our students squirm in their seats when we discuss this topic.  For the most part, people feel that they are being selfish if they are putting themselves first.  I am not going to go into all the possible reasons why this is the case.  What I do believe is that if you are not taking care of yourself, it is difficult to be fully there when someone needs you.  So the more you can do for yourself first, the more you will be able to do for others later.  So be selfish each day and take care of yourself first.  Take a long walk, read a book, take a hot bath, get a massage or just think about those things that you appreciate in your life.  Pick your spirits up first and you will be even more ready to be there for another.

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