Standardized test, personlized approach

istep cartoon

As the ISTEP window opens in Indiana today, parents, teachers, administrators, and counselors are up to their eyeballs in manuals, test tickets, and scheduling debacles.  Take a deep breath and look at three quick things you can do tonight to help your kids do great this week.

    –Keep the schedule light-No late night practices or events this week, please.  The mental effort testing can require may not wreck your kids, but the change in schedule in school, altered environments, and such can be unnerving for some kids.  Adding big afterschool events can be a bit much.  Most teachers limit or eliminate homework during this week, just so kids can have a chance to relax.

    –Don’t stress the test-Yes, it’s important for kids to do their individual best on the test, but don’t add pressure but reminding kids how important it is. By and large, most of them understand and WANT to succeed.  Remind them how hard they’ve already worked and that this test is just the icing on the cake.

   –Be ready for the aftermath-No pun intended.  Hard working, high achieving kids often second guess themselves due to the high stakes of the test.  Be ready for the emotions that can come out when kids are either worried about how they did or exhausted from the process.  Kids who struggle with tests might enjoy a favorite dinner or maybe a choice of stress relief activity to come down from the energy that can be palpable in the building on test day.  You know your kids better than anyone, and they need the comfort of home.

Staff at your child’s school do everything in their power to make sure your kids are ready for the test and that the day is as stress free as possible.  A few quick tweaks from you at home will make these days seem like a breeze.

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Who’s in Charge Here???

This is my Leila. Cute, huh?

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This is what she chose to wear to her sister Temple’s soccer game.

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Now let me not give you the impression that this was an unusual day, this was an ensemble she chose on an earlier, cool winter afternoon. (Pay no attention to the messy room she should have been cleaning, instead of the accessorizing she was doing, I was kind enough to crop out a good deal of it)

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Let’s say she has a mind of her own, specifically when it comes to her wardrobe.  Other things too, but definitely her clothes.  I am already dreading her life in school uniforms, but that is for another day, and another post.

There was a time when I probably wouldn’t have allowed such costumes to leave the house.  A time when I would have forced her to change into something a little more standard, you know something that matched.  After all, I’m in charge here. I say what is and isn’t acceptable wardrobe, right?

But alas those days are gone.  As the youngest of four girls, my Leila has the great pleasure of reaping the rewards from years of child rearing.  I have learned what is and isn’t worth fighting over.  Clearly, I won’t be letting Leila run out in the snow in a swimsuit but I have discovered the number one way to avoid power struggles with kids.

Give your kids power to make good choices. Every chance you get.

Amy McCreedy over at PositiveParentingSolutions.com desrcibes is as giving kids positive power and control throughout the day. She lists it as the number one way to tame temper tantrums.  The truth is as much as we think kids are controlling our lives, they often feel the exact same way.  Things like bedtime routines and organized snack time, which are completely necessary, sometimes leave kids feeling like they never get to be heard.  Finding simple ways of letting kids assert some control will allow them to feel good about their choices, and not look for ways of having more power.  (I’ll spare you the picture of a screaming toddler, but you know the visual I’m going for here)

I hear parents all the time say things like, “You have to let kids know who’s in charge” or “If you don’t let them know who’s the boss, they’ll run all over you”.  Ok, maybe I heard myself say that.

I agree, kids need to respect their parents authority, but kids who feel more confident in the small decisions that they make will be less likely to act out and make bigger mistakes as time goes by.  Kids who work through their own choices, with a parent’s guidance are more likely to make better choices in the future.

I know it can be challenging but here are three choices your kids can safely make most days, and tips for implementing in your life today.

1. Wardrobe: Remember my Leila the next time your little princess wants to wear her tiara to church.  You may get a few strange looks, but who are you hurting?  Want to start a little smaller, even the youngest toddler can choose between a red shirt and a blue.  Worried about time?  Pick out clothes the night before. Then you might even have an excited child getting dressed in the morning.  Follow up with a compliment about the choice, and suddenly you have the trifecta of parenting delight!

2.Food: I know this one is loaded, but hear me out.  No, I don’t expect you to fix chicken nuggets every night, but think kids menu at IHOP, not the entire grocery freezer section.  If you are a meal planner, let the kids pick from the cookbook, once or twice.  If you’re standing in front of the fridge feeling uninspired, pull one of the kids in and let them help you with the choice.  I’m seeing at least a few extra bites of dinner down the hatch, when the kids see their choice on the table.

3. Activities: The nice thing about modern day America, is there is no shortage of expos, events, or activities to choose from on a daily basis.  Often we push kids into the things that we think they should do, but what about giving them the choice?  I’m willing to bet if there were more choices given in advance, there would be less t-ballers refusing to bat on Saturday morning, and a few less frustrated parents to boot.

Kids need to feel not only the power to make choices, but pride from successful ones and the experience gained from the less than stellar.  Ultimately, you have enough things to think about in your day, leave the simple ones to the kids.

Parenting without Punishment: Why I’m moving away from punishing my kids

Mother and Daughter Face To Face I have a philosophical problem with punishing children, it stinks. On a good day, it’s at least as hard on me, if not more so than it is on them, and I don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, this will not be one of those posts about being friends with your children. I firmly believe that I am the adult and it is my right, no my obligation, to support my children’s development by showing them firm boundaries.  By giving them guidance in this crazy, free-willing  world. But punishment, that’s not necessarily a part of the plan. Let me define punishment for you…

pun·ish·ment
ˈpəniSHmənt/
noun
  1. 1.
    the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense
Retribution? There is no way I want my child to be engaged in retribution, let alone be on the delivering hand.  But clearly, I also don’t want the to have gremlins, just post midnight snack running around my living room either.
So what’s the solution?
I’m a fan of consequence, the more natural, the better.  Yes, consequence has an entirely different connotation, let’s look at that definition, shall we.
con·se·quence
ˈkänsikwəns,-ˌkwens/
noun
  1. 1.
    a result or effect of an action or condition.
See what I mean? One of these is about getting even, inflicting an equal, punitive response to an action or behavior.  The other is about natural effects of choice.  Throughout life children will make choices, they need to understand that some choices have good consquences, others not so much.
Let’s take the last thing your child did that you felt warranted a punishment.  I know you can’t think of anything, here let me help you.  Let’s pretend Billy hit his friend while they were playing Tonka trucks.  Punishment would dictate that Billy should feel the same level of pain that he gave his friend, or at least experience some other type of punitive expression that would equal what pain he had caused.  But what purpose does that serve? If Billy hurts, like he hurt,  what purpose does that serve?
The concept of consequence, let it wash over you in this scenario.  If Billy hit a friend, let’s call him Tommy.  Tommy might hit him back, that would be a consequence, but more likely Tommy would say that he wants to go home.  He doesn’t want to play any more. Billy would learn, from his action and the consequence of that action that people don’t like to be treated that way.  That you don’t hurt people you like.  And that when you treat people unkindly, they will not enjoy your company.
But here’s where the magic happens.
When Billy comes to you, with tears in his eyes because Tommy doesn’t want to play anymore. You get a chance to have a really good conversation with him.  Yes, this can happen.  Even the very young, one maybe two years old can understand a few words from mom.  When you look him in his eye and say, “I don’t think Tommy liked the way you treated him.  I think you hurt him.  What can we do to show Tommy that you didn’t mean to hurt him?”
You are teaching.  He is learning.
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In that moment you are helping your child develop something experts like to call emotional intelligence.  You are teaching him to identify emotions in himself and in others.  Teaching him that he can acknowledge his mistakes and learn from them. And correct them.  You give you child the concept of grace, repentance and redemption.  He learns compassion and character. Some say these skills will not only make him a better person, but also a better student, a better employee or employer, just better.
These are the skills…the traits…the values that you want your child to have.  The consequence was real, but not excessive.  Instead of penalty or vengence there is growth.
So tell me, are you ready to step away from punishment?