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14 Things Successful People Do Before Breakfast

 

At the world economic forum, one topic discussed was what successful people have in common with their schedules. Looking at the list, one thing is certain, they get up early and take advantage of every second. Another clear item is that they take time for themselves with exercise, family and “passion projects” high up on the list.

Looking at this list, it reminds me of the schedules many school Principals work under. Although to make it complete for them, you have to add another list of the 14 Things School Principals do After Dinner!

The School Communications agency gets up before dawn and wants to help your school be successful. Contact us to find out more about how we can make the school’s parent communications newsletter work for you.

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The Counter-Intuitive Turtle

I was cruising down a two-lane road on my bike one Friday evening and noticed a little turtle on the side to my right. The little critter was determined to cross the road. There was plenty of traffic and trucks thundering down the road so I decided to do a U-turn and intervene. Every critter counts after all, and I knew the odds were against this one surviving the precarious crossing. I would later learn from my friend Cameron Young, a local snake and reptile conservationist and executive director of The Nature Lab, that my little friend was a female paint turtle. Moving forward, I’ll call her Betsy.

I approached Betsy after carefully laying down my bike and waddling like a penguin over in my bike shoes to pick her up. She began to hide in her shell, which is what I was expecting. As I reached down she made a run for it. I was shocked. Turtles aren’t supposed to run! I thought of walking away and letting her fend for herself but instead, I ran after her which is no easy task in bike shoes. I leaned into my determination and grabbed onto Betsy and was astonished as her little legs frantically kicked against the air and her nails scraped against my fingers. We were off, as I awkwardly walked her across the busy road. When I let her go far from harms way, I realized the rest was out of my control and hoped I had done the right thing. But I knew my buddy Cameron would set me straight.

First, Cameron popped my bubble that turtles hide in their shell when confronted by danger. He told me that turtles, or at least the paint variety, often run. The better news, though, was that I had done the right thing. Saving Betsy was crucial. Based on the time of day, she was most likely off to nest and lay her eggs.  With such low survival rates for baby turtles, it is essential to help female adult turtles keep on laying eggs so we can maintain a diverse eco-system.

Even though I had thought Betsy was behaving counterintuitively when she ran, she was just reacting based on instinct. Ironically, I was the one who had reacted counterintuitively by holding on and by being so determined to see her safely across the road even though she had protested my actions.

 

But, sometimes, there is value in being counterintuitive.

 

In Tyler Durman’s 2015 book, Counterintuitive, he talks about how teenagers aren’t finished on the inside and how it takes a lot of “counterintuitive” reasoning to love and raise a teenager well.

For example, our job as parents is to provide safety and guidance even when our teenagers want more freedom. Most teenagers are not ready for total freedom, as “they’re not done on the inside.”  Teenagers, Durman says, “look to the behavior of the adults in their life to provide reassurance that everything is going to be okay. When the inner conflict between their desire for independence and their need to feel safe confuses parents, teenagers feel more fear, which can lead to anger and a new kind of testing.”

He also discusses how teenagers, “don’t test to win.” When your teen tests you and you’re passive, it is proof that your teen is more powerful than you. Teens fear this discovery. Tyler tells the story of going to check a single-wall construction house to ensure it wasn’t infested with termites. He walked around the structure pushing at it with a mallet because he wanted to ensure the walls were stronger then he was.  “[Teens] are not testing us because they want us to give in,” he says. “They’re testing because their deeper need is to find reassurance we won’t.” By providing clear boundaries you are providing your teens with security knowing that the walls are solid.

In my house there are no phones in the bedrooms. If a phone mysteriously finds its way upstairs, the kids lose the phone the next day. I have heard all the excuses: “I had to show my brother something and I forgot to bring it down. I swear I wasn’t on it.” I do twinge with a moment of weakness but then I remember that this rule is one of our non-negotiables. I simply say, “Our rule is no phones in the bedroom so please hand me your phone and you can try again tomorrow.” All teenagers long for the adults in their lives to stand behind the things they say with consistent strength. And when we do, they will respect us, even when they disagree with our standards.

When your kids push, they need you to stand and lean into your core values and stay consistent with your non-negotiables. I was determined to get Betsy across the road even though her little legs were battering against my fingers. I stayed true to my value of protecting nature and doing my best to make a positive impact even though Betsy would never say thank you.

But sticking by your teens as they bang and push the walls to make sure you are stronger than they are is not an easy task. Modeling vulnerability, dealing with failure, and communicating with your teen is a big part of getting them to the other side of the busy street.  Share your imperfections, your weaknesses and be willing to say things like: “I’m sorry.” Or, “I blew it.”

One of the greatest challenges is to let go and trust our kids to make good decisions.  .  “Like the rest of us, teenagers need a safe place to run when they fail,” Durman says. “They will run somewhere, and the way the adults in their lives respond to failure will determine if they run towards us or away from us.”  A big part of your teens’ development is the ability to make mistakes and learn from them and know that this process is just part of life. Parents make mistakes and learn from them too so don’t be afraid to model this behavior for your teens. It’s about taking ownership of the good, the great, and the not-so-pretty.

Keep being an imperfect human and do the best you can for your kids while you love them through their tweens and teen years. Parenting is a constant evolution and takes patience and time. Their future 30-year-old selves will thank you.

 

 

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Managing Screen Time in the Summer

As a child during summer break, my challenge was to get home before dark. We’d be outside for hours exploring the woods nearby and playing in parks, riding bikes, swimming, and hanging out outside with friends…in person…not through a headset.  Now that I’m a parent, the challenge is often to get the kids to play outside. They still like to bike, swim, and play with friends, but it’s often after negotiating how much screen time they will get after an outdoor activity.  So, how do we encourage more outdoor time and stop battling all summer over technology? Delaney Ruston, M.D., and Screenagers’ Filmmaker has some ideas.

  1. Summer Projects. Come up with a couple specific things.
  2. Set screen time limits and/or encourage more pro-social games.
  3. House help. Fix things, paint things, and help with the cooking and household chores.

“The longest longitudinal study of humans ever conducted is called the Harvard Grant Study. It found that professional success in life, which is what we want for our kids, that professional success in life comes from having done chores as a kid, and the earlier you started, the better, that a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-pitch-in mindset, a mindset that says, there’s some unpleasant work, someone’s got to do it, it might as well be me…I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole, that that’s what gets you ahead in the workplace.” ~ Julie Lythcott Smith, former Stanford University Dean of Freshmen, TED Talk.

  1. Creative technology projects like create your own music or movie or learn how to program.
  2. Read! Check out the Screenagers’ website for a list of pre-teen and teen books.

 

And, so how do we get our kids to try out these ideas? Dr. Delaney suggests we start the conversation with these questions:

  • What are 2 things you would like to accomplish this summer?
  • Is there a new skill, like video editing or creating music or coding that you might be interested in learning more about?
  • How much time do you think is reasonable per day this summer for you to spend doing things like playing video games or scrolling social media?
  • What “house help” projects can you come up with that would teach you a skill you are interested in—or at least mildly interested in? Or at least not completely dreading?

Visit Screenagers to read the full text and find more ideas on How To Manage Screen Time This Summer.

 

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

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Summer tips & tricks for readers

School is almost out and everyone is excited about the prospect of no more homework. Alas, summer reading is the new homework. For some of your kids that means intensive reading interventions; for others, it means setting an intention to read several days a week.

Sometimes, summer reading creates its own intense range of emotions if your child is struggling with a summer reading assignment. Your kids may tell you that they just want to relax and that reading encroaches on their “me” time.

I have received some amazing guidance and resources from reading specialists, special education teachers, and even from my kids’ high school teachers as to what my job as parent is in supporting my kids in reading and writing.

Here is what they suggest:

Your job is to make reading fun. Let the specialist do the hard stuff, which includes sounding out words. I know that advice was music to my ears. I always had a hard time sounding out words because English was my second language and as a result of my own dyslexia. I am only too happy to leave sounding out to the professionals!

Find books that are of interest and appeal to your kids, here are some favorites of my kids:

  • Zach Files
  • Brandon Mull series
  • Ghost / Marvel Comics– I grew up loving comic books (This is how I fell in love with reading) so my youngest and I read them together

Read aloud to your kids. My husband has a knack for doing voices, which the kids loved. I also tried recreating voices for my kids, but at the end of the day their Dad was the one with that talent.

Use technology for extra help. If your kid picks a book that might be above his/ her grade level, no worries. While your kid reads let them listen to the audio. You can use tools like Audible or Learning Ally. If there was a movie based on the book, use the movie as a reward for completing the book.  We could then compare and contrast the two media, which deepened the learning.

Set expectations for the following day and review them with your kids. Write them out. Block out where and what they are doing. If there is an opportunity for choice, ask your kids “would you prefer to read at 9 am or 7 pm” and then block the activity on the calendar. Your job is to make sure they follow through.

Set reasonable time frames for your kids, taking their age into account. If they are young a minimum time might be 10 or 15 minutes. They can keep going or stop. If they chose to stop, avoid coaxing. When you attempt to convince your kid to keep reading you have changed the rules on them and you have made life a lot harder for yourself the next day.

For older kids, first review what they have to read and learn and how long it will take to complete. I like to print out a calendar and have them mark in pencil:

  • Date school starts back up?
  • What days are out-of-the-question for reading?
  • What day do they want to start?

Then look at the book and the number of pages. Are they going to break it down by time or pages per day? Plot out how many days it will take on the calendar to complete all of the reading.  This visual can be very helpful for kids who have unrealistic expectations of the time required and help avoid procrastination.

At this stage in the game, you have an advantage because they have created a plan, which you can point to throughout the summer.

Of course, the temptation to procrastinate is still there.  Your job is to reinforce their plan, not to nag.   If they are behind, have them re-draw the calendar to visualize how the work is piling up.

Be patient and be realistic with your expectations. In the beginning, reading may feel like a chore to them. Just keep finding ways to make it fun. Most of all, model the behavior you are seeking. Are you reading or listening to audiobooks? If your kid happens to have a favorite author ask them if they would recommend the book to you. If they do I encourage you to read it. Yes, sometimes I had to work to get through the book, but the reward of getting to talk about it and understand their world always makes the exercise worthwhile.

 

Photo by Lê Tân on Unsplash

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To the Graduating High School Seniors of 2018

Another school year is coming to a close and with it the graduating class of 2018 prepares to embark on its next adventure. There are lots of mixed emotions from excitement to relief and some trepidation as these graduates take the next big leap into adulthood.

Your new chapter is just beginning and for those of you who aren’t sure what’s next, I want to tell you that you’ll figure it out. For me, going to college wasn’t so much about the major. Instead, it was a safe place for me to stretch, develop my interpersonal skills, improve my problem-solving abilities and challenge my beliefs.

To be honest, when I was a senior in high school, I wasn’t that interested in college. But both my parents are PhDs and have several master’s degrees under their belts and the idea of me not going to college seemed impossible to them. My mom played her cards right and encouraged me to apply to wherever I wanted and suggested I just go for one year. If I ended up being miserable I could go onto my next adventure.

I turned to my younger brother, and asked him to pick several colleges for me. He did and they were based on his interests.  In the end I selected Ohio State University, OSU. This was ironic because OSU has 60,000 undergraduate students and I was extremely shy and had spent the majority of my education going to small schools.

Here are the reasons I chose OSU:

  • Because I was so shy, I needed to go to a school where I didn’t know anyone. I wanted to be unable to hide behind anyone else.
  • I would either sink or swim and that this was the best bridge to life-after-college for me.
  • OSU had a college dedicated to the undecided called University College I wouldn’t have to declare a major for a couple more years. Yay! I loved that I could be indecisive a little bit longer.

I want share some of the great tips I learned from my freshman orientation many years ago:

  • Don’t eat Buckeye butter. The Buckeye nut is extremely toxic. In a previous year several freshmen thought it would be a good idea to make Buckeye butter and it landed them all in the emergency room.
  • Look around right after registration day: many of your peers will not be there come second-quarter.
  • You can either be a number (some class lectures will have several hundred students) or you can stand out. Neither takes much effort. I took advantage of both strategies.
  • Help is there if you need it. You just have to ask for it and follow through.

Here are some additional insights to assist with the transition to college:

Be curious 

In the book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be An Antidote To The College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni, Howard Shultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks says:

“Be as curious as you can. Put yourself in situations where you’re not yielding to what’s familiar. I came out of college with a level of confidence and self-understanding that I don’t think I could possibly have gotten from an East Coast school where I would have been among the kind of people I grew up with and lived near.” p. 109

Howard Shultz was from Brooklyn New York and graduated from Northern Michigan University. He got a “glimpse beyond Brooklyn and forced to stand on his own two feet in it.” P 109

Get out of your comfort zone!

Yes, college is a place to develop technical skills for future career opportunities and it is more than that. You have the opportunity to grow and challenge yourself.

For example, I took classes at OSU just to go way outside my comfort zone. I was not a fan of speaking out but several of my classes awarded half the grade based on participation including US Women Writers, Writing Poetry, and Topics of Feminist Studies.  My face would resemble a tomato and I shook from the inside out. But I leveraged this platform to develop a skill that I would need throughout my professional life: public speaking.

Vassar’s president Catherine Bon Hill offers excellent advice in the book, Becoming Self-Determined: Creating Thoughtful Learners in a Standard-Driven, Admissions Frenzied Culture,. “If our students are going to make successful contributions to the future well-being of our society,” she said, “they need to understand how to deal with diversity, and college campuses are a perfect place – an important place to learn that.” p. 119

Can you surround yourself with individuals with differing beliefs, backgrounds, and cultures so you can broaden your horizons? Learning to listen to others, especially those with differing ideas, can expand your thinking.

A few tips to remember:

  • Talk to your professors and if you require accommodations, tell them about them.
  • Go to your professor’s office hours even if it’s just to introduce yourself. You are developing your interpersonal skills with face-to-face communication. For some of you this is extremely difficult and office hours are great place to practice. Plus, your professor will take notice and be more inclined to help.
  • If you don’t understand or are struggling with something right out of the gate, don’t wait! Use the resources that are available to you like writing centers. Writing Centers can be a great place to help you get started on a paper. If you’re not sure about the resources available to you, ask another student. Everyone was a freshman once.
  • In college, you can drop and add classes. If you know on day one that your class is not a good fit make a change right away!
  • Ask questions!

Congratulations on the accomplishment of graduating from High School! As you move to the next phase of your young life, take the opportunity life presents you to experience failure and come out stronger on the other end. What are the strengths and skills you can develop while being willing to get out of your comfort zone?

For parents, this is also a big transition. Before your teen heads off to college, work with them to develop a communication plan respecting how they want you to support them. If they call because they have a problem, don’t solve it for them. Instead, provide guidance so they can develop their own problem-solving muscles. Continue to be their non-judgmental rock as they continue on their journey to adulthood.

 

Picture courtesy of Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz of Unsplash Photos
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School Parents and the Challenge of Instant Answers

Below is an article recently published in ExchangeEveryDay that talks about the issues – both positive and negative – that access to instant answers with Technology can have on our children.

In an article on the HealthyWay website, Gretchen Bossio quotes Donna Volipitta, a doctor of education who studies neurology, psychology, and education in relation to parenting, on the new way millennial parents are raising their children:

“‘Millennials, having been raised in the age of technology, tend towards being used to immediate gratification. They want immediate solutions. If they don’t know an answer, they google it,’ she explains. ‘If they need to get somewhere, they Uber. If they need food, they Grubhub. If they want a picture, they Snap it.'”

Bossio explains how access to fast information can be both a challenge and a gift. She explains the challenge this way:

“Although we’re living in the age of fast answers, parenting itself is a slow and steady journey. We get the answer right away, even if that answer isn’t always correct or the best.The immediate, never-ending knowledge base that technology brings ushers in other things, too. Like anxiety. And worry. And misconceptions. Because, after all, Dr. Google doesn’t always properly diagnose, and the internet doesn’t always offer accurate advice.”

As for the gifts technology brings parents, she describes them this way: “On the flip side, the internet is also full of mountains of research, parenting insight, and truth that can lead moms and dads to become better parents… Posting, tweeting, pinning, and sharing photos gives us immediate access to friends, family, strangers…Strangers have become like family, all because of technology.”

Source: “Millenial Parents Are Raising Their Children In A Much Different Way,” by Gretchen Bossio, December 7, 2017

 

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Why School Newsletters Still Matter

Research shows that students do better when consistent, open communication exists between schools and parents. A myriad of methods and tools are available to schools to communicate with parents such as parent-teacher conferences, websites, email, phone calls, social media, flyers, and the monthly school newsletter. The school newsletter has been around for a long, long time and remains relevant in school-to-parent communications. In fact, it has evolved into a vehicle to connect parents with local (often family-owned) businesses that sponsor schools. This connection creates mutually beneficial relationships between businesses, parents, students, and schools.

Do Parents Read School Newsletters?

Information overload is a challenge in the digital age. Marketers are constantly tracking click-through and open rates in emails. Do parents take the time to read their child’s school e-newsletter?  In a recent survey of parents of schoolchildren in Colorado conducted by The School Newsletter Agency (TSCA),

many parents responded that they refer back to the monthly newsletter three or more times per month and approximately 50% of parents read the newsletter at least two times per month. Clearly, parents are reading school newsletters and often refer to them throughout the month for relevant information.

Additionally, schools are concerned with information accessibility issues. A well-designed e-newsletter

addresses this concern and are formatted for mobile devices, tablets and desktop viewing, while also designed to easily convert to PDF, so schools that still require paper copies to reach parents, can easily print them.

Do School Newsletters Improve Parent Engagement with Schools?

Parents are busy. Well-designed school newsletters have reoccurring, organized content areas so that parents can quickly find what is of interest to them each month. Well-ordered school information, such as sports schedules, special events and testing deadlines, promotes parent engagement. Content matters and schools know it. The right content is key. Reading the school newsletter becomes a habit if done right. Additionally, sticking to a consistent day to send the newsletter to parents each month promotes parent readership.

A group of principals who serve as part of a Education World’s principal focus team, agree that newsletters are a key element in any communications plan. Newsletters offer consistent messages with consolidated and summarized information about upcoming activities, student achievements, menus, fundraiser programs, and photos from school events. Consistent communication from schools in the form of a monthly newsletter is expected and looked forward to each month by parents.

According to Frank Hagen, who has been an educator for more than 30 years, parent engagement is a key component in educating children in the 21st Century.  Parent engagement increases as a result of consistent monthly newsletters, leading to improved student success.  

Do Parents Support Businesses Because of Advertising They See in School Newsletters?

One challenge that businesses face is how to reach busy parents in the community. Advertising in school newsletters allows businesses to reach this niche market of parents, school staff, teachers and students. Links embedded within school newsletters allow parents to access additional information from the school, district, businesses/sponsors and other community stakeholders.  According to TSCA’s recent survey, nearly 60% of parents who responded click on the advertisements in their school newsletters. This click rate is well above the industry average reported by Constant Contact.

In the same survey, parents were asked if they visited or did business with sponsors after seeing the business advertised in their school newsletter. Approximately 50% of respondents say they have visited or done business with 1 to more than 4 businesses after seeing advertising in their school newsletter. Local businesses grow and benefit from sponsoring schools in this way.

How do Businesses Support Schools?

It is no secret that schools are in need of funding sources for anything from extracurricular activities to school supplies. Schools and parent organizations spend countless hours setting up fundraising events and activities and setting up family dinners at local restaurants that give a small percentage of sales back to schools.  School newsletters can be another fundraising vehicle. A portion of the advertising investment from local sponsors goes to support schools. Schools have reported using the funds to pay costs for students who could not afford field trips, prom, and schools supplies. Other schools have used the funds from school newsletter sponsor support for playground equipment, teacher appreciation, and scholarships.

School newsletter sponsorship also supports the design process and reduces the workload on school staff saving staff hours of time better used to directly support students and teachers. Businesses that advertise in school newsletters are building relationships with community parents, while supporting their local schools, and promoting their businesses.  And, many of these businesses are owned by parents who want to support their child’s school, while growing awareness for their businesses.

Is the School Newsletter Still Relevant?

Parents, businesses, teachers, and school administrators say it is. In addition to its traditional role to inform parents about school activities, deadlines, and announcements, it has become a path to parents for businesses. The school newsletter reaches parents on a regular, monthly schedule at an extremely affordable price for local businesses. These businesses are supported by parents and in turn they support their children’s schools, thus connecting communities and growing their businesses, which results in parent engagement and increased student success. While there are multiple tools and methods to communicate with parents, the school newsletter remains relevant and has evolved into a beneficial tool to connect and support the community.

 

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Turn off those devices: Why you should listen with your eyes

Have you ever heard the same story twice in one day? I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Go-Giver with Bob Burg, and he was interviewing Motivational Keynote Speaker and Author Neen James. She proceeded to tell a story about how a five-year-old child can remind us how life really should work. Later, that very same day, as I attended the annual Rocky Mountain Project Management Symposium, I heard the story again when I sat in her session at the conference. I decided the repetition was a sign. I needed to pay attention.

Insight from a 5-year-old

Neen James was sitting with a next-door neighbor chatting over some coffee. Her neighbor’s 5-year-old son, Donovan, kept interrupting their conversation with a string of questions. Finally, he became so frustrated with Neen’s lack luster answers, he put Neen’s face in his hands and told her to, “listen with your eyes!”

Sometimes the greatest wisdom comes from a five year old. “To listen with our eyes” is to listen actively, which means focusing on the other person and what they have to say. We all want to be heard, and that means we also need to be active listeners.

Our reality

In today’s world, we are inundated with distractions from numerous devices. I’m not telling you anything new here. Your kids are the iGen, the generation growing up with devices.

When I’m speaking with my kids and they are on a device or playing video games, I know they aren’t hearing anything I’m saying. The same goes for my husband when we try to talk while he’s on his iPad. Bottom line is that dividing our attention between those we’re with and our little distraction pods is disrespectful.

It’s not just 5-year-olds and parents disgruntled by the lack of attention. In Dr. Jenny M, Twenge’s book iGen, she interviews a 13-year-old teen named Athena, who complains about the negative impact of friends who pay too much attention to their phones when they are hanging out with her. Dr. Twenge asks how it makes her feel “when you’re trying to talk to somebody face-to-face and they’re not looking at you?” (p. 298) Athena’s response says a lot:

It kind of hurts… It hurts. I know my parent’s generation didn’t do that. I could be trying to talk about something super important to me, and they won’t even be listening. (p. 289)

So, what can be done about devices?

Here is what we do in my house:  NO DEVICES WHEN IT’S TIME TO TALK…PERIOD.  When one of us has a question or wants to share, we put our devices down.  When it’s time to eat a meal at the table, devices are in another room.  With the distractions gone and eye contact made, let the conversation begin!

The Benefits!

What has been the payoff from implementing these practices? I know my husband and I are demonstrating and fundamental life skills along with modeling what active listening looks like. If I think about how am I going to get my kids ready for the world, it’s doing everything I can to develop and support good communications skills. Teach your kids to listen with their eyes and you’ll be amazed at the improvement in your relationship. Here’s the thing though, it only works if we do it too.

The point of all this is that my husband and I want to provide a place where our kids can celebrate success and share when things aren’t going well. This is an ongoing challenge for all families. But the gateway to this connection is to take the advice of a 5-year-old and, “listen with your eyes!”

 

Hyperlinks:

The Go-Giver Podcast with Bob Burg https://thegogiver.com/2018/04/109-attention-revolution-neen-james/

PMI Symposium http://pmimilehi.org/content.php?page=Symposium

Listen with your eyes https://neenjames.com/pay-attention-listening/

IGen – https://www.amazon.com/iGen-Super-Connected-Rebellious-Happy-Adulthood/dp/1501151983/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524338626&sr=8-1&keywords=igen+twenge

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Stop, Don’t Double Dip! Learning Social Skills

My family and I spent a long weekend just north of Burlington, Vermont over Spring break. We stayed in a beautiful yellow farmhouse — a bed and breakfast owned by a friend of mine. Having arrived at the peak of maple syrup season, we were able to check out a maple syrup farm. After we received the tour of the refining process we were treated to small taster cups with fresh maple syrup.

The family and I all had a taste and, it’s true, you can only sip on so much maple syrup. As we gathered around the table with the straight sided jug my eldest, a high schooler, decided he was done with his syrup and poured it back into the jug! Ugh!  I couldn’t believe what he’d done. I pulled him aside and didn’t mince words. So we were back to the double dip debate.

I wish I could say this is the first time this has happened, but it’s not. I frequently tell him that if he’s at a lunch interview with a prospective employer and the boss saw him do that, he could reduce his chances of being hired.

Learning social skills is mandatory part of life. For some of your kids it will be harder than others and will take more time. I still work with my elder son teaching him that it’s not okay to get up and leave a roomful of guests just because he’s tired. I always bring him back to the room and have him tell the guests he is tired and heading to bed and that is was nice to see them.

Social Thinking

One way to reframe our thought process is to think of it as “social thinking.” Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke in their book Social Thinking At Work and Why Should We Care? explain that social skills arise from thinking. “Social thinking is about our own and other’s minds.” (p.2) To improve our own social performance, we must be able to figure out what other people are thinking, which means understanding how our own social minds work.

I have always made it clear what I expect of myself and my boys with regards to socially acceptable behavior. For example, one time when the boys were little they had dinner with some friends. The boys were eating pizza at the table, and one of their friends was crawling all over the table. Later that evening, they mentioned I would not have been okay with them having behaved that way. I asked them if they enjoyed dinner when their friend was all over the place. They said no that it was funny for about a second and then became really annoying. I reminded them that part of behaving is making other people want to be around you.

A Tip Or Two

Saying ‘thank you,’ is an especially important social skill as it is a sign of appreciation. To this day, I still have to remind the boys to thank someone right away when they receive something because it makes the other person feel good and causes them to want to do it again. I explain they wouldn’t want a grandparent to stop giving them gifts because they had failed to send thank you notes. Yes, I make my boys write thank you notes. I also model this behavior by writing my own thank you notes because I know how much I love receiving my niece and nephew’s notes.

Life gives us countless opportunities to teach our kids about social thinking and skills. It is vital that we are consistent and teach out kids what this means. If we sit back and just complain, we aren’t setting them up for success. Yes, some people might still struggle with being socially awkward in their adult years, and there are some tips and tricks they can use.

One of the best tips I learned when I was in sales was look around the client’s office to see what they have on their shelves and their walls. If you find a picture of a dog, ask about it. I shared this tip with my boys and their friend as we were talking about I expected them to go knock on the door when they pick up a girl. Sitting and honking the horn would not fly! I could see the terror in their eyes, as they asked what they could say to her parents. I shared this tip and we practiced how to do it. These kinds of interactions are way more fun with my boys rather than explaining why it’s necessary to stop pouring syrup back in the jug. That’s just gross!

Be patient and persistent with your kids of all ages to keep teaching and explaining why “social thinking” matters. How excited do you get when you meet a polite young person? At the end of the day, when your kids show appreciation by saying thank you or holding a door open doesn’t it make you feel better and a little more willing to continue training them?

 

Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

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Stuck in the muck? Getting started is sometimes easier said than done.

A big question parents often ask themselves is, ‘why can’t my kid just get started?’ This query causes a lot of angst and frustration in many homes and classrooms. Unfortunately for some of your kids, getting started is hard and can be more complicated than we think. The challenge for us adults is not to pass judgment on our kids’ inability to get started and to assume they are being lazy or defiant. Instead, it’s our job to look past the behavior and figure out why they cannot start.

I remember when my youngest was in 4th or 5th grade and he was sitting at the kitchen table just staring at his work. I looked at him and wondered what was going on. He’s a good kid, I reminded myself. I knew he didn’t want to be spending hours upon hours on his homework. So, I came to learn task initiation was a struggle for him. He had the best of intentions but just couldn’t get started. So, I found resources to help — both books and amazing experts who offered me some great guidance.

 

Here are some ideas I learned that might help you, too:

Transitions from one task to another may be more difficult for certain kids. Be mindful about what they are transitioning from. For example, video games and YouTube can make the transition to homework oh so painful for all involved. Eliminate this pain by making YouTube or video games the reward for completing the homework.

Does your kid just stare at their computer when they have to write something? Is getting the words from their brain to the keyboard or pencil too big a gap to leap? If you see them struggling, a big clue is whether they can talk about the topic.  If so, you may need to use some tools like voice activation software, or you can simply type word for word what your kid says. Parents: no editing. Let your kids use their own words. As long as you do that, you’re not cheating. Eventually, the kids will be able to write on their own. It is important to meet your kid where they are so they can start to experience the wins of getting the work down.

Sometimes the task can seem so big, that your kid literally doesn’t know where to start. For instance, there are too many math problems on the page. Ask them how many would they like to see, and cover up the rest. Or just write one problem on a separate sheet of paper and have them do one at a time. Again, we are looking for a process that meets their current need so they can feel the success of completion.

Sometimes hearing about problems from the student’s perspective can   help you better understand the weight of their dilemma.  Listen to student Marcus Allen explain why getting started is harder than you think through this Understood.org video.

It’s hard to watch our kids struggle with getting started. Again, the challenge for us adults is that we have to step up and be willing to experiment, look past the behavior, and be consistent in our efforts. It can be hard to make these efforts, especially when fatigue and the daily grind take hold. Stop and remind yourself that you are training your kiddo for adulthood.

Meet your kids where they are and assume that your kid has the best of intentions and is just stuck. Your job is to reach out and help them learn how to move through the muck, until they have the skill to go around it themselves.

 

 

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