Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day - Enhance the Love in Your Family

Before we had children, Valentine’s Day was all about romance.  But once we had two little girls, it became all about them, and family love overtook romantic love on this special day.  Now we give gifts and do special family activities to celebrate our family and our love for each other.

We are programmed to have children even though they are expensive and trying.  (Pets are much cheaper and they don’t talk back).  But we love our children unconditionally and they think we’re the absolute best (even if they don’t always show it). Ask any famous actor about the most important thing he or she ever did, and many will say having and raising their children.  What is most important to you?  Most likely, you won’t look back and say, “I wish I had spent less time with my children and more time at my job.”   We had children because the benefits outweigh the costs, and love is worth more than anything.  So let’s use this Valentine’s Day to begin enhancing our relationships with our children.  Here are just a few ideas:

·         Listen to your child.  When she is telling you something, stop what you are doing, look at her in the eye, and really listen.  When you respond, do not give advice unless you are asked.  Just validate what he has to say.

·         Spend alone time with each of your children daily, or weekly, or whatever you can manage.  This can be going to Starbucks, cooking together, doing yard work, or driving in the car – anything that helps you bond and communicate.

·         Speak to your children in a loving and respectful way.  Compliment them on things they do well, thank them for helping out, give hugs and say “I love you.”

·         Have fun with your children.  Play a game together, watch a movie together, and laugh together.

·         When they misbehave, remember that this is not a personal affront to you – they are just being kids.

This Valentine’s Day, celebrate your family – cut out some time for the whole group to have fun together.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Motivating Your Student in School

Many parents complain that their children are just not motivated.  They are not completing assignments, don’t care about their grades, and aren’t interested in school.  Why are some students naturally interested in working hard to get good grades while others are not?  I believe that for the most part, children want to be successful, but if they don’t have the right strategies, they may give up.  Here are a few tips to help students succeed:

When talking about motivation in school, I like to start with reading for pleasure.  Since schoolwork involves so much reading and writing, reading for pleasure is the biggest predictor of success at school.

·         Does your child hate to read?  If you’ve ever read a good book, you know that getting into another world can be relaxing and fun.  If your child hates to read, it’s because he sees it not as fun, but as work. Talk to the teacher and try to find out if he is on grade level or below.  If below, you will need to get extra support to help him catch up.  Meanwhile, help him pick out attractive books that he can read easily. If they are at the right reading level, he will be more motivated to read them.  Reading for pleasure is the best way to improve reading, writing, spelling, and grammar. 

·         Help your child find books that he likes.  He can find out from his friends what they are reading and try different things.  If he doesn’t like fiction, try nonfiction.  The library has books for every area of interest.

Next, I like to see if the work is too hard or too overwhelming.  The best way to figure this out is to sit down with your child and go through every assignment to see how easy or hard it is, and how much time it takes.

·         If the work is too hard, find out why.  Ask your child to try and narrow down the obstacles.  Sometimes just getting extra help will improve motivation.

·         If there is too much work, try breaking it down, especially long term assignments; you can also talk to the teacher about reducing the load.  Particularly with math, some children take longer to do the problems than others, and they may learn just as much with fewer problems.

·         In middle school and high school, a course load with too many honors and AP classes can overwhelm a student. When registering for next year’s classes, consider scaling back if appropriate.

Finally, some students need more structure.  Is homework time a set time during the day?  If your student has too much time on her hands, she may be prone to procrastination, especially if a parent isn’t home to help as needed.

·         Try to have homework time scheduled for one 2-3 hour block or two 1-1.5 hour blocks each day for high school, and less for lower grades.  Some of that time should be when a parent is available.

·         Help your child plan a schedule, arrange for breaks in between subjects, and put the homework in a folder and in her backpack right away to make sure it gets handed in.

·         Reward your child for doing a good job.


Remember, success leads to motivation.  If you can work with your child’s teachers to set her up for success, she will work harder.  If you think of the things she enjoys doing, they are probably things she is good at.  With the right support, your child can become successful at school.