Should Parents Pay Their Children for Good Grades?

I have known many parents who pay their children for honor roll grades. In some cases, this is okay. But, if you are a learning disabled (LD) student, the quality of your work does not reflect how hard you worked on it. Sometimes, your assignment looks great and is complete. Other times, it is a mess and there are lots of questions with no answers. This inconsistency can be due to a number of factors. For more information on this, see “What Does it Really Mean When a Child is Learning Disabled?" for help understanding the problems.

 

Problems with working memory, attention, vocabulary, anxiety, fear, or difficulty with executive functioning can all affect how an LD student performs in school. None of these relate to motivation. And none can be overcome by bribes to perform better.

 

For these reasons, I am against parents paying for grades in school. This is especially true for struggling students. Imagine working very, very hard and still getting a “D” or “F” on the work! Someone else whips off the assignment in just a few minutes and gets an “A.” Does that child deserve a reward when they rushed through and perhaps did not even do their best work? The LD child who is trying her best feels completely defeated in this situation. She gets more and more discouraged. She already calls herself “stupid,” and this, to her, confirms that verdict.

 

If you pay for good grades, consider whether or not you are being fair to all your children. If you are not sure, read "Is My Child Working Hard Enough in School?"

 

If that doesn’t convince you, read Nelson Lauver’s book Most Unlikely to Succeed. Lauver explains what happened to him in school when, no matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t successful. After reading his book, it should be clear why no one should judge another person’s motivation to learn.

 

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Basic Student Skills: 5 Ways to Learn to Be a Proactive Student

  Often when we get a new student at our school who is learning disabled (LD), we say something like, “She hasn’t learned how to be a student yet.” What we mean by this is that she has not yet realized that good students take an active role in their learning. Good students do certain things automatically, and she has not yet figured those things out.

 

Parents may be able to help if they have a child who is like this. Here are 5 things “good” students do automatically that LD students may not yet know how to do:

 

1. Bring pencil, paper, notebook and other necessary supplies to class. Parents can help by making sure their child has these supplies in his book bag, and has an appropriate storage space for them. For some suggestions about this, see A Notebook System that Aids With Organization.

 

2. Complete all homework, print it out (if needed), and bring it to class. LD students need to have a system in place that assures they know what is due for each class. If a child’s school has an online system where teachers post their assignments parents can make sure their child knows how to access the system. Many LD students forget how to logon or forget their password, so parents can assist with this until their child becomes comfortable. If the school does not have an online system, teachers might provide assignment sheets or assignment calendars/notebooks. Many LD students need help recording what their assignments are, so parents may have to contact the teacher to ask for help. See When to Talk to the Teacher if your child’s homework struggles are keeping her from succeeding in school.

 

3. Look at the teacher and take notice when he says certain words like “listen up,” or “this is important.” Parents can practice using teacher language with their child at home. For example they can walk up on their child when she is playing and say, “Listen up!” to get her attention. Students also need to take notes on what the teacher has identified as important. Some students can benefit from technological assistance such as the Livescribe Pen.

 

4. Dress neatly and act in a manner that shows you care about being in class. I am not sure all students understand that appearance does make a difference. If a student looks neat and clean and is looking at the teacher, then the teacher will see that and give the student positive attention.

 

5. Participate by asking and answering questions. A student should ask for help when confused. This also shows that he cares about what is going on in class. If the teacher feels that he cares, she will make an extra effort to help when needed.

 

This is a lot to take in at once! I suggest that parents identify an area where their child is struggling. They should make a plan with their child for how to fix the problem, and work on that until it is mastered. Then, they should select next problem area to work on.

 

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Should School Start Later for Teens?

Ever try to wake a sleeping teenager? It’s a time-consuming undertaking that’s frustrating for everyone involved, especially on early morning weekdays before the sun is even up.

 

That’s the reality for many parents and teens Monday through Friday, in order for the teen to get to school on time—and we’re talking school start times between 7-7:30 a.m. For those who must catch a school bus, back up about 20-30 minutes earlier, and we’re talking the wee hours.

 

Take our Poll: Does School Start Too Early for Your Teen

 

There’s been a fair amount of conclusive research and expert opinion that teenagers need more sleep rather than less.  [Listen for the applause and the “I told you so” looks from nearby teens.] But in many school districts across the country, school start time for teens—and even some middle school tweens—is getting earlier and earlier.

 

Since everyone is cost cutting these days, especially local governments and school districts, many schools say they’re starting earlier due to budget-friendly tiered busing schedules. This means that older kids—high school and middle schoolers—are picked up earliest, during the first tier of morning busing runs (they’re also dropped off earliest in the afternoon as well). Next come older elementary school students, and in the last tier are kindergarteners, who often are picked up by their buses as late as 8:30 a.m.

 

Do you struggle with getting your teen up and out the door 5 days a week? (Maybe more if your child has clubs, sports, and/or job commitments on the weekends.) And do you worry that your teen's lack of adequate sleep may be detrimental to his grades?

 

If so, take heart. Two women decided enough is enough and formed a not-for-profit organization to address the issue. StartSchoolLater.net, co-founded by Maribel Ibrahim and Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D., is staffed by an 8-member steering board (the women occupy 2 of the 8 seats) and a 12-member advisory board, and advocates exclusively for later school start times.

 

More than simply presenting solid research findings and hosting the conversation, however, this group is seeking nationwide legislation to mandate that no public schools start before 8 a.m. 

 

What do you think? (I know my high-schooler would heartily agree!)

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Parents Face Legal Action for Children's School Tardiness

Should your child’s chronic school tardiness be a crime? 

 

I don’t know about you, but my kids have been late to school many times over the years. Mostly it’s due to overtiredness because they stay up too late—often because they’re completing volumes of homework—despite my admonitions against doing so.

 

Is it disrespectful to the school, the teachers, and the child’s fellow students if he arrives late? If so, how “late” is late? Is being 2 minutes late okay while 15 minutes is not?

 

I’m not certain where I stand on that specific a detail, but I know one thing for sure: If my county government, backed by my children’s school, charged me with a misdemeanor crime for my children’s tardiness, I’d be outraged.

 

Think this is science fiction? Keep reading…

 

A couple in Loudoun, Virginia, was arraigned this past Monday for just that. The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office alleges that the couple’s three children—ages 6, 7, and 9—have been tardy too many times since school opened in September, and so they’re taking legal action against the parents. Officials with the Loudoun County Public Schools reportedly argue that they’re not to blame for the law crackdown since they’re simply following school district policy.

 

The husband and wife have each reportedly been charged with three Class 3 misdemeanors, which, according to Virginia law, each carry a maximum penalty of $500. So, this couple is looking at a fine of $3,ooo if found guilty.

 

Guilty of their children’s mostly 3-minutes-or-less tardiness.

 

What do you think? Isn’t this going way too far?

 

 

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Valentine's Day Activities and Crafts To Make With Your Kids

Looking for a special Valentine’s Day activity or craft for your children to make or for you to make together? Look no further—we’ve compiled a variety of gift ideas through images we’ve pinned to our SchoolFamily.com Pinterest page. They’re just right for your child’s classmates, teacher, or that very special someone. Best of all, only a few of them contain sugar!

 

While many schools have banned the exchange of sugary Valentine’s Day treats, giving out candy-free cards and small gifts is typically acceptable in schools (best to double-check with your child’s school, however). Just be sure there are no hurt feelings by insisting that your child create a Valentine for each child in her class—or, have her plan to exchange Valentines with select friends outside of school.

 

Gifts For Your Child’s Friends and/or Classmates

Since we’ve already established that Valentine’s gifts for the class must include every student, these crafts, while simple, will take your child a bit longer to create. When I did these types of Valentine’s gifts with my children, I’d plan ahead and have them do a few each night. That way, the kids wouldn’t get tired and bored, yet the gifts would get finished without me making them all at the 11th hour!

 

How about custom-made Friendship Bracelets for everyone in the class? These are simple to make, differentiated for girls and boys (to compensate for the boys’ potential yuck factor—“Ick, a bracelet?”), and personalized. You and your child can create your own hand-written verse, written or printed on small cut-out cards (how about heart-shaped?), or you can download the blogger’s pdf template with the verse, “Our class would knot be the same without you.” Braid some brightly colored string (or save time by using single strands of colored ribbon), and weave them through the cut-out cards. Have your child sign each one, i.e. “From Jonathan,” and you’re done. These are sure to be a real crowd pleaser.

 

Valentine’s Day Crayon Cards might be one the most clever crafts I’ve seen in some time. When my kids were little, I always seemed to have broken crayons lying around, and I’d find them in the weirdest places—under the baseboard in my kitchen, under my kids’ beds, under our baseboard-heating units, in planters—you name it. And that’s not counting the mashed up broken crayons pieces at the bottom of our crayon container. Well this craft activity finally finds a good use for them. Read the directions for this simple project: dice up the crayons/pieces; bake them in heart-shaped molds (!); attach them to small decorated cards, and your child has beautiful, colorful, personalized Valentines for the whole class.

 

Teacher Gifts

If you’re never made (or seen) one of these Candy Bar Poem cards, you’re in for a treat. Depending on your child’s age, he can create most of this gift by himself, writing the words and then gluing the wrapped candy bars in the right places (you might need to watch and be sure he leaves enough room for the size of each candy bar).

 

Another adorable (and tasty) teacher gift is this wide-mouthed jar filled with homemade cookies. It’s easy to make and carries a personal message when you attach a gift tag created by your child (or save the step and download pretty tags from this template. Use a heart-shaped hole punch to make a hole at the top of the tag, and attach the note to the jar with brightly colored string or ribbon and Voila! you’ve got a lovely gift for your child’s teacher.

 

If your child’s teacher is known to have a sweet tooth, this easy-to-make gumball or candy-dispensing machine is for you. Created by painting and decorating an inverted small or large clay pot and matching saucer, this little machine will get a workout on the desk of your child’s teacher.

 

A Gift for the Birds (no, really!)

Anxious to avoid the commercialism of the day? Make this Valentine's Day craft with your child and feed the birds at the same time. This activity takes more time and requires a few days for the finished product to be complete, but once done, you and your child can hang these heart-shaped treats made of birdseed on branches throughout your yard. Perhaps you could obtain permission for your child to bring some to school to hang on branches outside student classrooms? Read the clearly written (and super easy) directions and have fun!

 

Just the Chocolate, Please

Let’s face it: For many of us it just isn’t Valentine’s Day without receiving—or giving— something chocolate. To satisfy that craving, we have a variety of sweet Valentine’s treats. How about Conversation Hearts on a stick, made of red velvet chocolate cake; Outrageous Chocolate Cookies; Cookie Kisses made with heart-shaped Dove chocolate treats instead of chocolate kisses; and Cake Pops, easy to make using chocolate cake mix, to name a few.

 

If chocolate’s not your thing, how about some Raspberry Cream Cheese Heart Tarts?

 

Not into sweets at all? Okay, place your Valentine’s Day order in advance so your kids can make you this Valentine’s Day Egg in a Basket for breakfast!

 

A Healthy Valentine’s Day Snack

Strawberry Marshmallow Fruit Dip will have your child eating fruits and getting protein and other nutrients from reduced fat cream cheese and fat-free Greek yogurt. (Okay, there’s also marshmallow crème, which isn’t especially nutritious, but it’s for Valentine’s Day, after all).

 

Go wild with heart-shaped fruits and veggies, served on popsicle sticks, along with fat-free or lowfat dip. Or this healthy Sweetie-Tweetie sandwich. For breakfast, stir things up by making this heart-shaped hard-boiled egg!

 

What other crafts are you making with your kids for Valentine's Day? Share your Pinteresting activities below in the comments!

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Teaching your child responsibility and decision-making skills

I wrote an earlier blog post about teaching children how to accept responsibility for their actions.

 

In that post I suggested that when your daughter says, “Mrs. Johnson got me in trouble,” you might help her reword her statement in this format, “I got in trouble with Mrs. Johnson because….”

 

Very often children try to deflect blame onto another person. Here are other examples of similar situations, and how to help reword the statement to place responsibility in the appropriate place:

 

  • “I couldn’t do the math homework because my teacher didn’t show me how.” This places the blame on the teacher. Help your child reword the statement to, “I couldn’t do the math homework because I don’t know how.” This leads to solving the problem by figuring out what is confusing.

 

  • “All my friends are [were] doing it.” In this case, your child is trying to make you question your judgment, feel guilty, or take the blame. They may also be trying to blame everyone else for something that happened. Help your child by rewording her statement to, “Why can’t I do it?” This is much better, because it may lead to a discussion of why it isn’t a good idea. Depending on the situation, the statement may need to change to, “I didn’t think about what I was doing because my friends were doing it, too.”

 

  • “Sally was talking, too!” This statement could be changed to, “I thought it would be okay to talk because other people were.” Perhaps this will lead to discussing how to tell the difference between appropriate times to talk and inappropriate times.

 

  • “I didn’t mean to hurt him. He got in my way.” This is a really important one. Children get too rough at times and someone gets hurt. Perhaps this should change to, “I wasn’t very careful, and I hurt him.” After that, you can talk about what went wrong, how to prevent it in the future, and how to apologize.

 

As a parent, you are in charge of your child’s safety and wellbeing. You cannot be with him at all times to help with every decision, so he needs to learn to think before acting.

 

When you see him not accepting responsibility for his actions and trying to blame others, remember that your role is to teach him how to be responsible for himself. He needs to understand the link between the choices he makes and the consequences of those choices. I like to ask students, “Whose behavior can you control?” Then, I help them reword their statement. This helps students learn to accept the consequences of their actions and think about personal responsibility.

 

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In Praise of the Average Reading Student

I’m writing this week in support and recognition of all the wonderful young students who fall into the under appreciated category of “average” when it comes to their reading.

 

Average means that a child is doing on-level work for their grade. This category represents the vast majority of school students, often in excess of 70 percent of a class.  

 

Guess what? It’s OK for a student to be average and to be an average reader! Many influential world leaders, thinkers, and doers started off as average students—Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison are just a few. What’s important is that average students be encouraged to always do their best.

 

Here’s what you can do to help your average reader reach his or her maximum potential:

 

  • Read every night with your child. On-level readers need constant practice to maintain vocabulary recognition, fluency, and reaching the next level.

 

  • Avoid the temptation to push your child to a higher-level book. This can often frustrate and discourage him, which could cause him to give up trying.

 

  • Practice “word-family” words. That means rhyming words with different beginning sounds. Use this SchoolFamily.com printable worksheet to Practice short vowel and long vowel words, such as: at, bat, cat, rat; or bike, hike, like, etc.

 

  • Keep practicing “sight” words. Sight words are words that cannot be “sounded out,” they just have to be known.  Use these printable worksheets from SchoolFamily.com to help your child with word recognition and common sight words.

 

Uncover your child’s “passion.” Find things that she really loves and work these things into her academic practice. Reading about snakes or butterflies may be a lot more exciting than reading “Dick and Jane!”

 

Who knows…the constant encouragement you give to your average student today, could lead to tomorrow’s Steve Jobs or Sandra Day O’Connor!

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ADHD and Medication: Should You Consider It for Your Child?

Making the decision to medicate your child for attention problems is extremely difficult. I encourage you to consider it, however, if your child is struggling in school, and those who work with him have mentioned possible attention issues. I have seen children who were helped tremendously by taking medication for their attention disorder (ADD or ADHD) .

 

 

I do not mean to make it seem like an easy decision to make, but I want parents to know that it might be the right thing to do. Here are some things to think about when deciding whether medication is appropriate for your child.

 

  • Teachers should not recommend medication. This is a decision that you and your child’s doctor make. Teachers can let you know if your child is having attention issues, but they should not go beyond recommending that you have your child evaluated by a doctor.

 

  • If your child’s teacher mentions attention issues, ask: “How does my child’s behavior compare to the other students in the class?” Children are active and teachers new to the classroom may not know what is normal and what is too active for learning. You might also ask whether your child can pay attention in some situations and not others. If so, find out when the attention issues appear. Perhaps she is bored; if the work is too easy or too hard, the result can be boredom.

 

  • There are multiple options for attention medications. If you have tried one and it did not help your child or it had unacceptable side effects, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all attention medications will do the same thing. Some attention medications do not help some children, while the same medication might work fine for another child.

 

  • Some children have a great deal of problems learning, and they really do have an attention deficit disorder. For these children, medication can make a world of difference. I have seen children turn from failure to success almost overnight once they had an attention evaluation and started taking medication.

 

Please don’t misunderstand. I know this is a difficult decision and parents want what is best for their child. Teachers want what is best for their students, too. If attention issues are keeping a child from benefitting from school, then attention medications might be what’s best for the child.

 

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5 Ways to Help Your Advanced Reader

 

Last week I wrote about struggling young readers, and offered some strategies to help these children succeed.  But, what if your child is an above-level reader?  How do you keep an advanced reader challenged and engaged? How do you keep the momentum going?

 

By the end of January you should have a pretty good idea of your child’s reading level. If unsure, ask your child’s teacher. At this time of the school year, teachers often see student’s reading skills “click,” and reading really takes off.  It’s so exciting to witness! 

 

Here are 5 things parents can do to support and challenge above-level readers:

 

  • Ask your child's teacher if there is “open library” time at your child’s school library. If so, ask if your child might get books that are of high interest to him. He might love books about dinosaurs, space or sports. Going to open library would be a perfect way for him to begin “research skills,” such as using encyclopedias and the library computers. All librarians are happy to help eager young readers!

 

  • Make sure that your child has a public library card. Public libraries are a great, free resource and young children love to choose and borrow books. Take advantage of special events that occur for children at your local library.

 

  • If you have access to the Internet, or to electronic readers, appropriate level stories can be downloaded, usually at little or no charge. Some public libraries also allow you to “borrow” downloaded books. Once again, your librarian can be a great resource.

 

  • Don’t forget about writing skills. Reading and writing skills go hand-in-hand, but being an advanced reader doesn’t automatically make your child a good writer.  Buy a small notebook and have him keep a “Reader’s Response” journal. When he’s done reading a story, have him write the date, the book’s title, and author’s name, at the top of the notebook page. Help him summarize the story, including characters, setting and plot. It’s really fun for a child to go back and see all the books that he has completed, and read what he had to say about the stories.

 

  • Together, at bedtime, read higher-level books to your child. Find books that have chapters and few or no pictures. Read a chapter a night. Before starting the next chapter, have her tell you what has happened so far in the story. Then, have her predict what might happen next.

 

Activities like these help your child develop a lifelong love of reading. In addition, SchoolFamily.com has a variety of fun printable "All About Books" worksheets. What greater gift could you give your child than a love of reading?!

 

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Are You Welcome In Your Child's Classroom?

Have you ever attempted to sit in on one of your children’s classes at school and been turned away? If not, and if you were actually welcomed into the class by school officials, consider yourself lucky. Even though the ability to do so is a central tenet of No Child Left Behind, many schools put up roadblocks when parents want to sit in.

 

According to Jay Mathews, education columnist and blogger for the Washington Post, it’s a fairly frequent practice even when it may not be a school’s policy: “The resistance to parent observations,” he writes about schools, “is not so much a policy as an unexamined taboo.”

 

In the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, which expanded upon the 1965-enacted Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a section called “Parental Involvement” includes provisions for “shared accountability between schools and parents for high student achievement”—an aspect of which includes having parents be present in their child’s classroom.

 

“Volunteering and observing in their child’s classroom is an important activity for parents’ shared responsibility for high student academic achievement and is also one that helps both the school and parents build and develop a partnership to help children achieve the state’s high standards.” [NCLB, Section 1118(d)(1), ESEA.]

 

Yet many school districts remain virtually cloistered when it comes to allowing parents to step inside. And among the reasons given to parents for being kept out is that their presence would create a distraction.

 

It appears that legislative action might be required to mandate that schools open up. In Virginia, Mathews writes about a father who enjoyed spending an hour at his daughter’s school, observing her during reading practice. Later, after seeing some of Mathews’ columns about parents being denied access to their children's classes, he used his authority as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates to add a provision to pending education legislation. If it passes, which Mathews thinks is unlikely, local school boards would be required to “adopt and implement policies” allowing parents to be observers in their children’s’ classrooms.

 

Are you able to volunteer and/or observe in your child’s classroom without any resistance from school officials? Please share your experiences with us.

 

 

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The Red Flags of Cyber Bullying

SchoolFamily.com guest blogger Dr. Michele Borba, Ph.D. is an expert and author on issues involving children and teens, parenting, bullying, and moral development. Her work aims to help strengthen children’s character and resilience; build strong families; create compassionate and just school cultures; and reduce peer cruelty.

 

There are red flags parents should watch for that might indicate your child is being cyber bullied. Here’s what to look for—and what to do.

 

Over the last year, we’ve read about horrific tragedies—bullycides—that appear to have been prompted by relentless peer bullying. One child tragically ending his or her young life due to vicious peer cruelty is one child is too many.

 

So let’s get savvy about electronic cruelty and the new digital age our kids are experiencing.

 

Online bullying is especially hurtful. Those horrid, vicious, untrue comments, with a quick click of a button, hit cyberspace. There is no telling how many other peers are hearing or reading those cold-blooded attacks.

 

Can you imagine being the recipient of such hate? Can you imagine if your child was that recipient?

 

The truth is those clicks are happening all too often, which is why parents must get educated.

 

Our first step to turn this around is to understand why cyberbullying is, and then recognize possible warning signs.

 

These are serious lessons — they might save a child. That’s my hope.

 

What is cyberbullying?

 

Cyberbullying is an electronic form of communication that uses cyber-technology  (the internet) or digital media (Facebook and other social media sites) to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail or otherwise target another minor.

 

Every adult who interacts with kids—parents, educators, librarians, police, pediatricians, coaches, child care givers—must get educated about this lethal new form of bullying so they can find ways to help stop this.

 

One reason for such a dramatic increase in cyber-abuse is that it’s just so much easier to be cruel when you don’t have to do lash out with vicious insinuations face to face, and can instead do so anonymously!

 

Where we once thought we just had to protect children from adult predators using the Internet, but now we need to shield kids from one another.

 

Cyber-bullying is real, and incidents are happening at an increasing rate. Here’s a reality check:  National surveys by online safety expert Parry Aftab estimate that 85 percent of 12 and 13-year olds have had experience with cyber bullying. And 53 percent say they have been bullied online.

 

Many experts confirm that the psychological effects on our children can be as devastating, and may be even more so, than traditional bullying. Research proves that when kids are left unsupervised and without behavior expectations traditional bullying thrives. And we may not be doing as good a job as we think.

 

Another survey found that while 93 percent of parents feel they have a good idea of what their kids are doing on the Internet, 41 percent of our kids say they don’t share with us what they do or where they go online.

 

Open up that dialogue and listen!

 

Red flag warning signs of cyber bullying

As parents, we must do a better job of tuning into our kids. Read the warning signs of cyber bullying (below) and then talk with other parents, teachers, babysitters, counselors, and child workers about them. Print out the warnings and give them to coaches, Scout leaders, Boys and Girls Club leaders, doctors, school officials, and to teens and tweens. Send the list to the local newspaper to print. Ask your child’s school to post the list on their website. Get active and get your community involved. Here’s what to watch out for:

 

  • Your son is hesitant to be online or unexpectedly stops or avoids using the computer

 

  • Your daughter is nervous when an instant message, text, or email appears

 

  • Your son is visibly upset, angry, or depressed after using the computer or his cell phone

 

  • Your daughter hides or clears the computer screen or her cell phone screen when you enter or doesn’t want to talk about online activity

 

  • Your son starts using the computer when you’re not in the room

 

  • Your daughter keeps going back and forth to check the computer screen in shorter spurts

 

  • Your son withdraws from friends; wants to avoid school or peer activities; is uneasy about going outside in general; an/or pulls away from family members

 

  • Your daughter is suddenly sullen, evasive withdrawn, or has a marked change in personality or behavior

 

  • Your son has trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, is excessively moody, cries easily, or seems depressed

 

  • Suspicious phone calls, e-mails, and packages arrives at your home

 

  • Your child has a drop in academic performance or falls behind in schoolwork

 

 A key that you shouldn’t overlook is a sudden change—something that isn’t t your child’s “normal” behavior—that lasts daily, for at least two weeks. But even then, use your instincts! If you are concerned, don’t wait—get your child some help!

 

If it’s not cyber bullying …

 

What if these signs I’ve mentioned aren’t happening because your child is being cyber bullied? Regardless they clearly warrant looking into, as something is amiss with your child. It’s up to you to find out what’s going on. Dig deeper. Have a conference with your child’s teacher, coach, counselor, pediatrician, or seek the help of a trained mental health professional. The two saddest words I hear from parents are “If only …” Get help!

 

Don’t expect that your child will come and tell you about any harassment that might be taking place. Studies show that as our kids get older the likelihood they will come to us and “tell” declines even more. The top reason? Kids say they aren’t telling adults because “The adult didn’t listen or believe me when I did tell.” Sigh.

 

If you suspect your child’s friend or his peer is cyber-bullied, report it to school authorities and police.

 

I carry a photo of a young Canadian boy—a precious sixth grader—who ended his life because of bullying. His father gave me his son’s photo and asked me to promise to keep educating parents about the dangers of bullying. I promised that dad I would keep going and I’ve carried that photo for 10 years. It breaks me apart every time I look at it. So remember: Listen! Tune in! Believe!

 

 

Dr. Michele Borba, Ph.D., is an expert and author on issues involving children and teens, parenting, bullying, and moral development. Her work aims to help strengthen children’s character and resilience; build strong families; create compassionate and just school cultures; and reduce peer cruelty. Her research-based advice is culled from a career of working with more than 1 million parents and educators worldwide. She is the author of 22 parenting and educational books, and hosts Reality Check, a daily blog at https://www.micheleborba.com/blog/. Dr. Borba lives in Palm Springs, CA with her husband, and has three grown sons. Tips in this blog post were adapted by Dr. Borba from her book “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.”

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Learning Disabilities and Social Problems

Children with learning disabilities (especially nonverbal LD) or attention issues often have social problems. I wrote about some of them in an earlier post. But, there is one problem that I didn’t mention in that blog that really needs to be discussed.

 

It’s a topic that no one likes to think about—or talk about—but it is very important and can possibly affect a person throughout his critical adolescent years. That problem is personal hygiene.

 

At my school we give reading and dictation support to students who need that help on homework and tests. As a teacher, it is common to work with a student who forgot to brush her teeth that morning. It is uncomfortable for the adult taking dictation, but it creates even bigger problems with her peers. I see this problem frequently.

 

Less often, I find myself working with a student with a strong body odor. His hair is oily, his clothes are disheveled, and he smells bad. This creates a huge social problem for him! As a teacher of learning disabled students, I have become more comfortable talking to my students about this. I think about how important friends are and how difficult it is to make friends when you are dirty.

 

If your child has these issues, here are the “talking points” I use. They generally work and thinking them through ahead of time can make the talk easier for you. I have never had this talk with a student who became upset with me, and every time I have talked about these issues with a student, her hygiene has improved.

 

Here’s what to say:

 

  • As you change from a child into an adult, you need to take more showers and use deodorant. This is because your body begins to produce hormones that create a strong odor. This is not your fault. It happens to everybody.

 

  • I have noticed that you often do not smell clean when you come to school.

 

  • Just using deodorant is not enough. You have to clean every square inch of your body using soap and warm water. When your body is going through the change from child to adult, you really need two showers a day.

 

  • You have to brush your teeth twice a day. When you go to bed at night, bacteria go to work on any food particles they can find in your mouth. These bacteria create a smell in your mouth. The only way to get rid of it is to brush your teeth.

 

  • Never come to school without taking a shower, using deodorant, and brushing your teeth.

 

  • Your friends will appreciate that you are clean and smell fresh when you get to school.

 

Once your child has heard the talk, ask her every morning whether she took a shower, used deodorant, and brushed her teeth. Eventually, she’ll get into the habit and won’t need the reminder. Remember that learning-disabled children often need explicit instruction on things that other children do without the additional support.

 

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What If My Child Isn't Reading As Well As His Friends?

Often, when parents hear that other children their child’s age are reading higher-level books, they have concerns about their own child’s progress. 

 

There may be several reasons why your child isn’t reading as well as other children in their grade. Is he one of the youngest children in the class? Has she missed a lot of school due to illness? Does he need glasses? Could there be a learning disability? 

 

Here are the first things you should do:

 

  • Rule out the physical. Make sure your child’s vision and hearing screenings are up to date. Young children don’t have a basis of comparison…they think everyone sees and hears as they do!

 

  • Check with his teacher to see if the teacher is concerned about his reading progress. Your son might not be the top reader in the class, but he may be just where he should be for his age and ability.

 

  • If the teacher has concerns as well, ask what you can do at home to help and support the process. Does your daughter need help with phonics and letter sounds? Does she need help remembering sight words?  These are skills that can be practiced at home using flash cards for sight words, and focusing on letter sounds when reading stories together.

 

  • Ask if there is extra help available at school, such as someone who could work individually with your child. In my class we are fortunate to have a wonderful retired teacher who volunteers for an hour, each Tuesday and Thursday. She works one-on-on with my children needing extra help. Mrs. “C” has done a tremendous job tutoring my students who need a little boost in reading skills.

 

Your child may simply be a “late-bloomer” who just needs additional time to mature. However, if skills don’t improve with time or extra help, you may have to request further educational testing.

 

Reading well is essential to school and life success. Discovering a learning problem early is key to getting help right away. The sooner a problem is identified and addressed, the faster your child can get back on track!

 

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Start Using Those S.A.T. Vocabulary Words Early

We were recently visiting a family friend, a young woman who's a great young mom with two active preschool children. It was impressive to hear her speak and explain things to her son and daughter. I complimented her on her great use of language when talking with them. Her response was, “I thought ‘Why not get them used to the S.A.T. words early? The more they hear them, the more likely they are to remember.’”

 

I couldn’t agree more!

 

Helping your child develop and understand a wide range of vocabulary is crucial to good reading, writing, and speaking skills. Hearing and understanding synonyms and related words, from an early age, will not only help your child in elementary school, but middle school, high school and beyond. An easy way to do this is to start using “big” and varied words consistently. Make vocabulary fun by playing this SchoolFamily.com "Word of the Day" game at dinnertime. Use printable vocabulary worksheets, also from SchoolFamily.com, in which your child can practice a variety of vocabulary exercises.

 

And there's always Scrabble, that favorite family word game in which your child can practice using new words—and learn new words used by other players. Scrabble also offers a free Scrabble Word of the Day word game.

 

So, the next time you want to take your child on a “promenade” around your “locality” on a “frosty” day, don’t let him forget his “appropriate apparel!”

 

Editor’s note: Several online sites offer free S.A.T. vocabulary words of the day. One such site is SuperKids SAT Vocabulary Builder.

 

 

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5 Ways to Handle A Drop In Your Child’s Grades

SchoolFamily.com's guest blogger this week is Neil McNerney, M.Ed., LPC , author of Homework—A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out!

 

You know the look. It’s the look your kid gives when he comes home from school and you ask him for the report card. Before you even look at it, you have a pretty good idea of the grades. Excuses might follow, or possibly blaming the teacher.

 

For many of us, dealing with report cards causes lots of stress. If the news is not good, especially if there is a drop in the grades, it tends to be a pretty rough night.

 

As a family counselor, I view this as a leadership opportunity. Leading our kids during successful times is pretty easy. Leading them when things are rough takes much more thought.

 

Here are 5 things you can do to handle the report card situation to increase achievement and decrease frustration:

 

1. Avoid the “D” word. Telling our kids that we are disappointed is sometimes effective, but with grades, it tends to de-motivate. Instead, ask #2:

 

2. Ask “How do you feel about these grades?” Asking how she feels refocuses the issue on her instead of you. Take your time with this question. Her answer might be “I don’t know.” Stay silent for a while. Even if she isn’t answering, she is still thinking about it. But be careful of #3:

 

3. Don’t take the bait. Some kids will answer with things like: “I don’t care,” or “A ‘C’ is average. What’s the big deal?” or “You expect me to be perfect!” Ignore these statements. Your kid is trying to get you to react and change the subject.

 

4.  Ask “What’s your plan?” Ask him what he plans on doing about this. If the answer is “I don’t know,” then say, “One of us will be making a plan. I think your plan might be better than mine.”

 

5. Don’t punish right away. In fact, consider not punishing. Most punishments we give at the spur of the moment tend to be too severe and don’t work very well. And punishment often decreases motivation instead of increasing it.

 

Rewards work much better than punishments when it comes to schoolwork, and most parenting experts agree that rewards are the better choice to increase a good behavior.

 

But parents often tell me it doesn’t seem right to reward minimal expectations, and I agree. Sometimes it’s all about how we phrase something.

 

“No video games until homework is done,” sounds more like a punishment and will be de-motivating. Consider a small change: “You can play video games after you have shown me your completed work.” This turns it into a reward.

 

Think about those things that your kid already gets without any work. Now think about making them earn those things instead of just getting them.

 

 

  Neil McNerney, M.Ed., LPC is a licensed counselor, university faculty member, speaker, and parenting expert, and travels internationally training parents and professionals. He is author of Homework—A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out!, available at www.reducehomeworkstress.com.  For more information, visit www.neilmcnerney.com.

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Should Parents Get a Say in Their Child's Curriculum?

Do you think you should have say in any—and every—aspect of your child’s school curriculum?

 

What about your neighbor? Or how about the crank who shows up at every school committee meeting, complaining about everything in the curriculum?

 

In N.H., that may begin happening soon. The state Legislature recently approved a new law that allows parents to challenge any aspect of a school’s curriculum they disagree with, and request the substitution of lessons they prefer.

 

The substituted material must be approved by the local school district—and the parents in question will have to foot the bill for the materials.

 

What do you think of this N.H. law? Do you agree with it, as did the majority of the state’s legislators who approved it after overriding the governor's veto? Do you think it’s opening a can of worms for teachers, schools … and students? Let us know by speaking out here!

 

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A Teacher's Study Tips for Exams

It is about the time of year when teachers begin talking about exams! At my school, we have first semester exams next week. Teachers here spend all of this week reviewing for them to make sure their students know what will be on them.

Some schools, however, do not allow for review time.

If that’s the case at your child’s school, here are some hints to help if he’s preparing for exams without the benefit of having a review week. The first three bullet points describe the “PAT” system for studying, which stands for Prepare, Act, Test.

Prepare to learn. Begin your review by gathering everything together for each course you take. Especially find tests you took and special handouts that helped you to understand the concepts. Pay close attention to points you missed on the tests. If you did not know it when you first took it, it is likely that you still don’t! You will need to figure out how you are going to learn these concepts. (You may have friends who can help you, or you may need a meeting with your teacher.) Throw away extra things such as daily homework that probably will not to be helpful.

Take an action to learn. The actions you need to take will help you to actually remember the concepts on the exam. You can make study charts like the one described here. Be sure to follow the links in that blog post, because it leads to additional articles about studying. One important action is to identify what you already know and what you still do not know. You should spend most of your time on what you still do not know!

Test yourself. Once you have prepared yourself and taken the actions, you need to test yourself to make sure you really do know it. You can ask your parents or friends to call questions out to you. Or, if you made a study chart or cards, you can test yourself using them. Remember—if you are looking at it then you do not know for sure whether you can remember it without looking at it.

One final tip. If it was not important enough to put on a test, then it probably is not important enough to show up on an exam. I will admit, however, that there are some teachers who do not agree with me on this. However, most of us feel that exams should highlight only the most important information from the semester. It is not possible to put everything we studied on the exam, so we pick the most important.

Best wishes with exams! It takes hard work to do well in school. Using the PAT study system can be helpful. Let me know if you have other strategies that work for you.

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Make an Easy “Flap Book” to Increase Reading Comprehension

A “Flap Book” is a great way to get your child thinking about a story in a logical, sequential way. After reading a simple story together, enhance your young child’s comprehension by helping her make one.

 

Here’s what to do:

 

  • Fold a sheet of plain 8 ½ x11 inch paper in half lengthwise, so it is now 11” x 4 ¼” overall.

 

  • Unfold the paper and lay it horizontally, 11” left to right. Cut two slits in the bottom half, about 4 inches apart. Cut from the bottom edge to the crease where it was folded. This creates three equal flaps on the bottom half. The top half is not cut.

 

  • Refold, so that the three cuts are on top, with the open ends at the bottom, creating three “flaps” that lift up.

 

  • Starting on the left, label the flaps “First,” “Next,” and “Last.”

 

  • Lift up the first flap. On the paper below the flap, let your child draw what happened first in the story. This is usually where the setting and characters are introduced. You can help her write some words or a short sentence to describe her picture.

 

  • Flip up the middle flap and have her draw a picture about what happened next. This is usually where a situation or problem in the story arises.

 

  • Under the last flap, let her draw how the problem was solved or how the story ended.

 

Children love making “Flap Books.” These books help organize and increase reading comprehension in a fun and lasting way.

 

 

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Food Allergy Tragedy: Parents, Check Your Child's School Action Plan

In a tragic case of a severe allergic reaction, a 1st grade-student at an elementary school in Virginia, died Monday, Jan. 2, after reportedly being exposed to a peanut product. 

This heartbreaking incident is a reminder to all parents about just how deadly exposure to a food allergen can be for children with food allergies. It’s also a reminder to parents of children with food allergies, to check and double-check that precautions and an emergency action are in place at their children’s’ schools. 

Read SchoolFamily.com's article on Food Allergies and School-Age Kids, which provides thorough tips on how parents should communicate with their child’s school about food allergies. As the article points out, while it’s important to speak with the school principal and the child’s teacher, it’s also critically important for parents to speak directly to the cafeteria staff where food products are prepared, as well as to school volunteers who might come in contact with their children.

 

 

 

 

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Children Need Experience Making Their Own Decisions

It is tempting as a parent to take control of every part of a child’s life. Parents make sure their children do all their homework, get up on time, get ready for school, eat a healthy breakfast, wear appropriate clothing, and catch the school bus on time. Parents essentially decide everything! At some point in a child’s life, however, parents will not be there to make all their decisions for them.

Children need experience making decisions. They will make mistakes along the way, but you will be there to help them understand the mistakes and to do better the next time. Here are 5 ideas for questions you can ask your child, allowing him to make decisions that don’t impact health, safety, or education.

  • “Do you want to eat broccoli or green beans for supper?” They’re both green veggies, so let them choose to eat the one they like the best.
  • “What do you plan to wear to school tomorrow?” As long as they meet the school’s dress code, they should be able to choose their own clothes from a fairly early age.
  • “Why don’t you check the weather channel and decide whether you will need your hat and gloves tomorrow?” Unless you know it might be seriously harmful for them to go without the hat and gloves, why not let them make a bad decision once or twice?
  • “Are you going to start with your math homework or your English?” Children should not decide whether to do their homework, but allowing them to decide which to do first is perfectly appropriate.
  • “You can play video games for 30 minutes tonight. When is the best time for you to do that?” Some kids will choose to play right when you ask; some will choose to wait until later. As long as they are not spending too much time playing the video game, it probably does not matter.

When I’ve written on this topic before, I’ve heard from parents that they’re afraid their child will make bad decisions. To that I ask, “How will they ever learn to make good decisions if you don’t allow them to mess up every once in awhile?” Children—like most adults—are happier when they feel they have some control over their own activities.

 

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016