Parental Authority: Do You Have It?

 Talk So Your Kids Will Listen

“I listen to my father because I have found that he tells me things that turn out to be true,” said Allison (18 year old high school senior) as I drove her home from the basketball game the Wednesday after the Saturday night party where some of her classmates got into trouble, getting drunk and trashing the house of a classmate. “Like ‘Never go out without money,’ he says.” Continue reading

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Who Takes Responsibility for Homework? What is the Parent’s Role?

Even though parents and teachers are both educators, things will work better if parents and teachers play different roles. A year ago Lorrie Soria told the following story in a comment on one of my posts about homework. I read it again this morning and decided it stands on its own two feet as a great story about “playing position.”

Years ago, when my daughter was in 3rd grade, homework was indeed a struggle. Continue reading

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Failure to Launch? Stop Parenting and Be a Parent

With a simple click, Amy French – at home, work, or on her cell phone – can find out how her 13-year-old son, Bryan Kimball, did on an exam or if he turned in his homework.

French is on PowerSchool, a “Web-based student information system” used by the North Stonington School District. She scans through Bryan’s different courses, checking his grades or emailing a teacher. It’s 24/7 access to all information concerning her eighth-grade son.                    Sasha Goldstein in theday.com

Increasing communication between home and school is a good thing, of course. Kids need to know that parents and teachers are in communication and working together, and I am all for technologies that serve that end. Improvements beyond the standard technologies of email, phoning, notes in backpacks, newsletters and chatting in the parking lot? Sure, let’s see how they work—watching out, of course, for the unintended negative consequences.

And there will be negative consequences.

Parental fear about children’s success can be self-fulfilling, Continue reading

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How Do You Get Your Child to Love Learning?

Well, it’s a trick question. Your child automatically does love learning. The question really is, “How do we get him to love to learn what we want him to learn?” It should be the job school to get kids to love school work, but what if they are not doing their job?

When a child is not motivated by school work, getting that to change is tricky business—it’s not hard; it’s just tricky. Here is one success story with a few moments of parental brilliance that might inspire others to be creative about how to get our children to love doing school work on their own (based on a year’s worth of email reporting on Daniel’s progress through fifth grade.)

Email from Daniel’s Father on September 28

Daniel makes no bones about not liking school and only being interested in video games (specifically “Zelda” games–Daniel is in love with Zelda). Continue reading

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Nine Lies about Academic Achievement that Parents and Teachers often Seem to Believe—but Don’t Really.

Nine Lies about Academic Achievement that Parents and Teachers often Seem to Believe—but Don’t Really.

Why do Americans want one set of things for our children and then behave as if we want another? Parents and teachers I talk to want their children to be self-confident learners who are good at working with others, and they want school to help with this.

Of course we want our children to read, write and learn the language of mathematics, but we want much more, too. We want them to learn the requirements of our family and our society and to become active participants—leaders, actually—in an increasingly democratic world. We want them to grow up with self-discipline, respect for others, critical thinking, self-confidence, resilience, a love of learning, and the internal motivation to make something of themselves. We want them to be people who take responsibility and make a positive difference to others, their community, and the world, …and the world needs people who think creatively—now more than ever.

When it comes to school, however, we often behave as if all we care about is test scores and what colleges our children attend. In urban systems our expectations drop even lower to things like “Our goal is for all students to be at or above grade level.” We are even blind to the obvious fact that such a goal is impossible and self-defeating.

Why? Fear.

When we are confident and courageous, we act as if authenticity matters. We trust the part of us that knows that success and happiness depend on pursuing your own calling and finding your own niche in society. We realize that great colleges are looking for leaders, people who think creatively and make a difference. We, therefore, act as if we believe in the genius of each individual child and encourage them not to lose sight of their own personal mission as they find their fit in society. We create environments at home and at school that value inquiry and are open to the wisdom of silly questions. Achievement is put in its proper place as a subset of learning. We have a sense of humor.

In an atmosphere of fear, however, our minds are taken over as if by an evil empire dominated by a social pyramid where life is a race to the top. In this model it is quite reasonable to be afraid that some children will be left behind. In fact in this model the vast majority of children will be left behind, and only a few will make it to the top—it’s a pyramid, right?

We seem to believe the many myths of this model–lies like: Continue reading

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How to Learn from Children

Let Go and Listen

Thirty-two years ago, when my son Peter was eight, we were driving south from downtown Kansas City to our home at 3600 Charlotte. At 27th street we saw an enormous wrecking ball smashing into a ten-story building.

“Dad, can we stop?”

“No. We have to get home for dinner,” I said.

“Rats,” he said, and the simplicity of his reply went straight to my heart. The car hadn’t gone a hundred feet before I realized that “no” was the wrong answer. But momentum is a funny thing, and I just kept driving.

During my 44 years as father I have worked with thousands of other people’s children. Almost all the parents were good parents. Many of them are simply marvelous parents, Continue reading

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Playing Position around Homework

When two players on the same team both “go for the ball,” one of them is often “out of position.” When a parent says, “We had a little trouble with our homework last night,” someone is out of position. Continue reading

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