Positive Parenting vs Being a Parent = Reality Parenting

Reality Parenting

Bob and Carol have a blended family with two children each. Carol’s son Ben at 13 is the oldest of the four. Both parents work, so one of the challenges they have is having family time, all six of them together. Another challenge is finding time to be alone—just the two of them.

One Sunday, recently, Ben was ragging on his mother Continue reading

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School Bus Bullying? Look Who’s Taking Responsibility and Who’s Not.

I’m shocked! Shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here.

—Claude Rains in “Casablanca”

 In Upstate New York last week, four seventh graders cruelly and mercilessly mocked a 68-year old bus monitor, and one of them caught 14 minutes of this horror show on camera. Americans are shocked.

The response of Americans so far reveals a nation shocked but not confused—not confused, at least, about morality. Continue reading

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Kids get Smarter Faster when they Make a Difference

Learning Mathematics in Real Life

How to behave in public is something the students at St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Oakland, California, practice daily on their two-block walk to the park for lunch, recess and physical education. Continue reading

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Teacher Authority and the Business of School

Sitting in the speaker’s chair at morning meeting Claire presented a yellow silk scarf to her class. As she spoke she floated it through her hands and around her neck, all eyes of her second grade classmates were on her. Continue reading

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Peace, Joy, Love and Being Wrong

 We wish each other peace, joy and love this time of year. Seems like a simple way to happiness. Why is it so hard?

At Christmas Eve dinner with friends someone asked the question, “If your life could be any movie you wanted, what would it be? Who would play you? Who would play the role of your true love? Would you change the ending? What would the new ending be? Continue reading

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Peace, Joy, Love, and Conflict

Meditation on Solstice Peace

You have family. You have conflict.

–Bobby Richman

 On December 21 many years ago, my thirteen-year-old son arrived in the kitchen as I was having my morning coffee. Rather than greeting me with, “Good morning, Dad” he went straight to the refrigerator, took out a carton of orange juice, grabbed a large glass from the cupboard and filled it to the brim.

“Wow. That’s a lot of orange juice,” I said. (I don’t know why. “Good morning, Peter,” would certainly have been a better opener.)

Standing in the middle of the kitchen floor in bare feet with the glass of orange juice in his hand and looking squarely at me Peter flew into a rage with: “You are always on my case! Why are you always on my case? Nothing I ever do is right!…” and went on in that vein for a minute or so. Continue reading

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The Joint Parent-Teacher Enterprise: Self-Possessed Children

Just because children are self-centered, doesn’t mean they have to be selfish.

Last May I stood on a polished hardwood floor in the middle of an 80-year old multipurpose room with a 30-foot ceiling in front of 250 wooden seats that rose before me like the stands in a baseball stadium, looking up as a couple of hundred 10- to 15-year-olds, flooded in and filled up these seats. 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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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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Altruism, Leadership and the Learning Community

Matt’s team of teachers was tired by the time it came to plan the April vacation camp program. Matt knew it would be hard to find volunteers—everyone needed the vacation, themselves. Nonetheless, he put “Staffing for Vacation Camp” on the agenda for their weekly meeting. When this item came up on the agenda, Matt said: “So, is there anyone who wants to work this vacation?” Continue reading

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