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Chapter 12 Now What?

            So if you didn’t know raising kids is a lot of work, you sure know it now after reading about all of these ideas and systems.  If it makes you tired just looking at all of these ideas, don’t despair.  Just pick one idea or chart from this book and try it out.  If it works, keep with it for as long as it does.  If it doesn’t work, adjust it to fit your needs, or try another technique.  In a few months review some of the ideas again, and try something else, or do something just a little different. 

            In the appendices of this book you will find charts and forms set up for you to use.  Feel free to copy them and fill in the blanks, or go to our website and use the forms there.  The web version charts are easy to modify to fit your individual needs.

Parenthood is always a work in progress.  It is a 24 hour a day 7 day a week job that will never quite be complete.  It is all the joys you can imagine in life and all of the sorrows all rolled into one.  Your children will grow up just with the passage of time, and you don’t have control over all of what she chooses to do.  I do know, however, that if you take on the role of an active parent your child will be much more likely to make positive choices.  So don’t give up, don’t despair, and most of all, don’t get mad, get busy!

Contents

If you missed any parts of the book, click the links below to find what you are looking for.

Forward- Raising kids is a lot of work!

Prologue-What is discipline?.

Chapter 1-First, Build a Home.

Chapter 2-Next, Get Yourself in Control- The Silent Week.

Chapter 3-Now, Follow the Ground Rules for Proper Implementation.

Chapter 4-Start with Praise and Small Rewards.

Chapter 5-Token Economies.

Chapter 6- Allowance & Financial Extras.

Chapter 7- Jobs and Chores.

Chapter 8-School Performance.

Chapter 9-Family Communication.

Chapter 10-Helps for Problem Behavior

Chapter 11- Parenting Teens and Young Adults.

Forms & Charts.

The Day the World Stopped

A Photo Essay by Karen E. Dimick

On the day the World stopped…

Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Clorox Wipes and bottled water became coveted commodities.

On the day the World stopped…

Schools closed, daycares closed and every parent became a home schooler and a child care worker overnight, some more successfully than others.

On the day the World stopped…

Church didn’t take place in a building, it happened on-line, in homes and in hearts.

On the day the World stopped…

Theaters closed, stadiums closed, play places closed, but Netflix, family game nights and creative ways to have fun grew in popularity.

On the day the World stopped…

Inclusion became a bad word and we learned that social distancing and face masks were a thing.

On the day the World stopped…

The positive influence of the internet took on a whole new meaning as we learned how to distance learn, distance work, distance socialize and distance entertain.

On the day the World stopped…

Gyms, playground equipment and pools closed, but people rediscovered biking, neighborhood walks and indoor fitness routines.

On the day the World stopped…

Travel became complicated, travel bans were enacted, trips were cut short, travelers returned to empty airports, some only after going to extreme lengths to come home, airplanes emptied out, flights were canceled, and we relished the few, remote opportunities we had to get away.

On the day the World stopped…

Actors stayed home, athletes hung up their gear, and musicians played virtually, if they could, but we found all new heroes in our grocers, our trash collectors, our truck drivers and our health care workers.

On the day the World stopped…

The mall parking lot transformed into a storage space and a drive up opportunity, store shelves emptied out, and our neighborhoods became places to share and care.

On the day the World stopped…

Dining in was out, dining at home was in and Chuck E. Cheese became a take-out restaurant

On the day the World stopped…

We learned the virus is real, it reached our friends and loved ones, people got sick, people got hospitalized, some even died, but we also learned miracles do happen.

On the day the World stopped…

Our events were cancelled, our calendars were cleared and we all learned its okay to slow down just a bit, to spend time in our houses and with our families, appreciate what we have. And maybe, just maybe we can get along with each other and we can all return to health and sanity.

Thanks to all of my contributors who shared what their lives looked like, with words and images.

Chapter 8- School Performance

            When parents imagine their ideal family the children are wonderful students, earning straight A’s easily and with no assistance from their parents.  They independently complete their homework on time, study for tests and flawlessly remember all that they are taught.  Unfortunately, the number of students who really fit into this dream is very small.  Some children come to this world with an innate knowledge of how to achieve in school and have the drive to do so, but this is the exception, not the rule.  Most public schools are run on the assumption that children all have the skills and desire to learn in a traditional classroom setting.  The teacher teaches, students complete and turn in assignments, then pass tests to show their knowledge retained.  The sad reality, however, is that only a small percentage of school aged children learn this way without a great deal of adult prompting and training.  All children have skills and talents, but not all skills and talents are evident in a traditional classroom.  Alternative schools of all different types have been experimented with, achieving varying degrees of success.  However, by and large most children in this country are educated in a traditional public school.  As imperfect as this system is, it does have a long history of giving the large majority of our population the basics they need in reading and math and the basic values of our society.  Good or bad, public education in its present form is probably here to stay for a good long time, so it behooves parents to make the best of what is available.

            I have been on all sides of the school performance issue as a parent, a teacher and an administrator in private and public schools.  As a parent I have had children for whom achieving high grades came naturally, and I have had children who struggled greatly at all levels.  As a teacher and administrator I have worked with children in private schools who have been given all the advantages, and I have worked with children in public schools for whom all the cards seemed stacked against them.  There is no surefire way to make sure that children learn and are successful academically, however there are many strategies that can help.  By and large the best way to help children be successful is to build a partnership between parent and educator.  Let your school administrators and teachers get to know you.  Volunteer in the classroom, and show up to open houses and parent conferences.  You would be surprised at how differently teachers look at children just based on how well they know the parents.  Teachers try to be impartial; however as human beings they constantly make judgments and decisions.  A good relationship with parents will often tip the scales in favor of a teacher giving a child extra help or extra consideration on timelines and grading.

            In addition to getting to know teachers, parents should also develop open communication between home and school.  This can be difficult on both sides as teachers and parents both have busy lives, but there are some tricks to achieve this.  In the following paragraphs you will find some strategies that I have used, or seen used, to establish and keep the lines of communication open.  In addition, you will find strategies to help your child learn to be organized and be responsible for himself.  Remember, your ultimate goal is to raise a responsible, independent adult.  The ideas below will help guide your child toward this goal.

The Backpack- The First Line of Communication

Backpacks are almost universally used by children today to carry belongings to and from school.  Plan to use your child’s backpack as a way to find out what is going on and to communicate with your child’s teacher.  You should also use the backpack as a tool to help your child learn to get and keep organized. 

The first day of school you will probably fill your child’s backpack with all of the items that your child needs to be successful from the start.  This starts your child off with an expectation of organization, and some simple steps can help continue this expectation.  The next step you should take it to look through the backpack every day after school.  Some children are born organized and will dutifully bring you important papers and notices, but most are not.  It is simply amazing what you can find in a child’s backpack.  Children who are not required to organize and take care of their belongings develop their own unique way of coping with all of the items they amass in a school year.  Children who do not have a natural talent for organization usually fall into one of two categories, “stuffers” (they just keep stuffing things in the backpack until no more will fit) or “tossers” (they throw everything away).  Stuffers cannot find anything because it is in a mangled mess at the bottom of the backpack, and tossers don’t have anything to find.  If you will take the few minutes to go through your child’s backpack and take out the items that need to stay at home and fill it with the items needed for the next day you will ensure better home-school communication and help your child learn to be organized.  As your child matures you should gradually have her take over the job of backpack management.  The goal is to teach your child to clean out the backpack each day, and get it ready for the next as part of their evening routine.  This will require adult instruction and modeling, however if these are done at an early age your child will learn to be organized and give you important communications from school.

The Planner

Today many schools provide a planner for their students.  If yours does not, buy one and require that your child use it.  If you purchase a planner get one that is specifically made for the age of your child.  It should include a section to organize daily assignments and have a place for periods for middle and high school students.  It should also include a monthly calendar and a place to keep a to-do list.  Young children can use individual pages to use as a weekly planner, but children in the middle to upper grades should have a school year planner.  Children need to learn what to write in a planner and how to use it properly.  They need to understand that a planner is more than a list of homework due, it is a way to keep track of all that is going on in class and will be an ongoing record of past assignments.  I require my own children and students to write in their planner every day for each class that they have.  If they are assigned homework they write what the assignment is and when it is due.  If no homework is assigned they are to write a brief note of what they did in class.  Teach your child that the planner pages should not be ripped out or destroyed after the days have passed.  Sometimes valuable information can be gained from past planner pages if assignments were missed or not turned in.

The planner can also be used as a great communication tool.  Teachers and parents can use this tool to communicate about student assignments and behavior.  One of the nice things about using the planner is that the communications are automatically dated and they are saved in a place that is accessible to all.  This assures clear communication between home and school and it makes it clear to the child that communication will continue between home and school.

The planner can also be used to help your child with long-term planning.  Many planners come with a school calendar printed at the front.  Go through the dates and make sure that important dates, such as school holidays and semester, trimester or quarter beginning and ending dates are written on the planner pages.  When your child receives an assignment that will need to be done over a long period of time help him break it into smaller parts and determine goals for completing each part.  Have him write these “due dates” into the planner, and work toward completing each part of the project in a timely manner.

Of course a planner is of no use if it is “lost” or adults do not look at it or read it.  Your child should be responsible for her own planner, however associate its use to privileges at home.  My children were required to show me their planner fully filled out each day as part of their daily jobs.  We would talk about what they did in each class that day, what assignments they needed to work on or study and then make a plan for using their time wisely.  Require that your child get a teacher signature if you send a note in the planner.  If your child’s teacher knows you use this tool it will encourage him to use it also.

Electronic Communication

            Today’s fast paced society has made it difficult for parents and teachers to touch base and keep in touch, however many schools try to keep pace with the newest technology to help open the lines of communication.  Voice mail, e-mail and on-line attendance and grading programs make it possible for parents and teachers to keep in touch without meeting face-to-face.  Find out what resources are available at your child’s school and take advantage of them.

Notes and Weekly Progress Reports

Sometimes you will find it necessary to communicate with your child’s teacher the old fashioned way, with a handwritten note.  If possible, use your child’s planner to communicate, however if a more formal note is needed feel free to write or type a message.  Try to be clear, specific and through in your notes, and always assume the teacher has your child’s best interest at heart.  Most do, and you are more likely to help your child if you and the teacher are a team and not adversaries.  Have someone else read the note to make sure it makes sense, and make sure the words are spelled correctly.  If you are unsure of your spelling or have messy handwriting use a word processor.  If you send the note to school with your child ask that the teacher sign it and return it so you know it was received.  With older children and teens be sure to explain clearly what the problem is and give the teacher plenty of time to look into and deal with the issue.  Remember that middle and high school teachers may have a hundred plus students in their classes, so they may need time to deal with your child’s issue.

            When children have difficulty keeping their grades at an acceptable level a weekly progress report can be a good tool (see Appendix E for example).  Schools usually send failure notices to parents if children are not making adequate progress, however often by the time the notice arrives children are hopelessly behind on assignments.  A weekly progress report can help with this problem.  One day a week should be designated as the day to bring home the report.  I liked to use Friday with my family so that I could tie privileges over the weekend to grades.  I required the report to be taken to school by children that had any classes with a grade lower than C.  It was their responsibility to take the progress report, give it to each teacher and make sure the teacher gave it back.  It is helpful to let the teachers know beforehand that you will be doing this.  If the teacher listed any missing assignments the child was required to bring home materials to complete any missing work.  Sometimes teachers, especially in middle and high school, do not allow students to turn in missing assignments.  In my family children are required to complete and turn in all assignments, even if no credit is given.  This was their ticket to family privileges.  An improved grade was simply a bonus.  I made sure to communicate to teachers my goal to teach my children responsibility.  I am yet to find a teacher who did not support me in this tactic.   

Responsibility

Parents need to understand their responsibility in educating their child. It is easy for parents to assume that the school will fully educate their child, however parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children.  As a teacher I have 20 to 30 students in my class.  I do my best to educate each one, however there is a limit to the amount of time my students spend in my room and the influence I have over them.  Also, next year I will have a whole new classroom of students.  I will be the parents of my own children forever, and have legal responsibility for them for 18 years.  My influence as a parent far outweighs the influence that any one teacher will have on my child.  Do not assume that the school will adequately teach your child all he needs to know; take an active role in being your child’s main educator.  This not only includes seeing to it that your child attends school and completes his homework; it also includes educating your child in areas that the school does not adequately teach.  This may include teaching your family’s moral values and religious education as well as teaching your child about sports, music or other hobbies.

            You are also responsible to teach your child to be responsible.  School work and assignments give you an excellent opportunity to help your child learn how to complete assignments outside of the home.  Most children will need you to be an active participant in order to learn this important trait.  One common misconception is that you teach children to be responsible by leaving themselves to their own devices.  I have worked with teachers who believe that they are teaching children to be responsible by not allowing them to turn in missing work.  The threat of failure is only a motivating factor if the child cares enough about success.  Many children learn to not care about grades and school because they see no link between their actions and the grades.  Students often think that grades are a gift from their teachers and that their grades reflect how well a teacher likes them more than how well they performed.  A child who learns to not care about grades will show little effort in school.  For this child the threat from a teacher that no late work will be accepted is a reward.  If the child does not complete the assignment on-time then he will not need to do it.  Why do it if no credit is given?  Children are taught to be responsible by requiring them to complete any and all assignments.  Make it a family rule that all assignments in school will be completed, and then give your child the help and tools that she needs to complete them.

Help, Don’t “do for”

            It is important to help your children to complete and turn in homework and assignments, however some parents have a difficult time differentiating between helping the child and doing the work for him.  The first thing that parents need to understand is that homework should be extra practice, not learning a new skill.  Research has shown that children do benefit from homework, but only if the homework is extra practice on a skill that the child has already learned.  Most teachers are aware of this and try to assign assignments based on this principle, however sometimes things go awry.  Teachers may give assignments that are not closely aligned to classwork, may overly rely on preplanned lessons that do not match the skills of the students or they may overestimate their students’ proficiency in the subject matter.  Sometimes teachers do an outstanding job of teaching a skill and aligning the homework to the lesson, however the students are still not able to complete the assignment.  Students may have difficulty applying the practice that took place in class to the homework or they just may not have paid attention during the lesson or may have missed instruction due to illness. 

If your child brings home an assignment that he cannot complete make an attempt at reviewing what was learned if you can, but do not do the work for your child.  Usually textbooks or worksheets will have brief instructions that explain how an assignment is to be done.  Use these tools to help your child go over the instructions to see if you can help him complete the assignment.  Teachers use scaffolding to help their students learn a new skill.  When parents learn this skill they can be excellent tutors as the child has one on one help.  Start by modeling one or two problems for your child.  If many similar problems were assigned you can do this with the first couple, otherwise use the examples in the book or make up your own similar problems.  As you model how to complete the problems “talk through” each step and explain why you are doing each thing.  After modeling a few have your child complete a few problems while you guide each step.  Slowly back off your guidance, and have your child begin to explain the steps.  When your child appears to understand the process have him complete some problems independently, and then check to be sure that they are done correctly. 

If you or your child are still struggling with the assignment write a note to the teacher and explain the problem.  Try to frame the problem from your point of view and refrain from blaming the teacher for not teaching your child.  Ask the teacher to give your child extra instruction or time to complete the assignment.  Be sure to follow up on the assignment and be sure your child received the help needed.

One of the biggest temptations for parents to do an assignment for their child is on large projects and reports.  Many students do have difficulty organizing and completing large assignments on their own, but teachers do expect their students to do their own work.  Parents are excellent resources to help their children plan all of the parts of a large project, gather information and materials and put everything together into a presentable form.  Do remember, however, that the report or project should look and sound as if a child produced it.  This does not mean that you should not teach your child how to put together a polished project.  However, it should be clear that this is your child’s work and not yours.

Set the bar high, but not impossibly high

            We all want our children to be successful, and school performance is no exception.  Let your children know that you expect them to do well in school, however be realistic.  Remember that you are raising children.  Children learn through doing and trial and error.  Children also need to have variety in their life.  If it takes a child all of her time to be a straight ‘A’ student it may not be the best use of her time.  She needs to have time to play and explore different activities.  Well rounded children tend to grow into more successful and happier adults.  Even the most focused and successful children rarely receive high grades on all assignments, and should not be expected to.  If your child performs on an assignment or in a class at a level lower than is the norm for that child treat it as a learning experience.  Ask him what the problem is and ask what he could do better next time.

            Be careful about how you respond to report card grades.  Children should be praised for the work they did do.  In some families ‘A’s are the expectation, ‘B’s are okay and ‘C’s are totally unacceptable.  Children who grow up in families such as these often believe that they could never be good enough.  ‘C’ is an average, and there is nothing wrong with being average in some areas.  In my family we regarded ‘C’s as acceptable, however improvement could be made.  ‘B’s were very good, ’A’s were outstanding and ‘D’s and ‘F’s were unacceptable.  It is also important to take into account personal differences.  What may be a low grade for one child may be an excellent grade for another.

            Be careful, also, about how you reward report card grades.  Some families give monetary rewards, some quite large, for high marks.  While rewards for good grades can be motivating, children who are constantly rewarded with large rewards lose the sense of value for the actual grade. In addition, in families with multiple children monetary often pit one child against another.  Also, for young children a quarter or semester grade is often too long of a time period for the child to really feel that he has control over the outcome.  Try giving smaller, more frequent rewards or just praise your child.  When report cards do come, recognize your children who displayed good effort with a small reward or night out.

Beyond the Norm

We all want to think that our child is just a normal kid, but many children have learning difficulties.  Learning difficulties can show up at any time and have many different causes.  They can be caused by learning disabilities, developmental delays, emotional difficulties, social problems, problems at home or normal developmental stages.  The treatments for learning difficulties are as varied as the causes.  If you have taken all of the steps outlined above and your child still struggles you may suspect that your child needs more help than you can provide.  The first place to look for extra help is through your child’s school.  Some private and church schools offer resources for extra tutoring and all public schools are required to provide help for students who are not adequately progressing.  Speak with your child’s teacher first.  Explain the problem, and be specific about when it began, how long it has persisted and the severity of it.  Also share your insights as to what you believe is causing the problem.  Most parents are not well versed in learning difficulties, but they are familiar with their own child.  Even if your diagnosis of the problem is not correct your insights will be valuable to help find the problem.

If you do not get the help you need from your child’s teacher contact the school administration.  Express your concerns and ask what resources are available.  Ask about extra help during school and outside of school hours, extra help that you can give at home and resource personnel that can assist you.  Try to be patient with the school as some things take time, but do not just assume the problem will resolve itself.  Stay on top of the steps your child’s school is taking and your child’s progress. 

If adequate progress is still not seen go back to the school and report that more help is needed.  Remember that the goal is to build a partnership with the school.  Your child will benefit the most if all adults work together.  There are times, however, when schools do not provide students with the necessary help.  Public schools are required to provide help to all students and to find ways to help every child learn.  If your school does not take the steps necessary to help your child do not be afraid to demand an evaluation of your child’s progress.  Public schools usually have a team of teachers and administrators who look for specific ways to help students be more successful.  If your child has not made adequate progress you can ask the neighborhood public school, whether or not your child is a student at the school, to look at your child’s progress and make recommendations.  Make your request respectfully and in writing.  Federal law specifies a timeline for the school to respond to your request so date your request and look for a reply within a few weeks.

While you are working on getting help from your child’s school look at outside resources.  Remember that you are ultimately responsible for educating your child.  The school has a much more limited number of resources available than parents do.  For some children medical solutions are successful.  For others behavioral avenues work better.  Counseling, outside tutoring or training and medication have all been successful to help some children be more successful in school.  Be open-minded but reasonable when looking for a solution.  Work with your medical professional to get referrals to reputable professionals.  If a recommended treatment seems unusual or untested ask for studies that show effectiveness and referrals to others who have tried the treatment.

Any time a treatment is tried with your child careful data should be taken to find out its effectiveness.  If your doctor does not provide tracking sheets then use the sample from Appendix B.  All treatments, whether medicinal or not, have some placebo effect.  Some people will show improvement from any ailment, even if they are only given a sugar pill.  In addition, parents and teachers often observe an improvement in a child’s behavior, just because an improvement is expected.  This makes it difficult to determine the effectiveness of a treatment.  Daily charting of behaviors will help mitigate this problem. 

To track behavior with the tracking sheets behavior should first be charted before the treatment is tried.  Ideally, parents, the teacher and the child will all fill out their own report, usually for about a week.  After the initial charting period the treatment is begun and charting of behavior continues.  Some medications take several weeks to begin to work in the child’s system, and all behavior systems take a while to show improvement. For these reasons behavior should be charted with the treatment in place for several weeks.  Behavior can also be charted during an optional third period with the treatment discontinued.  Ideally, each step would be done with behavior reporters not knowing when the child is receiving the treatment.  Sometimes this can be done with one parent administering the medication and the other charting behavior, but this is not always possible.  Charts are then compared from before, during and after treatment to see if the child really did show improvement with the treatment.  If one treatment does not prove effective try another.  Seldom is a first medication type and dosage or treatment effective.

If you have a child with learning difficulties please know that parental involvement makes all the difference.  Children with learning difficulties that are left to their own devices will usually turn to inappropriate ways to feel successful and important.  These children are at high risk for antisocial behaviors, committing crimes resulting in imprisonment, drug use, early experimentation with sexuality and teen pregnancy.  There are children who will just not be successful academically even with all the help in the world.  These children need supportive parents who will help them find skills in other areas and assure them that they are important and loved.  If your child has difficulty in school help him find something he can excel in.  Require your child to join a church or scout group, a sports team or musical group or pick up a hobby.  All children have talents and it is important for children, especially children who struggle in school, to find and develop their talents.  Help your child to become responsible, teach her to treat others with respect and help her become self-sufficient in other areas.  You may also need to focus less on school success and failure with this child.  See to it that your child is learning essential skills, such as reading and basic math computation, and lighten-up about the rest.  On these children you may need to change or ease up on the rules you would normally set for a child about homework or task completion.  Remember the goal is to raise a responsible adult, and adjust as necessary.  When your child is an adult no one will ever ask her what grade she received in 7th grade, so don’t put too much emphasis on grades.  People will notice if your child is responsible and respectful.  Your child will learn these things if you make family guidelines clear and reasonable and set and reinforce limits.

Raising kids is a lot of work!

Book cover FinalRaising kids was going to be a piece of cake.  I was the oldest of 4 children and spent most of my older childhood and teen years helping with my siblings and babysitting all of the neighborhood children.  My sister and I would watch several families of children at one time and take them on fun outings to the park or the ice cream store.  I studied child development in both high school and college and spent 5 years working as a preschool and kindergarten teacher.  I was also in charge of the after school childcare program at the school where I worked and was viewed by my co-workers as the best at handling the children that no one else could.  Yes, after handling a classroom full of children raising a family would be easy for me.  My husband, who loved kids and was the oldest of a large family, and I determined that we would have 12.  Well, maybe not 12, but at least as many as we could afford and handle.  We would be great parents!

Then my oldest son was born.  He was anything but your typical child.  From the day he was born Baby #1 seemed unhappy with being a baby and wanted to go out and see the world.  He was alert and bright and did everything early.  He rolled over at 3 weeks old, stood in his crib at 5 months and began walking at 6 months, skipping crawling altogether.  By two he had taught himself all of the letters in the alphabet and the sounds they make by watching Sesame Street and by 4 he taught himself to read.  Of course this bright mind and eager body was quite a trial for parents, even parents that were well prepared.  He had endless energy, was always getting into something and seemed to never sleep.  It is a real problem when your child needs less sleep than you do, especially when the child is so busy and energetic that you dare not leave him unattended.  Bedtime was a big problem.  On the average it took our son two hours past when we put him to bed for him to go to sleep.  And this was not a quiet two hours of patiently waiting for sleep to come, this was two hours of getting out of bed, getting into things, running through the house followed by pleadings and threats by my husband and myself for him to stay in bed.

When Baby #1 was two we welcomed Baby #2, a sweet daughter, into our home. Right on her heels Baby #3 came along, when #2 was just 15 months old.  Baby #2 was so different from older brother as a little baby.  She was petite and she actually slept at night and took naps.  She was content to sit in the playpen for part of the day, unlike older brother who wanted to be held constantly.  Not to be outdone by her big brother #2 soon showed that she was not going to be any less of a handful.  She was very busy and had a mind of her own at a very early age.  She seemed to hit the terrible twos at 15 months, just as her sister was born, and she continued to assert her independence and argue with me throughout her life.

After #3’s birth I had to admit I had no idea what parenthood would be like before I actually experienced it.  I thought I could handle it all, but I had no idea what a difference it was to be responsible for your children 24 hours a day, rather than just a few hours.  I couldn’t send these children home to their parents when I had had it; my husband and I were it.  On top of that I had to take care of all the tasks of running a home.  As a teacher I had been responsible for teaching the children.  Here at home I had to cook, clean and do laundry.  In addition to all of that, I had to help my husband support the family financially.  I felt it important to give my children as much of me as possible so I managed to find jobs I could do at home for most of my children’s young years.  With all of the demands on my time the strategies that I had used as a teacher did not apply here because my children were not my only responsibility.

So here I was with a very busy three year old who wanted my attention, a 15 month old who wanted nothing to do with me but wanted to go out and take on the world on her own and a newborn with colic.  Add to that mix three children that I watched to keep my family finances afloat and you can see that to say my life was hectic was an understatement.  I did what anyone would do in a similar situation, I lost my mind.

I knew I was at the breaking point one day when older brother and little sister wanted to play hide-and-go-seek.  The baby was asleep, and I had no extra children at my home, so I decided to take my turn to hide, and I hid in the closet behind the clothes.  It was a really good hiding place and they couldn’t find me.  After sitting there for a while I found I loved the cool, quiet solitude of being in the closet behind those clothes.  I knew the kids were okay because I could hear them looking for me, but they weren’t demanding anything of me.  I was congratulating myself on finding a way to get some peace when they started to cry.  “Where’s Mommy?” they sobbed.  It was then that I realized that parenthood was so much more than enduring our children’s lives, or controlling their behavior.  Parenthood is about loving and nurturing our children into adults.  Sure, this was a whole lot different and more demanding than teaching, but it was also so much more rewarding.  I wasn’t going to get a new class next year, my husband and I were responsible for these children into adulthood, and we would be their parents forever.  I needed to find a way to shape and mold these strong personalities into responsible adults.

When children don’t behave our first reaction is to get mad.  But getting mad doesn’t help.  Years ago parents knew how to handle their children.  The prevailing wisdom was that if you spare the rod you would spoil the child.  So when many of today’s grandparents were children they felt the swift and firm consequence of their behavior with physical punishment.  Most experts now agree that strong physical punishment is neither advisable nor effective.  The problem is that today’s parents have not been given tools that are as swift, firm, speedy and as easy to execute, as a whipping was.  We have been told to use time out or to ground our children, but many parents have found time-out to be less than effective and have found that when they ground their child they ground themselves as well.

After that day in the closet I set out to come up with concrete systems that I could use to shape my children’s behavior with love, but firmness.  I used my experience as a teacher and knowledge of child development and human behavior, as well as trial and error, to develop positive and negative reward systems and record keeping charts to help and guide me.  Many of the systems I developed were developed with the needs of a specific child in mind, but I found that they often worked for everyone.

Nearly 20 years have passed since that day in the closet, and a lot has taken place.  Baby #1 grew into a wonderful boy and young man, and is now a father himself, with an outstanding mind, but with many obstacles to overcome.  He was diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder, dysgraphia (a writing handicap) and a visual processing disorder, which brought many years of struggle through school.  One daughter was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (which I describe as acting like a teenage for life, and yes, it is a real disorder) and being at risk for depression.  As she grew she was a master at making trouble with her best friend and sister and really had trouble being successful in school.  But now she is a beautiful college graduate with many talents and a knack for doing anything she puts her mind to.  Baby #3’s colic lasted for 6 months, even though all the baby books claimed it only lasted for 4, but when she quit crying we found that she was a happy, delightful, bright little girl.  She is, however, extremely demanding and driven.  She is the princess and I often thought she would have made a good only child, but somehow she was placed in the middle of 5 kids.  She seemed to resent all the extra time I had to spend helping her older siblings get through school and raising her little brother and sister, but she continues to be bright and bubbly and is an outstanding, driven and successful teacher and college student.

After 3 kids in 3 ½ years we took a four year break before bringing #4 and #5 into the world.  They proved to be surprisingly “normal”, although they, as do all children, have had their trials.  I found that many of the strategies that I had developed for my difficult children worked very well with them.  I also have had an opportunity to further use and refine many of the techniques in my job as a middle school teacher.  As I raised my children I had several opportunities to continue my work as a preschool teacher both through a home child care program and employed at various schools that allowed me to bring one or more of my children with me.  When my youngest went to school full time I was able to continue my education and seek employment in public education.  I now work as a Resource Specialist and work with middle school-aged children with disabilities of all types and severities.  Many of the techniques and charts I developed for my own children I have been able to adapt for use in the classroom and I have shared with parents.  These techniques have proven to be useful to help children with various disabilities control their behavior both in the classroom and in their homes.

Some people say my husband and I are nuts to have 5 children.  We may be because it is the hardest thing I have ever done, but raising them has brought me more joy and satisfaction than anything else.  Whether you have one child or ten it is a lot of work to raise children.  Kids may do things that will make you feel extremely mad, but getting mad will not shape and guide your children correctly.  Good hard work, a plan on how to proceed and some good tools will.  So look through the suggestions and guidelines in this book then try out some of the tools and choose the ones that will work for you.  Then, don’t get mad, get busy!

When Tragedy Strikes- Are we handling this right?

DSC_0269We are over reacting, we are not taking this seriously enough; when it warms up the virus will diminish, sunshine will not lessen the spread of the virus; stock up on supplies, don’t wipe out the markets; this will blow over in no time, it will take years to recover; this will wreck our economy, we have lots of support in place so we will be fine; our leaders are doing a good job of keeping us safe, our leaders are nuts, just what are they thinking? 

Likely you have heard all of this, and more, over the last few days. Truly, we are all in awe over the events of the last week or so. Last week, as I was finishing up some missing work with one of my 6th graders in my classroom on the last day of the trimester, and the last day of school until who knows, he and I talked. He had some questions about the virus, school and what was going to happen. I had to tell him I just didn’t know. He was shocked to find out that we haven’t had a pandemic of this caliber in modern times. This is new territory; none of us really know how to act, what to do or what is needed. Truly, our leaders, our communities, our churches, our work places and yes, even our doctors, don’t really know for sure what is the best course of action.  In truth, we may have some ideas and educated guesses, but really, we are all just making it up as we go along.

Wow, Mrs. Dimick,” said the 6th grader when I explained we don’t really know what we are doing, “this is really serious.” Yeah buddy, it is. In a world with so much information at our literal fingertips, it is pretty unusual these days to have a world-wide event that truly we don’t know exactly what will happen or how to handle it. We are so used to having experts and leaders with the answers and advice that really, we are all feeling just a bit anxious.

Some day in the not too distant future the hope is that we will look back on this event and say, “Remember when?” And we will be able to add, “That was a bit crazy, but we got through it, and we did learn something.” But, what will be learn? What are we learning? What are the lessons that will help us better navigate our world going forward? Well, no one knows for sure, but just from what I have seen so far, here my top 9 lessons.

9- Don’t put it off!  Whether it has to do with stocking up with emergency supplies, attending your house of worship or visiting that friend that you can’t get to now, I think we can all say there is probably something you meant to do before, that you can’t do now.  So when the store restocks and we can freely recirculate once again, grab a few more cans just in case, buy a few extra rolls to have on hand, and put a few more things in the freezer because you never know.

8- Appreciate Technology- Yeah, there is the bad side, but can you imagine all of this without it? I am just amazed how many different emails I got with offers of free things to do, or watch or, experience. All I can say is wow, just wow.

7- It’s Okay to Push the Pause Button on Life- Okay, face it people, we live fast paced, crazy lives. Can you not say that having a slower pace for a bit was not refreshing? Was it such a terrible thing to just have your calendar cleared for once? Would it be so bad to really just make that choice for yourself or your family once in a while?

6- Reach Out to Others- With time to slow down I keep thinking about reaching out to others, visiting others, taking them things. Well, that kind of defeats the purpose of where we are right now, so I had to rethink that plan. But it did get me thinking. We need each other, we need human contact. Do we really take the time to reach out when we can, or do we put if off until it is too late (see #9 above). I know I can do better.

5- Grow a Garden– My granddaughter and I have been working on a garden.  She was ecstatic when she found out food may be scarce because we could eat her vegetables! She was a bit disappointed when she found out that it will be many weeks until we have a harvest, but what a great way to be in the out of doors, spend time with your family and produce food that may come in handy when the next disaster comes along.

4- Learn to Cook– So, it is looking like if everyone has enough food in their house to eat at home for a couple of weeks the stores are empty. I was raised in an era where eating in was normal, eating out was for special occasions. When my kids were young I once had a woman ask me if I cook. I felt like answering, as opposed to, what, starving? I didn’t really get the question, I didn’t know there were people who didn’t, with the expectation of maybe the most rich and famous. Now, with just me and my husband home we eat out a lot, but I do keep a stock of food, and I have the capability to cook meals. This is a life skill people, figure it out, and teach your kids.

3- Some Necessities are not Really Necessary- Here is a news flash, life existed before bottled water, before baby wipes, disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer and yes, even before toilet paper. Guess what people, we still have running water, electricity and natural gas available in our homes so we are actually way better off than those who had to live without those items.  Sure, it may be way easier and cleaner to wipe with something we can just toss, but I bet you have plenty of things right in your own home that you could substitute, if you had to.

2- You Are Ultimately Responsible for your Family- It is easy to think the government will take care of us, that the school will teach our kids or that someone will bail us out. But, when it comes right down to it, it is your responsibility. As a middle school teacher I am daily responsible for upwards of 100 kids a day. I take my charge seriously, and I think I do a good job. But guess what, when we had an emergency where did we send those kids? They went right back to their parents. When it is time to get back to basics in life, you are in charge, you have the responsibility to do what it takes to make sure your family is fed, clothed, educated and taught. Treat it like that.

1- Go forward with Faith, not Fear- This may seem religious, but it is actually biological as well. You see, fear does interesting things to us biologically.  There is a fight or flight response that we often have little or no control over when perceived danger is in play. Having faith and hope that things will work out, that you can handle this, that you can do what it takes keeps the involuntary responses turned off, and the brain turned on.  Stay in the game people, we can do this.

 

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Our Gun Fixation will NOT Fix the Problem!

weapon-violence-children-child-52984.jpeg

Seventeen killed in a school shooting, it seems as if this last mass school shooting just pushed everyone over the edge.  “Enough!” everyone is saying, “We have to do something!”  Yet, while many agree with this sentiment, the “what” is a very disagreeable topic.  It seems as if the two top “whats” are more gun control or arming personnel to protect students on campus.  And, it seems as if the state of Florida decided to just go for broke and pass laws for both options.  Well, I am probably going to make both sides mad with my opinion, but I think you are both just plain wrong.  I just don’t think the solution as easy as passing more laws.  While I certainly see the appeal for both of these ideas, I don’t think either addresses the cause of the problem.  I will explain, but first an analogy.

I have always been intrigued by magic.  As a kid I collected magic tricks, and spent hours trying to perfect my skills.  I was never very good at it, but there were some tricks that I could successfully perform.  The real secret, I learned, to getting buy in from your audience was the distraction.  All magic tricks involve some kind of bait and switch.  The bait is the distraction, and once the audience is fixated on the bait, you can perform the switch.  I think some issues in our society have become this way.  In our quest for a simple solution we become so bogged down with the idea of that one thing that will fix the problem that we completely miss what the real problem is.  In my opinion, we are so fixated on the bait, the guns, that we have completely missed the switch, the complex issues that led to societal violence.

The issue of increased violence in our society is so much more complex, so much more messy than some of these solutions suggest and can’t be solved by a simple law or initiative.  Not that there are not solutions, but we need to stop spending all of our time and energy, and clogging our newsfeeds, with quick fix, one-size fits all get rid of or add  more guns ideas.  And, we need to start urging our leaders to invest our public funds in ideas that might actually work.  I will share a few, but first, let’s look at why I don’t think the quick fix ideas will work.

Gun control can seem like the obvious first line of defense, after all, if people can’t get the weapons, this won’t happen.  The first problem with this tactic is that those who are getting ready to shoot up a school are generally not worried about following the law.  According to Mother Jones data on school mass shootings (following the FBI criteria) 50% of these shootings were committed with a gun obtained illegally or stolen.  Now, one could argue that at least more stringent laws could prevent 50% of the shootings, but that does not necessarily follow.  Just because someone obtained a firearm legally to perform a crime does not mean they would not have obtained the weapon illegally had the legal path not been available.  So let’s look at actual data of states with restrictive gun laws vs. those without, specifically the top 10 strictest and 10 least restrictive.  According to Gifford’s Law Center 7 of 20 mass school shootings from which they collected data took place in schools from the ten states with the strictest gun laws.  And, from the ten states that had the least restrictive gun laws (by their criteria) zero of those 20 mass shootings took place.  This data would seem to indicate that not only is there no cause and effect of stringent gun laws in relation to school shootings, but there may even be a negative correlation (meaning a greater chance of a mass shooting).

No guns

Of course those on the other side of the aisle have a different plan: arm the teachers.  While on face value this may seem like a good tactic, after all we arm our military and our police offices, in practice I find it to be ill advised and impractical to really stop the problem.  First, teachers already have so much to do with so little time, just when and how would we train and prepare these highly trained pistol-packers?  I don’t think the general public realizes just how much is already on a teacher’s plate.  According to Susan Barrett, an expert on positive school behavior supports, school districts average 14 initiatives that require training and implementation.  The requirement for teachers to add these new initiatives to their repertoire in addition to learning new curriculum and standards, keeping track of new students and their progress every year, staying apprised of each students health and welfare, as well as keeping parents informed and updated of their progress taxes even the most efficient and capable individual.  If districts were asked to add a concealed carry initiative surely something else would have to go.  And that is assuming you could even find enough teachers willing to do this job on a large enough basis to make a difference.  Most teachers got into teaching because they want to spend their time molding young minds, not warming up their six shooters for the shootout at high noon.  Personally, I would find the idea of trying to protect a concealed weapon in a classroom full of children and adolescents exhausting and counterproductive to what my primary goal should be: teach.

Then there are those who suggest we protect kids a different way.  These ideas range anywhere from the placement of armed guards and metal detectors in schools to the installation of door blockers or safe houses within a classroom.  While I applaud the sentiment and range of ideas I just find these ideas to be a large expenditure for very little return.  First, we need to realize how rare school shootings really are.  During the 59 year period from 1959 to 2018 there have been 24 mass killings (according to FBI standards, including 1 explosion and 1 bomb) killing 247 people.  In the United States there are apx. 100,000 k-12 public schools, 33,000 private schools and 7200 colleges and universities.  While any number of killings is shocking and unacceptable, when you look at the actual numbers you realize schools are actually very safe.  Next, we need to realize that none of these methods are fool proof.  The Florida shooting on February 14th had an armed resource officer on campus, but that did not deter, nor did it stop the attack.  They had metal detectors on campus, and yet those were not even in use that day.

So, what will work?  First, I think it is important to realize that there are many societal problems at play here.  I think that family values, violent media, as well as the way society views the value of life all come in play in this issue, but this article is about solutions, not problemsPrimarily I think the solution lies in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of young people.  In a country where public education is compulsory we are missing out on a prime opportunity if we do not better prepare our children for adulthood.  Ideally, children would be fully supported by their families, but that just isn’t happening in many cases.  The good news is that lots of positive things are happening.  Lots and lots of research has been done on how to support and improve behavior and mental health.  Lots and lots of schools and districts have supports in place that are working.  And, lots and lots of people are working in the trenches, trying to support our struggling kids and reaching out to those in need.  The bad news is these voices are not the ones we hear.  The voices we hear are all about the guns, all about the distraction.  So let’s take a minute and look at the good news, the solutions that might actually work.  This is where we should put our money, time and focus.  This is where politicians and school districts should be calling for initiatives.  In the programs that actually support the health and welfare of kids.

The most promising public school initiative is school wide positive behavior supports (PBIS-https://www.pbis.org/).  PBIS techniques support good behavior in the majority of students, while providing supports and teaching new skills to students who struggle.  Schools which have instituted PBIS techniques have been able to decrease suspensions and office referrals, while improving behavior in the majority of their students.  This behavior model, which has been around for some time, has now been expanded to include supports in academics as well as social/emotional well-being.  The goal of this balanced support model is to ground students in the social and emotional health necessary to navigate adult life.  In my mind, it makes a lot of sense to invest in this type of an initiative in schools in this country.  Every student in every school could use support in social emotional health and well-being.  Very few schools will ever encounter a gunman (thankfully).  Should we not use our public money to invest in the sure thing?

pexels-photo-207653.jpeg                   Next, let’s call on our communities to step up and help support the health and well-being of our young community members.  According to the Interconnected Systems Framework, a major researcher in positive behavior supports, community support is vital to the sustainability of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.  There are lots of ways that communities can help support mental health and well-being, but I want to focus on some real-life programs that are really working.  Programs that are giving support to kids, mostly kids at risk. Programs that help kids who might otherwise have turned out to be disenfranchised gang members or school shooters.  This is the real deal, the things that work.

Hana BuildWhy do we think that everything has to be learned in a classroom?  Ma Ka Hana Ka ʻIke has turned that idea on its ear.  This program, located in a remote town on Maui, not only teaches kids on the job, it provides community building projects that enhance their entire community.  In addition, it gives young people a skill, education and a purpose.

Camden Sophisticated SistersWe often think of drill teams as fluff, extracurricular, non-essential activities that take the backseat to the main activities of learning and growing.  Camden Sophisticated Sisters (and their affiliates, Distinguished Brothers – DB’z & The Almighty Percussion Sound – TAPS) has turned things around and tied all that is needed to build skills and work habits in young people into activities they love.  Daily practices are interspersed by homework sessions and character and skill development.  Young people in Camden, New Jersey come from some of the poorest homes in America.  CSS is aimed at not only overcoming the results of poverty, but reaching out to their community.

Nascarz, of Vancouver, seeks to give former and would be car thieves the thrill of working on top performing automobiles and the chance to develop top notch mechanic skills.  The cars are the hook, but the real projects are the young people, shaping and teaching them that they can be productive, law-abiding members of society.

City of Angels Ballet– We all hear stories about prodigies, young people with exceptional talents at a very young age.  But what if a musical prodigy never met with a piano?  What if a brilliant mathematical prodigy grew up without any formal education and never knew of his skill?  And what if a prodigy in dance never had the opportunity to learn the basics to catapult her to stardom?  Mario Nugara seeks to solve this problem, at least in his little part of the world.  Trained in Denmark, Nugara provides high caliber ballet courses to some of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles.  Not only does this training give children the skills and talents of ballet, it gives them poise and self-efficacy that helps them better navigate their adult lives and become productive members of society whether or not they pursue dance as a career.

                The bottom line is, as disheartening is it is, we can’t really assure that bad things don’t happen to our kids.  We live in a world full of disasters, accidents and yes, just plain evil.  It would be wonderful if we could come up with a solution that would keep all of our kids safe, but unfortunately there is no way to do that.  And, while there are many things we can do, there are only limited resources on what we can spend our time and money on.  Doesn’t it make the most sense to spend our time and energy on things that give us the most for our money?  The things that really help?  The things I have suggested that may not assure that every child is safe (because there is no such thing).  But they are the things that will raise the social and emotional well-being of our children and provide our future with more functioning adultsDon’t be distracted by the guns, they are just a tool.  It is really about people, and teaching them to get their hearts and heads in the right place.  If you really want to help, encourage your lawmakers to support positive behavior support initiatives.  Seek out those who are making a difference and donate your time or money.  Or, just smile a bit more, reach out to those around you, and be aware of those in your community who may just need a friend.

Back to Blogging

This blog was born of my endeavor as an author of a book, Don’t Get Mad, Get Busy! A Handbook for raising terrific kids!” , as a way to promote my book and share my thoughts and ideas about topics I felt were important for parents, children and their education.

In 2010 I embarked in one of the most challenging teaching experiences I have ever had, short of the full time job of raising my own children; teaching early morning seminary.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church) I am a part of a lay ministry in which we lead and teach one another.  Part of our educational program for the youth of our church includes a 4 year seminary program for high school students.  Here in OC, CA classes are taught at our local church buildings before school begins, beginning in our area at the unearthly time of 5:45 am.  So, for the last 4 years I have spent much of my time studying, preparing, getting up early and catching up on sleep while serving as an early morning seminary teacher.  It was a wonderful, difficult, and rewarding experience, but after 4 years I was ready to have a bit of my time back.  With my release from that position this year I now have time to resurrect this blog and once again return to writing about topics that I find important to the growth and development of children.

I hope you can join me, or rejoin me, and read what I have to say.  I would also love your comments.

Why I Hate Car Seat Laws

Car seats in their present form were just becoming available and popular when I gave birth to my first child. As a child who had been raised in the day when many cars still did not have seat belts and when a car seat was only to give parents a place to put the kid, not protect the kid, I did not quite grasp the importance of their use. Don’t get me wrong, my kids rode in car seats, but before the days of mandatory car seat laws we did have the occasional time when we actually drove the car with the child not fastened. As time went on, and more children came into the family, we became diligent using car seats and seat belts, and I understood how important their use was.

Over the last 30 years I have seen an evolution of laws that began with requiring you to belt in your infant, then toddler, then 3, 4, 6, and now 8 year old into a child restraint system. When the first car seat laws first came out I was a big fan. I was not in favor of seat belt laws, but infants cannot make the choice for themselves as to whether they would prefer to be restrained or become a projectile in the event of a crash. I felt that our youngest citizens should be protected and that a car seat law helping parents understand this importance.

Unfortunately, I think as a society we have crossed a line from protecting the youngest children of society, to a plethora of laws that invades more than it protects. Sure, a 4, 6 or 8 year old will sustain fewer injuries in an accident with a restraint system designed for their size, but past the age of 2 there is no difference in mortality rates for use of a car seat vs. a regular car seat belt. Heck, all of us would fare better in an accident with a 5 point harness seat belt system, but at some point expense and logistics has to be balanced with the optimum of safety. How do the parents of today even follow the law when kids are required to be belted in until the age of 8? Does everyone have a car full of booster seats for their kids’ friends? Do you pick up the neighbors with a car seat in hand to drive them to school? Are cars even made big enough for multiple car seats in the back? Or, do we just ignore the law at times and use the next best thing, a seat belt?

All of these logistical problems seemed mute when I heard a news story that I found shocking about a current car seat law. So, apparently a law (I believe in the State of California) has been passed that a parent will have remaining living children taken away if their unrestrained child is killed in a motor vehicle accident. Sounds fine on the face, after all, a parent who would not properly restrain their child in the car is probably negligent in other areas. Well, the story goes this law was recently enacted when a father (no mother in the picture) lost 2 children to the state after his 18 month old daughter was killed in an auto accident. The accident was not the father’s fault (someone ran a light), but still it seems like no excuse for not using a car seat until you hear the rest of the details. The father was driving to the hospital because the young daughter broke her arm and her car seat was strapped into the father’s car, which he had loaned to a friend. So, Dad borrowed another car, presumable with no car seat, and had the child’s aunt hold the baby (presumably in pain) on the way to the hospital.

Have we lost our minds? Here this poor father is trying to do his best to raise his children, he is undoubtedly grief-stricken from losing one child, and now the others are taken away. What one of us in the same situation would not do that same thing? What one of us have not, in an emergency or unexpected situation, made a choice for our child that may not be the most safe situation, but for the circumstances at the time felt it the best choice?

I think it is time to step back and look at the purpose of laws. Laws like this are presumably designed to shape behaviors. Do they serve their purpose? Is this the best way to shape behavior, or is there a better way? Have we moved from behavior shaping to punitive measures? And if so, why do we want to punish a parent who just lost a child?

So, that is my take on current car seat laws. I think they are just one, of many, good ideas that have just gone too far.