Posted on

Problems with Homework

lead_960From time to time you may have concerns about homework. Meet with teachers early in the school year and ask them to let you know if difficulties arise.

Some problems which may arise are:

  • the homework can regularly be too hard or too easy
  • your child refuses to do assignments despite encouragement
  • your child has problems completing assignments on time
  • you would like your child to do homework missed through illness
  • neither your child nor you understand the homework
  • Read more …

Posted on Leave a comment

Principles of Conscious Parenting

conscious parentingConscious Parenting is not a set of rules for parents to follow, but a set of beliefs about what children need to develop and thrive.

I’m going to ask you to step outside the traditional box of parental thinking and re-frame everything you thought you knew about how kids learn and what they need to grow into mature, responsible adults!

This is where you will learn to engage and connect with your children using emotionally intelligent discipline rather than punitive methods.

This does not require you to abandon all of your parenting practices, just to be mindful as you shift your thinking about what kids need and start to decode what’s really going on behind the behavior.

Give your child the benefit of the doubt and a different experience than YOU had.

Choose to give your child quality feedback about how to respond to the world. Through our experiences, we collect, sort, and file away our emotional memories as reference points. How we learn to respond or react to life is driven by the patterns that are set-up in early childhood.

This foundation is built upon memory after memory – shaping our abilities, perspective and outlook. Everything can be completely changed – mood, behaviors, empathy, abilities, cognitive processing and even our immune function – by altering what we experience within the context of our primary relationships.

Conscious parenting deepens your child’s basic trust in the world and secures your influence as something to be regarded as reliable and safe.

Fill the hearts and minds of your children with acceptance, understanding, and confidence. Try these three conscious parenting tips to start building a more influential relationship with your child.

    – is it sarcastic, cruel, degrading, impatient, callous or otherwise disconnecting in tone or attitude – verbally or non-verbally?
    – is your request developmentally appropriate? Can you control the environment to meet your needs w/out your child’s help?
    – is your manner calm and confident? Are your limits set with kindness regardless of how your child reacts? Can you remain non-argumentative in the face of an upset child?


I want to help you shift from a traditional (power-based) view of parenting to a conscious (relational) view, so you can bring the focus back to building stronger bonds between you and your kids. A secure attachment is built with timely responses to a child’s needs and by using empathy to resolve conflict.

When you make it a priority to create a safe place for the expression of ALL feelings and needs – you will create change in your home.

This does not mean that you allow unsafe or inappropriate behaviors or that you ignore setting limits. It means that you have faith that age-appropriate cooperation will come with time and maturity and by developing an emotional connection with your child.

Empathetic understanding, tolerance and the validation of needs, along with consistent modeling of self-regulation and mindful practices will nurture your child’s growth in positive ways.

More videos >> TeachthroughLove

Your influence will be stronger with a loving, non-judgmental approach to discipline than with fear-based, conditional techniques aimed at seeking at short-term compliance or unwavering obedience.

It is time to understand how punishment disconnects us from our children and emphasizes conditional love. It is time to recognize that solutions and acceptance can’t always occur in the exact moment of conflict because they require reflection.

Moving to a place of reflection takes time.

It takes a certain brain state which is unavailable in times of stress or fear and totally unavailable if the skills are lacking because of experience or stage.

First, we need to process and regulate our emotions.

Regulation is the key to successful problem-solving. The state of regulation is not present during an emotional meltdown because our stress response system takes over the body’s major functions.

It takes a mature brain, unconditional support, and lots of repetition for the lessons about proper behavior, good decision making and other higher-order skills to sink in and cement into positive behavioral patterns in our children.

Development of the most complex brain skills happens slowly and unfolds uniquely, over time, for each child.

Here are some general tips recommended by the work of speaker and author, Alfie Kohn’s, and his books on unconditional parenting and education.


by Alfie Kohn

  1. Be reflective.
  2. Reconsider your requests.
  3. Stay focused on your long-term goals.
  4. Put your relationship first.
  5. Change how you see not just how you act.
  6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
  7. Be authentic.
  8. Talk less, ask more.
  9. Be mindful of your child’s age.
  10. Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts.
  11. Don’t stick to no’s unnecessarily.
  12. Don’t be rigid.
  13. Don’t be in a hurry.

If you are ready to start your conscious parenting path, click here to start by learning the five BIGGEST communication mistakes parents make (and what to say instead).

I love hearing from you, so leave me a comment below. Share your stories, let me know what conscious parenting tips work for you or post your challenges and find support.

And if you benefited from this article, consider sharing it with a friend!

Related article: Conscious Parenting: Return to Unconditional Parenting

Posted on

Family – How To Teach Your Child To Develop Good Study Skills

You can help your child develop good study skills by encouraging her to become better organized helping her to take better notes, and communicating with her teacher.
In order for children to excel in school, they must develop good study skills. Parents can do much to thankful kidsencourage their child to become more organized and more proficient in their academic work. If you help your child develop good study skills when they are young, those skills should help them through the rest of their academic career.

Parents should start instilling good study habits with their children as early as elementary school, and there are several things that you can do to help your child become a better student. One of the most important steps you can take is to help your child develop a good study schedule.

Some children like to come straight home, do their homework, and then play. Other children, especially those who are learning disabled, may need a break between their school day and homework. This is perfectly acceptable as long as you do not let them put off their school work until almost bedtime, when they will be tired and are likely to do lesser quality work.

Children who have attention deficit disorders may need to work on their homework in short increments of time. If your child has a learning disability, you may want to let her work on one assignment for about fifteen or twenty minutes, then let her move on to something else. She can come back and finish after a short break.

Be sure that you have a specific place set aside for your child to do her homework. It should be free from distractions such as the television, computer, video games, etc. Although your child may have a desk in her room, if she is younger, she may benefit more from working near you. If she is in the kitchen, dining room, or living room, you can easily check to see that she is remaining on task and give her help when she needs it.

Once you have established a routine and place for her to work, you need to help her get organized. Teachers will typically assign what type of notebook and other school supplies they want their students to have. It is very important that you initiate communication with your child’s teacher as soon as possible. Many teachers will willingly give their school e-mail address, and this is an excellent way for you to stay in contact.

If your teacher has not assigned a specific system of organization that she prefers, you will need to help your child develop one of her own. Make sure she has a notebook with pocket dividers. If she has several classes, she may want to have two or three notebooks that she can divide into classes. The pocket dividers will give her a place to put any handouts she may receive. Check her notebook periodically to see what work she is doing.

If your child is having trouble completing assignments, you can make a simple check sheet that lists such things as “homework assigned today”; “no homework today”; “study for test”, etc. Leave a line beside each notation, and ask your child’s teacher to check off anything that might pertain to your child for that day. Be sure and check the assignment sheet every day. If your child knows you will hold her accountable, she will learn to be more responsible.

Your child needs to develop good note-taking skills. Help her learn how to find the main point and supporting details of textbook chapters. Show her how to list the chapter and section names of her textbook, and then have her summarize each section in her own words. You can help her study by asking her to tell you key points from each section or from her study sheets. If she can’t answer it the first time, have her look over it again, and then quiz her.

Finally, encourage your child every step of the way. Not every student is an “A” student, but you should let your child know that you are proud of her if she is doing her best work.

Posted on Leave a comment

Should You Give Kids Rewards?

rewards-for-kids-01As parents, we’ve all been there before: maybe it’s potty training or trying to get your child dressed in time for school. Perhaps you’ve offered a little treat—a sticker, a cookie or a trinket—for motivation. But what’s an appropriate reward? And are we raising little Connors and Maddies with a sense of entitlement?

While motivating children with incentives of money, toys or even a special activity can be very effective, some experts believe this prevents youngsters from developing their own sense of responsibility. Alfie Kohn, author of “Punished by Rewards,” believes that giving incentives—even nonmaterial ones—only serves to control youngsters. “While dangling extra TV, ice cream or story time in front of a child asks less of us,” Kohn says, “it can never get anything more than temporary obedience—and it buys even that at terrific cost.”

But not all experts agree. According to Dr. Virginia Shiller, a psychologist and instructor at the Yale Child Study Center and coauthor of the book Rewards for Kids, rewards can help parents teach their children new habits. Shiller says the key is in how the incentives are given; in setting appropriate, realistic goals; and in figuring out a strategy to achieve them. “I was inspired to write this book by my own parenting experience, and I’m happy to say my sons—now in their late 20s—are very responsible people,” says Shiller. “This is not purely behavioral modification. I’m much bigger on using it as a learning opportunity.”

Whether or not to offer rewards is a personal decision. Here are some tips to help your family:

>> How to Use Rewards Effectively

  • Kids can begin to understand the concept of a reward around age three. Developmental age is just as important as chronological age. The main thing is that toddlers are past the stage in which they are locked into oppositional battles (“No! I don’t want ice cream!”).
  • Make rewards fairly immediate. Younger kids may need more immediate goals, while older kids can understand working toward longer-term rewards. Incentives can be small, and they don’t need to be money or a toy. Even a trip to the library or park can be a treat.
  • Use charts. A sticker can visually remind young children of their achievements. Or have fun and draw a scene and add stickers of trucks or animals to it.
  • Set realistic, specific goals. Don’t try to change too many things at once. If you try to work on getting to school on time, being nice to siblings and cleaning up toys all at once, that’s too much. It’s better to target just one or two actions in a particular chart.
  • Help your children reach their goals. Work with them to figure out how they’re going to achieve their goals. “If it’s a chart about getting out of the house in the morning, and they think, ‘I could find my shoes in the evening instead of a last-minute search for shoes,’ then they’re actually learning a strategy,” says Shiller. And don’t forget to take the opportunity to praise your child!

>> The Dangers of Rewards

  • Leads to nagging. With a rewards system, the burden often falls on the parent to remind kids to do the necessary tasks. “After the first couple of weeks, it doesn’t work very well,” says Christine Carter, author of “Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents.” “If you are in this bribe, threat, nag cycle, then it’s not working. And the kids know it’s not working.”
  • Could prevent children from developing a sense of doing the right thing.” Psychologists refer to intrinsic motivation as the desire to do something based on enjoyment of the action itself, rather than on achieving an outcome or reward. “The type of reward doesn’t much matter,” says Kohn. “The problem is with the whole idea of carrot-and-stick control. More than 75 studies have shown that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are not just different; they tend to be inversely related.”

>> If rewards are not working for your family, be flexible!

  • Make sure theres not an underlying issue. For example, if your child has a strong resistance to going to school, you may want to look into whether there is an underlying problem, such as bullying or an undiagnosed learning problem.
  • Rethink your requests. Are the tasks you’re asking of your child age-appropriate and beneficial? If they are, instead of trying to entice your child into doing things, spend time explaining the value of those actions. “First, we let kids know what’s important to us and why,” says Kohn. “Second, we engage children’s minds, helping them to reflect on—indeed, to wrestle with—moral questions.”
  • Have a family meeting. If you have been using a rewards system and decide it’s not right for your family, hold a family meeting and explain to your kids that things can work differently around the house. “Know that they’re going to resist and it’s going to be horrible for a couple of weeks,” says Carter. “But if you’re consistent, eventually they will feel much more in touch with their own personal power and how much they contribute.”
Posted on Leave a comment

Does Homework Really Work?

After decades spent trying to assess the value of homework, researchers still argue over the simplest findings


You know the drill. It’s 10:15 p.m., and the cardboard-and-toothpick Golden Gate Bridge is collapsing. The pages of polynomials have been abandoned. The paper on the Battle of Waterloo seems to have frozen in time with Napoleon lingering eternally over his breakfast at Le Caillou. Then come the tears and tantrums — while we parents wonder, Does the gain merit all this pain?

However the drama unfolds night after night, year after year, most parents hold on to the hope that homework (after soccer games, dinner, flute practice, and, oh yes, that childhood pastime of yore known as playing) advances their children academically.

But what does homework really do for kids? Is the forest’s worth of book reports and math and spelling sheets the average American student completes in her 12 years of primary schooling making a difference? Or is it just busywork?

Homework Haterz

Whether or not homework helps, or even hurts, depends on who you ask. If you ask my 12-year-old son, Sam, he’ll say, “Homework doesn’t help anything. It makes kids stressed-out and tired and makes them hate school more.”

Nothing more than common kid bellyaching?

Maybe, but in the fractious field of homework studies, it’s worth noting that Sam’s sentiments nicely synopsize one side of the ivory tower debate. Books like The End of Homework, The Homework Mythand The Case Against Homework and the film Race to Nowhere make the case that homework, by taking away precious family time and putting kids under unneeded pressure, is an ineffective way to help children become better learners and thinkers.

One Canadian couple recently took their homework apostasy all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. After arguing that there was no evidence that it improved academic performance, they won aruling that exempted their two children from all homework.

So what’s the real relationship between homework and academic achievement?

From the Homework Laboratories

The good news: In an effort to answer this question, researchers have been doing their homework on homework, conducting hundreds of studies over the past several decades. The bad news? Despite scores of studies, definitive conclusions remain a matter of some debate.

“A few studies can always be found to buttress whatever position is desired, while the counter-evidence is ignored,” writes the nation’s top homework scholar, Harris Cooper, in his 2006 homework meta-study at Duke University’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.

How Much is too Much?

If you’re not ready to make a national case out of your child’s nightly worksheets, it’s worth knowing that she may be complaining for good reason. For better or worse, homework is on the rise in the United States. A survey done through the University of Michigan found that by the 2002-’03 school year, students ages 6 to 17 were doing twice as much homework as in 1981-’82. The homework ante has been upped as school administrators respond to increasing pressure for their students to perform better on state-mandated tests.

So how can you know if your child is doing the right amount? Who came up with that 10-minutes-per-grade rule that’s become the accepted norm? (And if that is the magic number, why is my neighbor’s 8-year-old daughter doing two-plus hours a night?)

The oft-bandied rule on homework quantity — 10 minutes a night per grade (starting from between 10 to 20 minutes in first grade) — is ubiquitous. Indeed, go to the National Education Association’s website or the national Parent Teacher Association’s website, and 10 minutes per grade is the recommended amount for first through 12th grade.

But where did it come from? “The source [of that figure] was a teacher who walked up to me after a workshop I did about 25 years ago,” says Cooper. “I’d put up a chart showing middle school kids who reported doing an hour to an hour and a half were doing just as well as high schoolers doing two hours a night. The teacher said, ‘That sounds like the 10-minute rule.’” He adds with a laugh, “I stole the idea.”

If you think your child is doing too much homework, Cooper recommends talking with her teacher. “Often there is a miscommunication about the goals of homework assignments,” he says. “What appears to be problematic for kids, why they are doing an assignment, can be cleared up with a conversation.” Also, Cooper suggests taking a careful look at how your child is doing her assignments. It may seem like they’re taking two hours, but maybe she’s wandering off frequently to get a snack or listening to her iPod.

Less is Often More

If your child is dutifully doing her work but still burning the midnight oil, it’s worth intervening to make sure she gets enough sleep. Recent studies suggest that proper sleep may be far more essential to brain and body development.

In fact, for elementary school-age children, there is no measureable academic advantage to homework. For middle-schoolers, there is a direct correlation between homework and achievement if assignments last between one to two hours per night. After two hours, however, achievement doesn’t improve. For high schoolers, two hours appears optimal. As with middle-schoolers, give teens more than two hours a night, and academic success flatlines.

Not all Homework is Created Equal

Just as revealing, it appears that grade level has a direct impact on homework’s effectiveness.

In a previous meta-study conducted in 1989, Cooper’s team at Duke University found that grade level heavily influences how much homework helps with academic advancement (as measured by standardized and class test scores.) It appears middle- and high schoolers have much to gain academically by doing their homework. The average high school student doing homework outperformed 69% of the students in a class with no homework. Homework in middle school was half as effective. In elementary school, there is no measurable correlation between homework and achievement.

Despite all the research, homework remains something of a mystery. Until Cooper and other researchers discover the best homework practices at every stage of a student’s development, parents will need to use their own best judgment.