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Top Five Concerns for Back to School

By Elisabeth Wilkins, Empowering Parents Editor

Top Five Concerns for Back to School

Last month, we invited readers to email us with their “Number One Concern” for their child in the upcoming school year. Our 1-on-1 Coaching staff responded to each inquiry with suggestions based on the Total Transformation and Total Focus Programs.

Overwhelmingly, the top concern was unmotivated children (Thus, our lead article this month.)

What’s on the minds of parents as the school year approaches and kicks off? 

1. Unmotivated children.

2. Paying attention and behaving in class.

3. How to get kids out of bed in the morning.

4. Homework problems: teaching kids to bring it home, do it, hand it in on time and not hate it.

5. Bullying behavior, from both sides of the fence.

Grace, one of our 1-on-1 Coaching Specialists, had these suggestions for a reader who’s concerned about her son’s classroom behavior and his ongoing refusal to bring home assignments and do homework:

We are so often presented with issues surrounding school, homework and academic performance, and we understand how this can become a family struggle.

"The goal is to work with the child where they are and move forward."

The Total Transformation Program teaches that in an “Environment of Accountability” everyone has a job.Your child’s job is to go to school and make grades.The household privileges the child enjoys is their “pay” for doing their job. The ability to enjoy television time, time playing with friends, games or other things is dependent upon them performing their “job” on a day-to-day basis.

If you must use loss of privilege as a consequence for failing to meet the goal on a particular day, make the consequence for that day only. Incorporate development of a strategy for doing and turning in homework. Have the child make a commitment to use the strategy the next day, and make that part of the plan. In this regard, you become your child’s “coach” in learning how to be more successful at this and their “cheerleader” when they succeed. 

If you know that your son is capable of performing at a higher level academically, we have to look at setting up an organizational plan for the upcoming school year. This may require your and his teachers’ involvement as well as setting up a reward system. This may feel a bit juvenile to you, but remember that it is a temporary thing and you are simply coaching and supporting your son in achieving goals.

It may be helpful for you to have a sign-off sheet that his teacher can quickly initial when your son hands in homework. If you are able to track homework sent home and homework passed in and are willing to follow up with your son every day, you can provide a reward for a certain number of check marks or initials, indicating his successful follow through. Discuss in advance a reward that is reasonable to you and one that your son is willing to work toward. 

Very often we have to modify, re-evaluate and reassess goals, and that's okay. The goal is to work with the child where they are and move forward. Sometimes kids are able to make leaps and gains quickly; other times we may find that we have to exercise every bit of patience and consistency that we have as parents to help the child even make a baby step. Be gentle with yourself and remember that the 1-on-1 Coaching is always available for you as you go through this process to help you get the most of The Total Transformation Program.

In response to one parent’s question on getting her child out of bed in the morning, 1-on-1 Coaching Specialist Kathy offered this advice:

Part of the solution for making early mornings stress-free starts the night before. Using the Total Transformation approach of "Consequences," preparation can be made the night before to avoid lots of last minute decisions…In other words, clothes laid out, breakfast choices made, etc. These tasks could be done the night before, prior to watching TV, going online, etc. are allowed.

The same businesslike approach can be used for waking up in the morning. That is, during a family meeting, inform the child what should be arranged the night before (see above.) In the same way, getting up when the alarm rings should be followed by a privilege somewhere during that day. An example might be:  If your child gets up when the alarm rings, they can have breakfast made for them, rather than making their own…OR they can expect to get a ride to school instead of taking the bus. If these scenarios are not practical, how about a privilege such as letting your child go online for 5 minutes before school if he or she gets up when the alarm rings?

Remember, though, it’s not so much about the perfect consequence. It’s about ending the power struggle. And the more businesslike you are in the morning (even though that’s tough!) the better role model you’ll be for starting the day off in a more positive way.

Our 1-on-1 Coaching Specialist Tina had this suggestion for the parent of a teenager who won’t get up in the morning: 

The Total Transformation Program teaches that a good place to start would be to sit down with your son and identify any behaviors or situations that interfere with his success.  For example, is he sending text messages to his friends all night? Identifying obstacles will not only help your child, but allow you to set up limits as needed.  Encourage him to avoid certain pitfalls and help him devise a strategy that will work better.  For instance, you can say, “Since texting your friends all night seems to make it hard for you to get up in the morning, no texting past 10pm.”  Make sure that you let your child know it is his responsibility to get up on time for his job and don't get discouraged if you don't achieve success right away.  It usually takes repeating the process of coming up with a plan, putting it to use and then looking at what might need to change for the next time around. 

To a parent who is worried about her son being bullied again this year in elementary school, Don, our Director of Quality Assurance wrote: 

It’s going to be important to review this problem with the school. When you do, get a contact or resource person that your son can use to help him at school when he is encountering this problem. The Total Transformation Program would encourage you to teach him a specific method for walking away from the kids who are bullying him and getting help with this from his teachers. This is a strategy that may need to be practiced several times at home and with his resource person at school before he’ll become comfortable implementing it himself.

One other thing that you’ll need to teach him is that just because the other kids are saying hurtful things, it doesn’t make them true. You’ll need to reinforce those qualities about him that make him unique and special so that he has a strong enough ego to withstand these hurtful, mean encounters with other children. It is important that he sees that he has a way out of these situations so that he doesn’t shut down. It is important that you praise and reward him when he handles these situations appropriately. 

On the flip side of this issue, we heard from parents who want help with teaching their children not to bully other kids for the sake of being “popular.” Kathy had this practical advice:

Parents can make “Family Rules” about most subjects, and this could apply to cliques and bullying. Parents might think about what their values are in terms of being kind to others. Is it as important to you as other issues in your family, such as housework, being polite, etc.?  If so, you might tell your children how you feel. You might even have consequences if you find out they have been unkind to others. 

You could be “business-like” about this issue. In other words, you could say something like:  “We all want to be popular. However, in this family we want to value some things as being more important than popularity. That means we won’t allow bullying or being friends with people who do bully. If you feel pressure to do it, come to us and we’ll find an alternative response for you to use instead of being unkind.”

In addition to these most common themes, Carole, the Manager of the 1-on-1 Coaching, answered dozens of questions about our readers' individual concerns, ranging from conflicting parenting styles to advocating for your child in the school system. Thanks to all our subscribers who emailed us with questions. We'll be offering more of these interactive features in future issues. We wish you and your child success in the upcoming school year. 

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About Elisabeth Wilkins, Empowering Parents Editor

Elisabeth Wilkins is the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of one son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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