Slipping Down the Summer Slide – Summer Learning Loss

For school-age children, summer has a special charm – it means a two-months-long break with no schoolwork! Of course, what children don’t realize is the negative effect a break of this length can have on them in the long run.

The phenomenon called “summer slide” is being talked about more and more now, and for good reason. What actually occurs for children during summer break is summer learning loss – they forget what they learned during the school year and lose learning habits, so once they’re back in school, it takes weeks, or even months, to get back on track.

Summer learning loss is not the same for every child or evident in every subject. It’s been shown that  the loss is greatest in mathematics and that the most affected element is computation. Spelling is also greatly impacted. Therefore, children will most likely suffer more in the areas of factual and procedural knowledge than in conceptual understanding. Also, as children get older, the effect of the summer loss is more evident [1]. We tend to think older children and teenagers can “fight” the effects of  the summer slide on their own, yet without guidance and help there is a huge loss during the summer break, especially as they begin to build up more resistance towards advice from adults.

Summer learning loss is not the same for every child or evident in every subject. It is proven the loss is greatest in mathematics and that the most affected element is computation. Spelling is also greatly impacted. Therefore, children will most likely suffer more in the areas of factual and procedural knowledge than in conceptual understanding. Also, as children get older, the effect of the summer loss is more evident [1]. We think older children and teenagers can “fight” effects of the summer slide on their own, yet without guidance and help there is a huge loss during the summer time, especially as they begin to build up more resistance towards the advice of the adults.

Learning is a continuous process and every interruption can affect it and slow it down. That is why among the solutions that scientists and educators offer is having the school year extended to be year round. The debate as to the efficacy of this idea is ongoing, but clearly the summer break does provide time for children to learn new things. Professor Peter Grey says: “So, take away summer, and we will produce lots of graduates who know how to do calculations but have no idea why anyone would do them other than to pass a test” [2].

So how can you help your child avoid summer learning loss, and maybe even establish better use for the knowledge gained at school by combining it with new things? We’re here to offer you some practical advice on how to prevent your child “sliding down” this summer.

 

How to “fight” the summer slide

One study showed that something as simple as text-messaging interventions to parents over the summer break can help with the summer slide. Parents were sent texts with signals (information about summer learning loss), and ideas and tips for working over the summer with their children. Results showed these interventions had a positive effect on third and fourth graders [3]. This suggests that with simple, low-cost effort from both school and parents, summer slide can be prevented.

Yet you don’t need the school SMS reminders and ideas to remember to help your children. If you want to help them study and not lose needed skills during the break, be there for them and come up with fun activities you can do together or separately, while also leaving time for them to have fun on their own.

Make a calendar As seen in the above study, having a reminder and set ideas is half of the work. Try to make working with your child as structured as possible – Monday can be for a new vocabulary word, Tuesday, a real-life practical math challenge, Wednesday can be for reading along, etc. This will simplify the work, save your time and make it routine.

School and community programs: School programs are usually every parent’s first idea, so spots tend to fill up really quickly. That is why we advise you to look around your community and different community centers for various fun programs your child can participate in. There is a wide spectrum of Boy and Girl Scouts activities, youth-at-risk programs, athletics, environmental projects, volunteer programs, etc [4]. While some of them have a lower “study” component than others – like volunteering – they can certainly help your child build up work habits, learn some new, fun activity and stay engaged. While scouting or volunteering, your child can use the school-free time for acquiring some valuable life knowledge that can help them a great deal in the future.

Importance of reading: The summer is a perfect time to visit your local library with your child! Together, you can make a summer reading list – the child can select books that seem interesting, and you can add in some that you find worthwhile. On top of that, encourage your children, especially younger ones, to constantly read something – even the newspaper, food recipes, and TV guides are valuable! The goal is to read often, and also to read aloud as much as possible [5].

Be there for your child: As mentioned, parent help is incredibly valuable in preventing summer slide. That’s why you should first encourage your child to make a summer journal of things they learn every day. This way you can follow their journey and see how it works, and they can track their success as well, getting even more motivated to continue. When designing a reading program, be sure to choose books to read together. Make everyday activities you do together into a learning process – while driving, you can ask them about colors and shapes and patterns [6], and if the child is older, you can practice a bit of orientation or geography along the way. The key is to follow their progress, see what they lack in their summer program and make it all as fun as possible.

Finding help in coaching: Most parents have very busy agendas and have summer schedule conflicts, so they can’t afford to spend more time during the break to study with their child. This is completely fine, since you can always find someone who can work with them. We can offer you one of our Coaches who have great experience in working with children – you can arrange sessions for your child, and they’ll work on fighting the summer-slide problem! While you should still be there for your child and help them as much as possible, coaching is a great supplement!

 

Summer camps against the slide

One of the more effective and beneficial summer-slide fighters is clearly the summer camp. Through participation in the camp, a child gains new knowledge, meets new friends, enjoys a new environment, and doesn’t suffer significant learning loss, since they’re still exercising their brain and practicing learning habits.

Among the most popular and useful camps are STEM camps, where children can combine their school learning with practical applications and master future-ready skills.

We have created the Nobel Explorers program of online STEM camps, which can be most beneficial in fighting summer slide. International groups of students work together on a variety of interesting and useful projects, combining what they’ve learned in school along with practical and fun knowledge that they won’t find at their desks. There are different types of camps for different ages, so some of the older children might enjoy a camp about start-ups, while younger ones are certainly going to take pleasure in building logic machines in Minecraft.

What is also unique is that our program puts emphasis on soft skills as well, because these are as important for the growth of your children as the STEM aspects. And as the students come from all over the world, the child will have an exceptional opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and make new friends from different cultures. Our programs are affordable for everyone and easily available online, so your child can participate even while on vacation.

With all these options, no one can convince us that the summer break is a waste of time! You have time to make the most out of August, even practice these things when the school year starts. Finally, keep it all in mind for the next summer, set a reminder for the next May, and plan your student’s summer slide prevention activities in time to make it as useful and as fun as possible.

 

[1] Kerry, T., & Davies, B. (1998). Summer learning loss: The evidence and a possible solution. Support for Learning, 13(3), 118-122.

[2]  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201707/facts-and-fiction-about-the-so-called-summer-slide

[3] Kraft MA, Monti-Nussbaum M. Can schools enable parents to prevent summer learning loss? A text messaging field experiment to promote literacy skills. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science [Internet]. 2017;674 (1) :85-112.

[4] Kerry, T., & Davies, B. (1998). Summer learning loss: The evidence and a possible solution. Support for Learning, 13(3), 118-122.

[5] https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/reading-resources/developing-reading-skills/three-ways-to-prevent-summer-slide.html

[6]  https://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/ask-dr-lynch/preventing-summer-slide.shtml

 

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How Can Pets Benefit Children’s Development?

We can all agree that most children love animals and find them to be lots of fun. Having a pet can enrich their young lives and provide them with a playmate they can enjoy whenever they like. Parents usually acquire pets for children to teach them some important values and lessons about responsibility, to love and care for other beings, and to help them develop companionship. As a matter of fact, households that have children are more likely to have pets, when compared to households without children. In the United States, in a survey that included families with young children, 76% were pet owners [1].

Did you know: Even Freud was interested in children’s relationships with animals after seeing their fascination with them. He noted that animals appeared frequently in the dreams of children, and he interpreted the animals as representations of powerful adults, such as parents, who were too threatening for the child to show up in their dreams [1].

But it’s not simply the ownership of a pet that is beneficial to children. What is crucial is their daily involvement in caring for and playing with a family pet, which can often vary as children become older and develop more substantial relationships with their peers. If a child is not especially fond of or interested in, let’s say, a pet fish they have at home, it’s hard to expect they will benefit from this kind of relationship in any way (such as cognitive, socio-emotional, or other).

That’s why it’s important to recognize that attachment to pets may have a much more beneficial effect on the development of children than mere ownership [2]. Some pets offer assistance, comfort, and protection, so children can sometimes view them as important as the people in their lives. Pets are especially valuable at those times when children have disrupted relationships with their parents or siblings (caused, for example, by divorce), when they can, in a way, assume the caregiver’s role. In this special kind of relationship, pets have the potential to promote healthy development of children in many different ways, which we’ll discuss next.

Cognitive Benefits

Motivation for learning. Some authors believe pets can even stimulate children’s cognitive growth through curiosity and learning. They are powerful motivators for learning because the children are emotionally connected to them [4]. For example, kids are more interested to learn about animal nutrition and health if that would mean knowing more about and understanding their own pet better.

Language. Pets may facilitate language learning in children because they serve as recipients of children’s babble, or their praise, encouragement, and punishment [3]. Also, pets are frequently the subject of children’s conversations with peers or parents, which can stimulate the development of their vocabulary as they try to come up with words to describe what the pet is doing [3].

Moral code. There’s also the argument that attachment to pets can help develop and foster children’s moral development, as they begin to reason what is morally “right” or “wrong” with respect to animals and their feelings and rights. In other words, they start to think about complex concepts such as justice, fairness, etc. [2].

Socio-Emotional Benefits

Responsibility. Pets are usually a lot of work, so parents should make sure that they don’t assume the bulk of the responsibility themselves, but rather give the children the responsibility of daily care. This teaches important lessons and can help them learn to manage their other commitments (e.g. finishing school tasks or household chores) in order to have time to take care of their pet. It boosts their accountability and leads them to feel more competent, as they learn that they are able to take care of another living creature without the help of the parent.

– Social competence. Pets are great catalysts for making new friends. Walking a dog in the park and meeting other children with pets, or showing their classmates their new pet turtle, can lead to making new friends or enhancing existing relationships. Psychologists believe that bonding with a pet “encourages healthy social development in terms of social competence, social networks, social interactions, social communication, empathy, and social play behavior, leading to higher age-adjusted developmental scores” [3].

Self-esteem. Children’s self-esteem tends to fluctuate, especially as they reach adolescence. Having a pet companion in this period of great turbulence can mean having an emotional and nonjudgmental support in whom they can confide, and who can make them feel less lonely and socially isolated. Research has shown that children who grew up with pets had higher levels of self-esteem and became more socially competent as adults than children who didn’t have a companion pet in their childhood [3].

Empathy and experience of loss. Children are usually the ones that are being taken care of by adults. Having a pet makes them a caretaker themselves. Feeding, grooming, and taking their pet for walks teaches them to recognize the importance of tending to the needs and desires of others. This can improve their self-awareness because children are able to better understand why they feel a certain way (e.g. they can realize that they, too, are pretty nervous and irritated when they haven’t eaten in a while). This way, they develop sensitivity for the feelings of others and non-verbal cues and learn about empathy first hand. What can be an especially valuable experience to young children is having to cope with their pet getting lost or dying. Experiencing the loss of a pet can help them cope with this kind of stress in the future as adults.

Benefits for Physical Activity

– Anything that can ensure children are not glued to the television set, computer, or their phones is welcome nowadays. Some research has indicated that children who own a dog are generally more physically active and are at lower risk of being overweight or obese than children who don’t own a pet. In other words, having a dog can facilitate active play and contribute to children being more physically active (e.g. talking the dog for a walk) [5].

A Few Guidelines for Parents

– Choosing the right pet for your children is very important. As we have already established, it’s not ownership of a pet that matters, it’s the attachment and connection we make to a pet that brings us the benefits of such a relationship. The most obvious choice is to get a dog or a cat, but there are other options to choose from. You should talk to your children and see what kind of animals they especially like, because that would raise the probability of their connecting to the pet and not getting bored with them after a few months.

– Some children, usually very young ones, aren’t mature enough to control their aggressive impulses, so you should monitor their play from time to time to check whether they are behaving appropriately towards pets.

– Young children will also need some growing up to do in order to take care of a large animal, such as a cat or a dog completely on their own. You should, of course, serve as a role model and show them how to properly do all the necessary things regarding taking care of a pet.

 Whether you already have a pet, or you intend to get one, make sure your children treat them the right way and that they have a loving relationship, so that they can reap all the benefits we discussed.

 References:

  1. Melson, G. F., & Fine, A. H. (2015). Animals in the lives of children. In Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy (Fourth Edition) (pp. 179-194).
  2. Hawkins, R. D., & Williams, J. M. (2017). Childhood attachment to pets: associations between pet attachment, attitudes to animals, compassion, and humane behavior. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(5), 490.
  3. Purewal, R., Christley, R., Kordas, K., Joinson, C., Meints, K., Gee, N., & Westgarth, C. (2017). Companion animals and child/adolescent development: a systematic review of the evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(3), 234.
  4. Melson, G. F. (2003). Child development and the human-companion animal bond. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(1), 31-39.
  5. Martin, K. E., Wood, L., Christian, H., & Trapp, G. S. (2015). Not just “A Walking the Dog”: Dog walking and pet play and their association with recommended physical activity among adolescents. American Journal of Health Promotion, 29(6), 353-356.

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Talking to Your Child About Tragic Events

You turn on the TV in the morning and the first thing you hear about is another shooting. Unfortunately, this isn’t such a rare occurrence lately.  If you’re a parent, the first thought that comes to mind is probably “How will I explain this to my child” and this thought is even more concerning when you realize that you have to tell them about something we as adults can’t fully grasp ourselves.

When faced with this question, many parents’ first instinct is to shield their children. Turn that TV off, hide the newspapers, even go out somewhere where the chance of hearing bad news is close to zero. This is especially true if you have a young child who still doesn’t have their own way of hearing about what’s going on in the world on a daily basis. But our first instincts are not always right and, in fact, we may be doing more harm than good by shielding our children.

The truth is, in today’s world it’s almost impossible to hide something from your child, no matter how young they are. Sooner or later, they ’ll hear about whatever tragic event you are trying to hide from them, and they won’t know how to make sense of it. Hearing about these events accidentally from strangers will most likely make them feel less safe than if you’d explained what happened and talked with them about it.

It’s also crucial to talk with children about these events because they often occur due to discrimination or hatred towards a particular group of people. In choosing not to tell our children about this, we raise them to be insensitive to many of the problems people face and they’re more likely to dismiss the complaints of minority and discriminated groups, simply because they were never exposed to these challenges themselves. We, instead,  are raising them under a generic umbrella statement parents often use “We are all equal”. Parents usually mean this and want to teach their children about the importance of equality and inclusion. But the consequences of not facing reality can mean that when your child learns about Charlottesville or events similar to this, they react with “But we are all equal” confusion. By talking about events such as Charlottesville or the more recent Florida school shooting, and the motives behind them, we’re teaching our children to be more sensitive to complicated issues, and more conscious about the world they live in. Honest and thought-out conversations are more likely to make our children able to understand morally complex issues than blanket statements that can lose all meaning as soon as something unexpected happens.

Raising more conscious children, together with making them feel as safe as possible when these events occur, is why we should try to fight the urge to turn off the TV and engage in an honest talk with our child instead. Of course, how we approach these topics depends on the children’s age, too. It’s extremely important to discuss such events in an age-appropriate way.

Talking with Younger Children

  1. NEWS OFF, TALK ON

Even though we said you should resist the urge to turn off the TV, if you’re the parent of a younger child, turning off all media outlets isn’t such a bad idea –  but this doesn’t mean you should pretend that nothing tragic ever happens. Constant exposure to news might be too much to handle for your young child and might be too confusing, especially if they hear reports from different sources or if investigations are ongoing. Instead of having the news running, sit down with your child and tell them what happened. There’s no need to be too graphic, but try not to beat around the bush when it comes to the more difficult parts of the story. There might be a need to explain the concept of death in these situations. Explain it.

  1. LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY

If you weren’t with your child when they first heard the news, ask them what they heard and what that means to them, and listen to everything they have to say without interrupting them. This will help you realize how your child is processing the event and give you guidelines on what to talk about with them. Don’t hesitate to try to explain the motives behind some of these crimes in a language they’ll understand, especially if they ask why somebody committed them. But, since these events are usually hard to grasp even for adults, don’t feel like you need to give an answer to every question. If you don’t know something, it’s okay to say that you don’t know it. Even if your child is young, they might surprise you by how much they actually understand about the world.

  1. SHARE YOUR FEELINGS

Parents usually don’t want their children to see them as vulnerable, but it’s important to show children that these events are upsetting to adults as well. By sharing our feelings, we also validate their own feelings and give them a chance to see that we can carry on even if we feel upset and these events make us worry. Talk with your child about how they feel and make sure that they know you understand and acknowledge their feelings.

  1. REASSURE

When these tragic events happen, as well as considering how to shield our children from the news, we also think about how to reassure them if they do hear about them. Reassuring is actually an important part of talking about these things. Make sure that your child knows that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe, that they know you are there for them and that they are loved. In the end, it always boils down to this.

Talking with Teens

All the tips above apply equally to talking with your teen, but there are also some specific things you can cover when talking with adolescents about tragic events, especially those involving their peers, such as the school shootings.

  1. DISCUSS THE EVENT ONLY IF THEY WANT TO

Instead of pushing your teen to talk about a certain event right then and there, give them some time to process it and let them come to you when they’re ready to talk about it. If they never want to talk about it, that’s fine, too. They might have their own ways of coping with it or the event didn’t affect them as much as you thought it did.

Make sure they know you’re available to discuss the event and all that it entails with them, and that you won’t judge them no matter how they feel or think about it. Also, don’t treat them like children. Of course, you should be mindful of their age, but don’t try to shield them from everything and don’t shy away from complicated topics. They probably already read a lot about it in the media, and it’s much better they talk it over with you than to read comments on the Internet.

If you see that they want to learn more about a certain issue or event, try to find some books they could read that cover a similar issue. You can even read them together and discuss them.

 

  1. ENCOURAGE THEM TO TAKE ACTION IF THEY WANT TO

If you notice that your teen wants to do something about what happened, be sure to let them know that there are things they can do and that they shouldn’t feel like they can’t help or that the situation is beyond help and hopeless. You can encourage them to go online and find causes they can volunteer for, or think about what they like doing and try to figure out how that can be used to help the cause. For instance, if your teen likes writing and wants to stop gun violence, you can encourage them to learn more about it and write a blog, or get their friends to work on the blog together. If they enjoy drawing and/or graphic design, they could help various organizations create slogans and leaflets. And if they’re more interested in the tech side of things, they could even work on an app that would show where organizations that help prevent gun violence are located or who to contact if you need help. The options are endless!

In March, 17 people were killed in a Florida high school and many students wanted to do something about it, so a National School Walkout was organized and students went to the streets to protest gun violence. If your child wants to participate in a peaceful protest like this one and you think they’re mature enough to do it, don’t be afraid to let them fight for their rights. They can only become responsible citizens if they are aware of the world around them and aware of the fact that they count and can help make changes.

Last but not least, and this applies to children of all ages, be sure to keep track of how they are behaving. If you see that they are more agitated than they used to be or can’t sleep well, talk to them about it. If they are quiet and withdrawn, try to find out how they feel and if there is something they’d like to share. It is normal that their behavior is unusual when something tragic happens, but it is of extreme importance to make sure that they don’t feel alone or scared and that they feel protected. And if you think your child took it pretty hard and you don’t know how to handle it, don’t hesitate to contact a professional who will know how best to guide your child to overcome their challenge.

 

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Raising an Honest Child

Honesty is something children learn and develop during their early years. All children lie at some point in childhood, so it’s important for parents to learn to distinguish between different kinds of lies and understand that there are different reasons why children lie. Not all lies are equally bad or have the same consequences. Parents play an important role in guiding and directing this kind of behavior, so they need to be well equipped and familiarized with the issue in order to act appropriately and help their children be more consistently honest.

Why Do Kids Lie?

There are numerous reasons why a child would tell a lie in a social situation. It may be to avoid or escape imminent punishment (“I didn’t break the vase!”), or to obtain material benefits (“I ate my soup, can I have a dessert now?”) [1]. It may be that they’re not honest for an entirely different reason – they lie to get out of doing something they don’t want to do (e.g. homework), or because they’re just mirroring what adults around them are doing, or perhaps they’re not old enough to know the difference between truth and a lie. Furthermore, children with low self-esteem may lie to impress others in order to feel more secure about themselves, or in general, to get attention.

Learning the Difference Between Lies

In the first few years of life, children may indicate or say things that aren’t true. These should not be taken as lies, but rather as mistakes, since the child does not yet fully understand the difference between what is the truth and what is not. Their “lies” can be seen as a product of their not differentiating fantasy or wishful thinking from reality. Lying in early childhood is related to adaptive cognitive and social functioning – so it’s pretty normal for young kids to lie – but it can become a problem behavior as they reach late childhood and adolescence [1].

When a child’s brain develops enough to distinguish imagination from reality, they start to use lies purposefully in order to obtain different goals. Researchers have found that children’s lying progresses through three levels [1,2]:

  1. Primary lies begin at 2-3 years of age when children learn to deliberately make untrue statements. These falsehoods are not that frequent and are usually told to avoid getting into trouble after violating a rule. Such early falsehoods may be a rudimentary form of intentional verbal deception, but children more often than not confess their transgression when asked about it by adults.
  2. Secondary lies reflect a significant shift that takes place between 3 and 4 years of age. During this period, the majority of children will readily tell a lie to conceal their own transgression but are not yet completely capable of making a lie consistent. Their deception is usually easily detected by adults. At this age, children also start to lie to be polite, to benefit someone else, etc.
  3. Tertiary lies emerge around 7 to 8 years of age. Children’s lies become more sophisticated and well controlled, and they seem more plausible. A child will tell a lie and make sure their subsequent statements don’t contradict the initial lie, which makes it difficult for other people to tell the difference between the lie and the truth.

As we can see, lying by using deception to avoid negative consequences, such as punishment, develops prior to the ability to lie in a socially appropriate and effective way [1]. There is an important difference to bear in mind between the two [1]:

  1. Antisocial lies, or “self-serving” lies, are motivated by self-interest and are used to avoid punishment, or even to harm others. Their occurrence at an early age is important because it shows that children are able to grasp that their deeds and thoughts are not evident to others. In other words, antisocial lies imply that a child has developed a sense of self and has a rudimentary understanding of the mental states of others (e.g., Mom will be angry if she knows I did something wrong).
  2. Prosocial lies, more often called “white lies”, are positively and socially motivated and are told without malicious intent. For example, children can lie about enjoying a meal their friend’s parents have made, because they don’t want to hurt their feelings. Knowing when to tell a white lie is an important skill in life. There are situations where it’s not OK to simply tell the truth because it can unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings. Of course, this doesn’t mean people should always lie to avoid hurting someone.

Parents need to take into account circumstances that lead to children’s dishonesty so that they can properly respond to these kinds of behavior. Lying to gain some benefit is not the same as lying to make someone feel better. If the lies are well intended and are prosocial, there’s not much a parent should do, except try to show the child that there are other responses that are both kind and truthful. This can be done by modeling their responses to others so the child can see it can be done. These responses are, however, not easy to come up with, so it’s completely OK for parents to sometimes just acknowledge the prosocial lie and thank the child for trying to make them or others feel better.

On the other hand, when faced with more serious lies on a regular basis, parents need to act and correct this kind of behavior in their child.

What Can Parents Do About Lying?

Point out the lie. If a young child is making up stories and telling tales that are obviously not true, try pointing out this behavior and ask them to try and tell the story again. They must learn that other people can tell if they’re being dishonest, and that they can’t get away with lying without anyone noticing [3].

Teach them that truth always finds a way. Explain to them that lies are difficult to hide, as they will eventually come out in the open. This can often be seen as a take-away message in cartoons, movies, books, etc. and when that happens, be quick to point out that lying didn’t quite turn out be useful in the end.

Introduce some consequences for lying. For example, if a child lied about not having any homework and went out to play, and you find out they actually did have homework, you should let them know there will be repercussions for this behavior, and make sure they sit down and do all the required work. On the other hand, it’s crucial that the consequence is something short-lived, that it only serves to remind them that this behavior is not desirable, so they can get back to practicing honesty [3].

Rather than focusing on undesirable behavior, it’s better to focus on encouraging the positive. That’s why we’ll also discuss some ways to encourage honesty in your children.

How to Encourage Honesty

Make them confess a transgression indirectly. Never call your child a liar. To avoid a showdown with your children, rather than asking them directly if they’ve broken the lamp, you should try saying “Look, my lamp got broken”. The idea is not to make them feel accused of the crime and cornered, but instead give them space to come clean about it themselves, without pushing them into it (such as by saying “Did you have anything to do with my lamp being broken?”) [3].

Be a role model. As with any kind of behavior, children learn by watching their parents. If you want your children to be honest, then you have to be honest – with them as well as with others. For example, make them know it’s better to openly say you don’t feel like doing something than coming up with excuses. Children have to feel comfortable talking to you without having to conceal anything, regardless of the consequences, and the only way to accomplish this is for you to be honest with them, too.

Appreciate their honesty. When a child comes clean about doing something wrong, besides telling them there will be consequences, be sure to praise them for their honesty. If a transgression isn’t too serious, you should relieve them of consequences and let them know that’s their reward for being honest. Also, explain to them why it’s important to tell the truth. Friends and family members should trust one another and you can’t build a relationship based on lies.

It’s important to once again acknowledge that all children lie, but some of them do it chronically (and for no reason), which can become a serious problem as they grow up. If your child manifests this kind of negative behavior, you should think about talking to a professional about it. Here at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring we have amazing coaches who can help you define the specific problem and help get your child through it.

References:

  1. Talwar, V., & Crossman, A. (2011). From little white lies to filthy liars: The evolution of honesty and deception in young children. In Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 40, pp. 139-179). JAI.
  2. Talwar, V., & Lee, K. (2008). Social and cognitive correlates of children’s lying behavior. Child development, 79(4), 866-881.
  3. https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-lie/

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Books About Girls

The benefits of reading to children are well known – from their earliest years, it helps improve their language skills, enriches their vocabulary, teaches critical thinking and logic skills, and encourages creativity and a thirst for knowledge. Reading is, therefore, a great parenting activity to bring you closer to your child as they reap its benefits.

Also important, to adults as well as to children, is the way reading and literature can impact our ideas, goals, and moral code. Recently there’s been lively discussion about the importance of representation in media – with good reason.  As sociologist Stewart Hall wrote back in 1973: “the mass media are more and more responsible for providing the basis on which a group constructs an ‘image’ of their lives, meanings, practises and values”[1]. Though he refers here to constructing images of others, it’s safe to say we also construct an image of ourselves through media consumption – and through literature. The image created can be either positive or negative, so with a vulnerable group such as young children, we need to participate and expose them to the best possible role models to help them construct an image of their own identity through positive character representation.

Accordingly, with principles of equality and feminism now in the forefront of public discourse, we need to think how we can raise young girls to grow up confident and with healthy images of themselves. And literature can offer them many examples of characters they might want to emulate – not simply the ‘strong female character’ trope, but diverse girl characters – emotional girls, stubborn girls, shy girls, talented girls, smart girls, imaginative girls.

Books do not have to have female lead characters in order for them to have a positive impact on girls – you can choose from many which feature girls among the protagonists. It’s worth noting that these books are not only good reading material for girls, but for boys as well – they can learn a great deal from these remarkable heroines and enjoy their adventures along with their female friends. Moreover, these stories impart a healthy and varied image of girls, which can teach boys important lessons in valuing and respecting strong and different women in their lives as they grow up.

Here are some of the books that feature those exact types of characters. Consider reading these with your daughter and afterwards engaging in discussion, pointing out positive aspects of the characters, especially their diversity, character growth, and the fact that not only strong-willed girls are mighty girls.

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (ages 8+)

This classic series by Louisa May Alcott seems like a good start to bring your child into the world of literature. For a century and a half, girls have grown up with the four March sisters, and there is a good reason for that. This is not only a coming-of-age story for girls, but a story about four very different girls and their tight-knit sisterhood. The most obvious role model is Josephine ‘Jo’, a strong-willed, wild girl and aspiring writer, who is stubborn and kind at the same time, always putting family and friends first.

Yet the other three sisters should be considered equally valuable models. The eldest, Meg, illustrates the value of maturity and personal growth, as we see her personality transform from a vain lover of luxuries to a down-to-earth, dedicated family girl. Beth, second to youngest, shows how shy, fearful girls can also have a lasting impact on others and change lives; Beth is hardworking, helpful and humble, a great example of the power of quiet, introverted, peaceful people. Finally, the youngest sister, Amy, considered the most self-centred, selfish and spoiled,  also proves to be a great example of growth, as further along in the story she becomes compassionate and principled. It’s also worth pointing out that this character was based on Louisa May Alcott’s own little sister, who was one of the few women who made it into the art world of Impressionism at the time.

 

The Famous Five by Enid Blyton (ages 6+)

When it comes to tomboy characters, Georgina – George – of the Fantastic Five has always been the pivotal example. With short hair, fierce temper, wild nature, and dressed as a boy, George stands out from the girly-girl type of character usually present in children’s stories. Even in this particular series, we have her friend Anne, part of the five, who is the spot-on picture of the motherly, caring, domestic girl. George, therefore, can be a great example of the fact that not all girls have to have these qualities to be loved. But the greatest importance of her character might be to parents of non-gender-normative girls, those who do not fit into stereotypes, or are particularly masculine from an early age. If you want to support your child’s journey in search of gender identity and show them that they should act as they feel comfortable, without filling a certain mold, this just might be the best book to read and discuss with them.

 

A  Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (ages 7+)

Another beloved classic is famous for its young protagonist, Sara Crewe, who has influenced generations of girls over the years. In this well-known story about a girl who seemingly lost everything in a day, we can see the strength of resilience, kindness, and imagination. Sara’s best quality is her willingness to help others, her ability to benefit from other’s happiness and her wild, wonderful imagination that helps her confront events much bigger than herself. If you decide to read this book to your child, be sure to point out Sara’s empathy and strength to deal with other people’s problems, while she also fights her own. Two movies have been made from the book – the famous 30’s version with Shirley Temple, and Alfonso Cuarón’s colorful imaginative version, so we recommend watching them with children after reading the book.

 

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (ages 11+)

Kira-Kira deals with the very serious and fraught subject of cancer and illness of a sibling, but if you think your child might be able to deal with this topic and difficult emotions, it’s a great piece of literature from which kids can greatly benefit. This coming-of-age novel has Katie, a Japanese-American girl, as its protagonist, and it follows the narrative of the illness and death of Lynn, her sister and best friend.

Katie is not a typical strong heroine in terms of fighting evil forces, but constantly throughout the book she fights with tragic problems of everyday life, from racism and bullying, to illness and death. Children reading the book should pay extra attention to the changes in character of both Lynn and Katie –  their boldness while they deal with something much bigger than themselves, and their amazing connection and influence on each other. While the book does not deal with happy, light topics, what is key in the story is how Katie manages to see the beauty in things and finds strength even in the darkest times – which is a good lesson to teach a child. Finally, as the characters are of Japanese descent, the story of Katie and Lynn can offer some diversity, as the lack of children’s books with characters of different races and ethnicities is very evident and problematic.

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (ages 10+)

This very atypical series of books for children might not be for everyone – the series follows, as the name suggests, the unfortunate lives of the Baudelaire orphans, three very special children who find themselves in the middle of terrible tragedies. Even with a storyline like this, Lemony Snicket manages to make books as light-hearted as possible, with quirky humor and strong emphasis on the children themselves and their strengths. The oldest of the orphans is Violet, a brave and smart girl who has a knack for inventions and logic. While she is charming, polite, and kind, she’s not your typical strong-willed heroine, but someone who manages to pull herself and her siblings, Klaus and Sunny, out of various situations using her imaginative brain and her masterful inventions. Violet is a perfect example of the force of intelligence, and she might motivate your young girls to develop a love for inventions, explorations, science, engineering and mechanics.

 

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (ages 14+)

This trilogy falls under the category of young adult fiction, so it is not exactly reading material for very young girls, but it’s a great book for your teens. Set in Victorian England, this fantasy fiction, set in an all-girls school and magical realms, features best friends, each one a great example of a well-written, well-rounded character with both good and bad sides. The heroine and narrator, Gemma, is an obvious role model, being strong, brave, and full of hope and kindness.

However, her friends are even more interesting in that regard. Felicity, who starts off as Gemma’s enemy, grows into her faithful friend and proves to be a woman-warrior, going against all the norms of her society. Stubborn and strong-willed, she’s not always right or kind, yet she can be a thrilling character for your fierce, rebellious girl. Poor, shy, and hard-working Ann starts as a closed-off character with an unfortunate fate ahead of her, only to grow out of her shell throughout the book and follow her dream. On top of it all, the trilogy also features a great spectrum of strong and amazing female teacher and tutor characters, and a great representation of multi-ethnic romance. Readers should reflect on how these girls work on their  personal growth, try to be the best versions of themselves, turning more and more towards their growing friendship.

 

 

These are only some of the titles that can prove to be useful when trying to find quality reading material for your children. Reading and discussing literature is always valuable for children, so these book will hopefully make it even more fun and influential.

References:

  1. Hall S. 1973. Encoding and decoding in the television discourse. Univ. Birmingham, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Stenciled Occ. Pap., No 7. Media Ser.

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Learned Helplessness in a School Context: What It Is and How to Deal with It

Imagine a student who’s repeatedly experiencing failure in school. As time goes by and they continue to fail, they start to put in less and less effort as they get the impression that no matter what they do and how much effort they put in, they’ll still fail. Let’s imagine for a second that a student has failed a math exam for the third time in a row. They may start to think that math is too hard for them to understand or even that they’re too dumb for school/math, which can negatively affect their self-confidence and self-respect. The underlying problem is that their lack of trying causes them to fail once more and thus reinforce their negative beliefs about themselves. In other words, they set themselves up to fail before they even try. Ultimately, this can lead to them believing that they’re not capable of overcoming difficulties at school.

This case is illustrative of learned helplessness, the belief that our own behavior has no influence on consequent events [3]. Although learned helplessness can develop in students who don’t fail that often, children who repeatedly fail are at greater risk of developing it [2].

It’s clear from the above-mentioned example that learned helplessness affects three different aspects of one’s functioning [1]:

  1. Motivational: Children lack the will to try to accomplish something and are discouraged to make an effort, believing that their learning process is out of their control.
  2. Cognitive: Students have the notion that failure is inevitable (even though that’s not true), as they miss seeing the logical connection between trying and succeeding (and not trying and failing).
  3. Emotional: Children start to think less of themselves and start to doubt their own abilities, which can lead to lowered self-esteem and even depression.

In this article we will first look at how to identify learned helplessness in the classroom and then explore ways teachers can address it.

How to Spot Learned Helplessness in the Classroom

– A student shows signs of low motivation for work and looks disinterested and passive in class.

– A student rarely asks questions or shows genuine interest and enthusiasm towards topics during class, so the teacher must engage them as they don’t tend to show initiative [4].

– A student is quick to answer the teacher’s question with “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure”, without really putting any thought into it [4].

– A student has a tendency to get easily discouraged when a teacher corrects them or points out a mistake in their work – this makes them feel like they won’t be able to finish the task [4].

– Getting a bad grade doesn’t make them sweat, as they’re used to it and think that no matter what they do at school, a bad grade is inevitable.

The Importance of Mindset

In another article, we discussed different Mindsets children develop during childhood and at school. In short, students who have developed Growth mindset perceive their abilities as something that can be changed and developed over time. They tend to seek challenges and get engaged when facing obstacles, knowing that’s a good way to increase their knowledge and skills. On the other hand, students with Fixed mindset believe that their abilities are carved in stone and can never be changed, so when they fail, they start to question their abilities. In other words, they make the mistake of attributing their failure to something they can’t influence, instead of towards the effort they put into studying. So, when a student who believes that abilities are unchangeable repeatedly fails in school, they might conclude that there’s nothing they can do to change that, so they just stop trying and start to feel helpless.

This notion is important to bear in mind, because addressing the mindset of a student is an important step in overcoming learned helplessness.

How Can Teachers Help Students Overcome Learned Helplessness?

  1. Tackling the Motivational Aspect

Encourage the Effort and Assure Them There’s No Reason to be Afraid of Making a Mistake. A student’s motivation is a fragile thing. It can be easily diminished. Making a mistake in class tends to put pressure on students and can make them feel like failures. In reality, they cannot grow without making some mistakes, which is something they need to understand. Try not to be critical when they give a wrong answer, otherwise they can develop a fear of trying and making an error. Students should be comfortable with exploring new ideas, without having to worry whether they might make a mistake. So, it’s important that the teacher reassures them that making mistakes is fine, as long they keep going and keep trying.

Take Special Care Not to Overlook Quiet Students. A student can also develop low motivation in the classroom by being overlooked by the teacher and not being given enough responsibilities when it comes to school tasks. Teachers should take great care and give special attention to children who are shy or who feel less competent than their peers, because they need the teacher’s help to become motivated and engaged in school.

  1. Tackling the Cognitive Aspect

Show Them the Difference Between Growth Mindset (effort) and Fixed Mindset (abilities). Be sure to emphasize the effort students put into studying for a test, and not some innate abilities they possess. It may be helpful to say something along the lines of “If you study hard for this test, you’ll certainly do well and your effort will be rewarded”. They need to learn that studying is not about manifesting some unchangeable trait or intelligence, but rather that it’s all about the effort, which is what increases knowledge and skills. In other words, they need to adjust their Mindset and learn to take control of their academic performance.

Educational therapists who work with children with learned helplessness have a great way of illustrating this [1]:

They would turn off the light in a room and ask a student, “Does this mean there is no more light?”

A student will say, “No, the light went off because you turned off the switch”.

The therapists then say, “There’s a switch in your head that you turned off because you didn’t like what was happening in school.”

This can help student change their rationale for failure from “I’m dumb” to “I turned off my switch”, meaning “I didn’t put in the effort”.

  1. Tackling the Emotional Aspect

Slowly Build Their Confidence by Providing Them More Time and Help. When a student doesn’t have the inclination to really think about the questions teachers ask in class, and easily gives up, it’s important that educators do their best to encourage them to try to nevertheless put some thought into it. For example, you can guide them with additional, easier questions so that they can, with your help, come to the correct conclusion. You can also encourage them to take their time or consult a classmate sitting next to them before answering a question.

Praise the Effort, Not Just the Outcome! It’s important not to miss the opportunity to praise the effort a student had put into coming up with an answer, even if it may not be entirely correct. Students often have good initial ideas, but they tend to stumble somewhere along the way. If a student who’s experiencing learned helplessness really tries hard but still gets the answer wrong, it’s very important to give them a “Good job!” or “I like the way you’re thinking”, because they need ongoing encouragement to continue making an effort in the classroom. This feedback should be well timed in order for them to make use of it.

If they’re not doing well in school at all, it’s unrealistic to expect that they’ll start getting the best grades right away. It’s a process and that’s why it’s crucial that the teacher provides encouragement and praise along the way, to let them know that they’re improving, and also to make sure their motivation isn’t fading.

If you’re a parent and you suspect your children are showing signs of learned helplessness regarding school, it’s perhaps a good idea to talk to their teachers or consider consulting our experts here at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring.

References:

  1. Gordon, R., & Gordon, M. (2006). The turned-off child: Learned helplessness and school failure. American Book Publishing.
  2. Licht, B. G., & Kistner, J. A. (1986). Motivational problems of learning-disabled children: Individual differences and their implications for treatment. Psychological and educational perspectives on learning disabilities, 225-255.
  3. Seligman, M. E. P. (1975). Helplessness. New York: Freeman
  4. Yates, S. (2009). Teacher identification of student learned helplessness in mathematics. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 21(3), 86-106.

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Why is Reading in Childhood Important?

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. – Groucho Marx

Children use their phones, browse the internet, and watch television from an early age. Although there are some benefits to that, there are also risks, like investing too much time in social media, video games, etc. This usually leads to their completely neglecting to read books, which are essential to their growth and development. In this article, we’ll cover numerous reasons why reading books is so important, but also provide parents with advice on how to encourage reading from an early age.

Four Reasons Why Your Children Should Be Reading

  1. Development of Language and the Understanding of Complex Concepts

The most obvious reason why reading books is important is that it allows children to expand and enrich their vocabulary and develop literacy skills. By reading a book, children encounter phrases and words that are not frequently used in casual communication, which they’ll then be able to use themselves in conversation.

Stories and situations in books are usually described vividly and in a lot of detail that helps with the understanding of complex and abstract concepts. It’s easier for a child to understand the concept of compassion when the feelings of a literary character are thoroughly described and some context is provided, rather than by simply reading the definition in a dictionary. This way, a child is re-living the character’s experience that’s making those concepts relatable, so they’re able to better comprehend them. Furthermore, younger children often read out loud, which helps them to learn the correct pronunciation of words.

  1. Memory Boosting

Most books comprise many different characters. In order to properly follow a storyline, children need to remember the characters (their names and characteristics) and learn to differentiate between them. Following and remembering a plot line is also important for understanding the story. By doing all of this, they’re sharpening their memory skills. Children will often want to recount interesting events from a book to their friends or parents, so they’ll try to recall the story correctly and tell it in coherent way. However, they may have difficulty remembering some important details from the story, so parents need to guide them by asking questions, and help them see the importance of this skill. This is another great way of developing a child’s memory from an early age.

Good reading and memory skills enhance children’s confidence as they start school. Children who began reading at an early age will approach their new commitments at school with more ease and self-confidence and can be more enthusiastic when it comes to reading for book reports, etc.

  1. Development of Imagination and Creativity

Every book is a world of its own. By reading a book, children encounter all sorts of new ideas, both realistic and unrealistic, magical and mythological, that help develop their imagination. They learn to differentiate between what’s real and what’s make-believe. They can envision new worlds and play with ideas, but also learn that they can think about something without having to actually look at it. They learn that with imagination they can reach much greater distances than by simply observing the physical world with their own eyes. Stimulating imagination further helps in developing creativity. Children often show this through their drawings, but it can also lead to the development of valuable skills later in life.

  1. Coping with Feelings

Stories provide a great way for children to step into a literary character’s shoes and see things from a different perspective. This is important because it helps them understand a perspective that’s not their own and where the centre of the attention is not on them. At the same time, this practice teaches them to understand and share the feelings of other persons (i.e. empathy).

Furthermore, going on a journey in someone else’s shoes is very beneficial when it comes to the regulation of their own emotions. If children are having problems, such as, for example, being unpopular at school, having anxiety when with a group of peers, etc., reading about similar experiences of someone else helps them have a better understanding of their own feelings, and feel a sense of relief that someone shares their problems. Or, if they have anticipatory anxiety about their first day at school, they can find a book that describes someone else’s pleasant experiences when going to school and see that their fear is not justified.

To find out more about the benefits of reading, check out this guide from our friends at Mom Loves Best!

How to Encourage Your Children to Read

Read to your children at an early age. It’s an excellent way to bond and create memories your children will cherish for life. It’s a practice you should start when they’re very young, because it helps them develop a love for stories and books before they even learn to read. Make sure to encourage them to ask you to explain the meaning of a word if you stumble upon some they don’t yet understand. Hearing you read to them will enable them to hear the correct pronunciation of words and improve their verbal fluency. Continue reading to them even when they learn to read on their own.

Surround them with books. A stimulative environment has a great effect on children. Make sure to have a book collection appropriate to children their age in your home that they can easily pick up if they feel like reading. Also, get a library card you can use together, or get them one that they can use on their own. Ask your children about which books they’d like to read and help them look them up. It’s sometimes hard for children to find a book they’d like to read without someone’s help. Make a habit out of going to book fairs, where you can take the entire family and have lots of fun and at the same time fill your house with more books.

Be a role model. Chances are children will pick up a book as well if they see their parents reading often and enjoying it. Try talking to them about stories and books you’ve read about to raise their interest and tickle their imagination.

“My Children Get Bored with Reading. What Should I Do?”

We understand that sometimes it’s hard to get children interested in reading, especially if they’re fed up with classical literature from school. Luckily, there are some alternatives that might get them to love books and make the transition to classical literature a bit easier.

Audio books. If you can’t find the time to read to your kids very often, you should try playing them pre-recorded audio of you reading, or even try playing them audio books you can find online (check out the bottom of this article, where you can find some websites with free audio books for children). Audio books are a great way of engaging children in reading by taking some of the “pressure” off them if they are struggling. Some students need to have the audio content to follow along with the written content.

Comics/Graphic books. Comics are a great medium, especially for children who are just learning to read. You wouldn’t want to overwhelm them straight away with too many words and complex sentences. Instead, you should first get them interested in colorful books with lots of pictures or drawings. At the end of the article, we’ve provided a website where you can find some book recommendations for younger children. For slightly older kids, you have a wide variety of superhero comics, which they’ll most likely love. If you’re not familiar with comics, and aren’t sure which ones to get, you can go to a comic-book store and ask about some comics that are appropriate for your children’s age.

If your children are struggling with language or reading, here at Nobel Coaching you can find many tutors who can help them. Also, be sure not to neglect negative feelings children tend to have about school, and, if necessary, think about reaching out to our coaches who can help your children discover their strengths and motivations, and build more positive feelings towards school, and ultimately reach their potential as students.

 

 

Resources:

Comics for younger children: http://mentalfloss.com/article/62202/10-great-kids-comics-early-readers

Free audiobooks: https://www.storynory.com/

 

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Good Parenting without Overmonitoring – Yes, It’s Possible!

Have you ever been tempted to read your teen’s diary or check their Facebook messages? Have you ever made a social media profile so you could spy on their online activities? Do you make very strict rules for your teen without allowing them to question them and invite you to a debate?

If the answer to some or all of these is YES – then this is just the article for you, because we’ll explain how you can navigate the continuum of monitoring your teen in a healthy way that maintains communication, trust, and your overall relationship.

We Know You Are Worried!

You hear of all these terrible things on the news, or even in your own neighborhood – underage drinking, drugs, accidents… So it’s perfectly normal to be worried that, with the right combination of circumstances, your teen might become susceptible to some of these high-risk behaviors. With that in mind, knowing where your child is and who their friends are – that is to say, a little bit of monitoring – is not a bad thing. [1] The thing that damages parent-teen relationships is extreme monitoring. [3] It’s when parents, in an attempt to calm themselves down and protect their child, resort to what teens would call “extreme measures” or strict parenting: being home by a certain time and not one minute later, always volunteering to chaperone or attend their social events so you can see who they are with and what they’re doing, asking (or trying) to see their instant messages so you can be certain there is no mention of unwanted activities in there.

So after you’ve done this, you feel calmer and believe you now know everything there is to know about your teen. Meanwhile, a young person with the need for psychological and physical autonomy is ignoring you, answering all your questions with one-syllable words, and spending more and more time outside the house, or in their own room. You will have inevitably hurt your relationship with your child in an attempt to keep them safe.

But what if we told you that over-monitoring is exactly what might cause them to engage in some of those unwanted things you were trying to prevent? Moreover, what if we showed you that creating a warm but firm relationship that still allows them some freedom will lead to them being much more open to you and you knowing much more about them and the way they spend their time?

Why Extreme Monitoring Does not Work

Just because you have established some hard rules and checked their messages does not necessarily mean you now have full control over their comings and goings. Much of the conflict between parents and teens could be avoided with some honest talk. In fact, much of the rebelling and rule-breaking happens as a response of teens who feel like they have no control over their own lives. [2] So in an attempt to both gain some control and get back at their parents, they may intentionally act in the very way you were trying to prevent.

For example, you have a rule that you always drop them off when they go to a friend’s house, so you know who they’ll be with and where. But as soon as your car turns the corner, they might leave with that friend, meet with some different people and go to a different place. And whether you come to know about it or not, they’ll be happy. If you don’t find out, that means they’re getting away with it. If you do, they’ll feel like they’re getting back at you for the lack of autonomy.

Similarly, if you ask to read their texts, they might find their way around that as well. They could buy another phone you don’t know about, or have a profile on some social network hidden from you. What we want to say is this: prying and asking to have complete control over someone, even if they are your child and still live under your roof will only succeed in making you feel better temporarily. In the long run, it might lead to the exact opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish, and it will definitely affect your relationship with them. Your alleged selfless act of overprotecting through extreme monitoring is actually quite self-regarding in that it only relieves your worry in the short-term while increasing the odds of your teen feeling resentment towards you.

Full Disclosure is the Only True Knowledge

Research shows that when parents know about their child’s real whereabouts, it comes from the child themselves, and their decision to be honest, rather than through extreme monitoring. [3] In order to create a positive atmosphere that will allow them to open themselves to you, no matter how scared or embarrassed they feel, you might want to give authoritative parenting a chance. [2] A parent who nurtures this style is warm but firm, and they give their child the freedom to choose their own beliefs and make their own choices. A lot of research has shown that this way of parenting leads to the healthiest, happiest, and academically most successful children. [2]

So how would an authoritative parent handle potential conflicts?

For one, they would still be interested in their child’s life, but in a warm, healthy way. They wouldn’t ask questions like “How many people will there be? What will you be doing?” or mandate a curfew time. Instead, they would simply ask – “So what is this party about?”, and allow their child to tell them everything they want to disclose. If they want to warn them, they won’t do it through harsh words and placing blame, automatically not trusting their teen to make a wise choice. Instead, they would say “I hope you understand that I’m a little bit worried that there will be alcohol there, but I will trust you not to drink.” This way, the child won’t feel threatened. They’ll just feel guilty at the thought of disappointing you, and that has proven to be a much better prevention technique.

However, an authoritative parent still needs to set some rules – but they’ll do so with the help of the child. If you’re deciding on a curfew and believe 11 pm is late enough, consult with your teen and listen to their opinions. If they tell you that everyone else can return by midnight, that they’ll have friends to accompany them on their way home instead of going alone, and that they’ll be responsible, maybe think about giving them the benefit of the doubt – especially if they’ve never given you a reason to doubt them before. Making parenting decisions based on trust will help them make choices to keep that trust.

If the trust is weakened through a broken rule, the consequences need to be just as clear and reasonable for the type of rule that was broken.

Tell them, for example, that they can be home by midnight, but if they are even a minute late, they won’t be getting that late a curfew any time soon. As much as an authoritative parent wants to give their child freedom, they still need a firm set of rules that they decide on together with their child. Setting rules is a positive thing, and it leads to much better decisions than monitoring and blocking someone’s psychological development. It will also teach them responsibility and independence much better than you going everywhere with them and checking their every move.

Some Final Words of Wisdom

Imagine a line with “no monitoring” on one side and “extreme monitoring” on the other side. People are most comfortable in their working environments and in relationships in the middle of that line. At work, you probably don’t like being micromanaged and having to account for each and every move you make, but you thrive when your work is being noticed and your superiors care about the circumstances of your work and the outcomes of your efforts. Teens are similar – they want their parents to care about them and have clear expectations and limits, but are also seeking autonomy in order to build their identities. Parents may feel a sense of security through extreme monitoring; however, it may cause more damage than the effort intends.

You’ve heard that adolescence is often accompanied by a great deal of conflict, but the thing is, it only happens if parents’ and teens’ views on autonomy are completely different. Everyone wants to feel like they have control over their own life, while parents find it hard to watch their child separate themselves and spend less and less time with their family. The best way to get through this is to start treating them more like an adult and less like a child, as long as they keep proving they can be responsible for themselves. This kind of atmosphere will allow them to tell you everything, as they won’t fear your judgment. The possibility to negotiate future rules and consequences that impact their choices, all while building their understanding that you want to keep them both happy and safe, will lead to them being much happier and more open. You’ll have peace of mind and your teen will have the comfort of a healthy, trusting, and supportive relationship with their parents.

References:

  1. Dishon, T. (1998). Parental Monitoring and the Prevention of Child and Adolescent Problem Behavior: A Conceptual and Empirical Formulation. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, Vol.1, No. 1, pp. 61-73.
  2. Steinberg, L. (2001). Parental Monitoring and the Prevention of Child and Adolescent Problem Behavior: A Conceptual and Empirical Formulation. Journal of Research on Adolescence, Vol.11, No.1, pp. 1-19.
  3. Stattin, H. (2000). What Parents Know, How They Know It, and Several Forms of Adolescent Adjustment: Further Support for a Reinterpretation of Monitoring. Developmental Psychology, Vol.36, No. 3, pp. 366-380.

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Raising Your Children with Laughter

Why did the kid cross the playground?
To get to the other slide.

Nothing warms a parent’s heart like seeing or hearing their children laugh. Kids start to develop a sense of humor from an early age, but it’s not as sophisticated at that time as it will be when they grow up. Babies will react with laughter to funny noises or faces, and especially to physical touch (e.g. tickling or raspberries). The game of peekaboo is the funniest thing in the world to a one-year-old, but later on, they won’t find it funny at all. As we can see, at this age, a child’s sense of humor mostly consists of reacting to others doing something funny and trying to make them laugh. When children learn to speak, they start to make their own jokes and take a much more active role in humorous interactions with others. This is important because devising their own jokes helps them in the process of learning and mastering language.

School-age children begin to use humor not only for its intrinsic value but also for a social purpose, such as joking to avoid embarrassment or to create solidarity among peers [1]. By the time they reach the secondary level, they have a better grasp of what words mean and can get into wordplay and create some more complex forms of humor, such as sarcasm.

Everyone wants to be seen as funny and witty, but what makes humor in children especially important?

The Importance of Being Humorous

First of all, engaging in humor helps children see the joy of life and teaches them not to take themselves too seriously – that’s what adulthood is for (just kidding!). A good sense of humor helps with the development of spontaneity and the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes. When exchanging jokes with peers, children practice thinking in a more unconventional manner, as well as being creative and quick.

Humor is also a good way of connecting with one’s parents and peers. Researchers found that kids who are better at making and understanding jokes are more socially competent, more popular, have better prosocial skills, and are less likely to be depressed [3, 6]. In other words, a good sense of humor can help children feel more competent and in control of social interactions at school and with their peers.

The use of humor is also linked to better physical health, and, some studies show that humor has a similar effect on reducing stress levels as physical exercise [6, 7]. In other words, humor is a great way to relieve oneself of tension. Instead of dwelling too long on a stressful situation, looking at the positive aspects and even laughing at the whole thing after resolving it can help build a positive attitude.

Nevertheless, you should bear in mind that not all humor is benevolent. There are some types of humor that are less desirable, such as off-color humor, or jokes at the expense of others that should be discouraged.

Humor Styles Children Use

Psychologists describe four general humor styles school-children and adolescents use, and we’ll take a look at each one of them [3, 4, 5]. The first two types of humor listed are considered to be adaptive, as they build relationships or one’s own ability to cope. The second two are considered to be maladaptive, as they harm – either one’s own self or other people (peers, teachers, etc.).

  1. Affiliative humor is a well-meaning, benevolent style of humor which children use to amuse other people, to facilitate relationships, and reduce interpersonal tensions. They often engage in spontaneous witty interactions, tell jokes, or say funny things about themselves, and at the same time not take themselves too seriously.
  2. Self-Enhancing humor is used to maintain a positive and humorous outlook on life, to boost one’s mood or deal with stressful situations. It’s regarded as a healthy defense mechanism that helps one avoid negative emotions. As one girl puts it: “When someone was upset we would say, ‘turn that frown upside down.’ The other person would always be looking down so you would bend over and go upside-down and make a silly face and it would always just make whichever one of us feel much better” [2].
  3. Self-Defeating style of humor is an attempt to amuse others by doing or saying something at one’s own expense or laughing along with others when ridiculed as a means of gaining approval. Self-defeating humor is often related to low self-confidence and emotional neediness, and it’s used by “class clowns” in school, as well as children who are being bullied [1, 5].
  4. Aggressive humor is used at the expense of others, often without regard for the potential negative impact on them and their feelings. It includes the use of humor to manipulate others by means of ridicule. The examples of this humor style are sarcasm, teasing, “put-downs”, etc. Bullies can use not only aggressive humor but affiliative as well. Bullies who use affiliative humor are often good at social skills and use this type of humor to harass children who are not part of their social group, or to emphasize their own importance in the group. Furthermore, by using aggressive humor, they demean their peers in front of others or exclude rejected children by spreading rumors in a way that does not exceed the social norms of their group [6].

Parents should learn to differentiate between different types of humor, then set some boundaries, with themselves and their children, so as not to encourage inappropriate humor. When children make a rude, hurtful, or untimely joke, a parent can either not laugh, or even better, explain to them why the joke isn’t funny. Modeling how to respond to aggressive humor can help them respond appropriately to their peers when something hurtful or rude is put in a “just joking” form. Furthermore, children sometimes have trouble determining the appropriate place and time for a joke, so parents should try to provide them guidance in those moments.  For example, using “potty” humor at a sleepover with friends is probably okay, but saying the same type of jokes in class at school is not okay and may be considered rude or disrespectful.

How to Encourage Your Child’s Sense of Humor

– Make sure to create an environment with lots of humor and fun. If you have younger children, surround them with humorous books, or funny cartoons. If they’re a bit older, books or comics will work as well, but you can also watch comedy TV shows, stand-up comedy shows, and movies together.

– Be their comedy role-model! It’s likely that they’ll develop a great sense of humor if they’re surrounded by their parents telling them funny stories and jokes all the time. Put a smile on their face every day!

–  Encourage your children’s attempts at humor and never miss an opportunity to tell them you loved their joke. If the joke isn’t funny, try complimenting their effort and provide them with advice how to make it even better. Then try out that joke on someone else together. After all, kids learn by doing!

– Try playing The No-Laugh Challenge together. One should really try hard to make the other one laugh, and that person should make every effort not to laugh. It’s a hilarious game which is really hard to win!

The internet is filled with jokes that you can model and teach your kids! Here are just a few from this site:

What did one plate say to the other plate?
Dinner is on me!

Why did the student eat his homework?
Because the teacher told him it was a piece of cake!

How do you stop an astronaut’s baby from crying?
You rocket!

Why did the cookie go to the hospital?
Because he felt crummy.

Why are ghosts bad liars?
Because you can see right through them.

We hope you enjoy adding some more humor into your home and your relationship with your kids.  For other ways to boost healthy relationships with your children, check out this article.

References:

  1. Cunningham, J. (2005). Children’s humor. Children’s play. SAGE publications.
  2. Dowling, J. S. (2014). School-age children talking about humor: Data from focus groups. Humor, 27(1), 121-139.
  3. James, L. A., & Fox, C. L. (2016). Children’s understanding of self-focused humor styles. Europe’s journal of psychology, 12(3), 420.
  4. Kuiper, N. A., & Leite, C. (2010). Personality impressions associated with four distinct humor styles. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 51(2), 115-122.
  5. Martin, R. A., Puhlik-Doris, P., Larsen, G., Gray, J., & Weir, K. (2003). Individual differences in uses of humor and their relation to psychological well-being: Development of the Humor Styles Questionnaire. Journal of research in personality, 37(1), 48-75.
  6. Semrud-Clikeman, M., & Glass, K. (2010). The relation of humor and child development: Social, adaptive, and emotional aspects. Journal of child neurology, 25(10), 1248-1260.
  7. Szabo, A. (2003). The acute effects of humor and exercise on mood and anxiety. Journal of Leisure Research, 35(2), 152-162.

If you need any kind of advice related to the development of your child, you’ve come to the right place!

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TEACHERS: Four Easy Ways to Address Your Students’ Visual and Verbal Learning Styles

Each teacher is unique and has their own particular teaching style. “Teaching style” refers to the way one prefers to teach and is illustrated in instructional behavior from which a teacher will rarely deviate [3]. Despite the fact that teachers seldom, if ever, change their style, they may vary their teaching strategies depending on the nature of the subject, requirements of the course, common learning styles, and other factors.

Understanding one`s teaching style can serve as a foundation for the improvement of instruction and enhancement of the learning experience [2]. How much a given student learns in a class is governed in part by the compatibility of the instructor’s teaching style and the pupil’s learning style [1]. However, although each teacher may consistently embrace one predominant learning style, students will experience various teaching styles as they encounter different teachers. Both students and their teachers can therefore benefit from understanding variations in teaching and learning styles [2]. This awareness can be the means to achieving the highest possible effectiveness.

This article can help you become aware of your teaching style, understand its relationship to learning styles, and how to easily customize it.

Visual and verbal learning styles

Students learn in many ways. There are visual, verbal, and kinesthetic learners. Most children learn most effectively with one of these three modalities and tend to miss or ignore information presented in either of the other two [1]. In current educational practice, we have tended to distinguish principally between visual and verbal learners, although much more attention is now, appropriately, being focused on kinesthetic learning as well.

Visual learners remember best what they see. They prefer using pictures, images, demonstrations, etc. Verbal learners remember best what is explained in words or written and they learn best from books and lectures.  In the article Are You a Visual or a Verbal Learner you may find out more about what suits each type of learner best.

Most learning and teaching style components parallel one another [1, 5]. So, for example, the student who favors visual perception would be most comfortable with an instructor who uses charts, pictures, and films.

The mismatch between teaching style and students’ learning styles

The most common learning style is visual while most teaching is verbal [1]. Educators present information predominantly verbally through lecturing or words/symbols written in texts and handouts or on a chalkboard. Accordingly, there can be a mismatch between the preferred presentation mode of educators and the preferred input modality of most students, which may lead to serious consequences.

Students may become bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about their courses, lose motivation and the desire for achievement, and in some cases, even drop out of school. Educators are confronted by low test scores, unresponsive or hostile classes, poor attendance, and dropouts. They also often become frustrated, because they realize something is not working [1]. 

Teachers can’t adapt to all the students they teach

In the classroom, there’s usually only one teacher and many students. Do you ask yourself Should I adapt my teaching style to the students’ learning styles or should it be vice versa? There are arguments and evidence in favor of both sides [4]. However, if we think about it, we may conclude that it’s impossible for one teacher to adapt to all the students they teach! But there is something teachers can do.

The adoption of a few teaching techniques may help teachers meet the needs of most or all of their students. They can keep their particular teaching style and at the same time find ways to reach students whose preferences differ from their own.

Four easy ways to address your students’ learning styles  

Motivate learning.

If you motivate your students, they will learn more easily and retain information, regardless of the way it’s presented. For that reason, relate the presented material to what has come before and what is still to come in your course, to material in other courses, and particularly to the students’ personal experience. You can even ask some students to present the same material you’re teaching in a different way to the class, you may be able to learn a new technique while motivating students with different learning strategies to pay attention!

Combine visual and verbal presentations.

Irrespective of the extent of the match or mismatch, presentations that use both visual and auditory modalities reinforce learning for all students. Before, during, or after the presentation of verbal material, you can use pictures, schematics, graphs, or simple sketches. The way to encompass both visual and verbal learners is to show films and provide demonstrations, followed by discussion.

Talk to students.

Try to find out what their academic difficulties and learning preferences are, so you can help them. You can demonstrate various learning styles by using the same content presented in different ways and ask them which one they prefer. Sometimes, explaining the way to learn most efficiently to a student who is struggling is a great help – that way they may reshape their learning experiences and be successful. You can also learn about tips and tricks they use to help themselves, so you could recommend those later to someone who has learning difficulties.

Teach students to help themselves and to seek help.

You don’t have to do all the work! For example, teach students to look for alternative sources of information that suit them better or explain to them the benefits of learning in groups. Check in with them to see if they were able to find something that would benefit the entire class. They may feel like the task is more purposeful if they feel is it able helping others.

Utilize brief formative assessments of your students’ learning by quickly surveying the students about their understanding of the material. This will help you figure out if how your teaching is meeting the needs of your students’ learning styles. If a student continues to struggle, we have Coaches and Tutors who can help them overcome academic and learning difficulties, look us up for ways to refer families to our services.

Resources:

[1] Felder, R. M., & Silverman, L. K. (1988). Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Engineering education, 78(7), 674-681.

[2] Heimlich, J. E., & Norland, E. (2002). Teaching style: where are we now?  New directions for adult and continuing education, 2002(93), 17-26.

[3] Silver, H. F. (2003). Teaching styles and strategies: Interventions to enrich instructional decision-making. Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ: Thoughtful Education Press.

[4] Thompson, T. C. (1997). Learning Styles and Teaching Styles: Who Should Adapt to Whom? Business Communication Quarterly, 60(2), 125-127. doi:10.1177/108056999706000212

[5] Vaezi, S., & Shahroosvand, H. R. (2015). Iranian EFL Learners and Teachers Sensory Preferences and the Learners Speaking Ability. International Journal of English Language Education, 3(2), 14. doi:10.5296/ijele.v3i2.7627

 

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