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7 Techniques That Make Parenting a Child with ADHD Easier

Children who suffer from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) struggle to concentrate and show signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity. At other times they might fall into a state of hyperfocus, usually when they find something that truly interests them. All of which leads to children with ADHD having trouble starting and finishing tasks, sleeping, and even struggling to make friends.

If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, you’re probably exhausted, stressed out, and constantly looking for new ways to help your child become more productive, more socially adept, and generally calmer and happier. To help them get there, we suggest seven ways you as a parent can make sure your child gets the best headstart possible.

1. Make Sure Their Day is Structured

Boy holding books.

Children with ADHD find it much easier to finish their tasks if they have a clear schedule of the day ahead. Try to create a schedule that has everything written down, not just the most important activities like school, baseball practice, or someone’s birthday. For example, include lunchtime, playtime, time for chores, homework. It might sound trivial, but your child will thrive if they can see their full schedule, from A to Z, in a visible place in your home. If they don’t have a set time for, say, homework, chances are their lack of focus will cause them to leave it for later or forget about it altogether.

2. Let Them Face Consequences

Girl with ADHD looking at a checkmark sound, representing a reward.

Be understanding but firm when it comes to consequences. Children with ADHD find it harder to finish their tasks, but learning about the consequences can help rewire their brains. So if they said they’d do the dishes, but they end up not doing it, consequences are in order.

The best thing to do is use logical consequences – for example, if they don’t do the dishes, there’ll be no dessert for the next three days. Don’t make the consequences too harsh, but hold your ground when it comes to them. You may feel like a bad parent for punishing them (“They have no control over it and I’m punishing them for it – I’m such a lousy parent”), but just remember you’re not doing it to hurt them – you’re doing it to help their brains understand there’s consequences to actions.

After experiencing some consequences and realizing they don’t enjoy them – because an ADHD brain is all about getting satisfaction here and now – they’ll be able to calculate that that same satisfaction is much more likely to come after they finish some chores!

3. Introduce rewards, too

Rewards can be just as effective as consequences, especially when you’re using both. The trouble with rewards, however, is that if you’re constantly handing them out, children will never develop a real motivation to do anything – they’ll only be doing it for the reward. That’s why giving rewards only occasionally is beneficial, so that the child doesn’t get used to them.

So while consequences are a good parenting technique when it comes to everyday things like chores or homework, rewards should be saved for when something out of the ordinary happens – they show a lot more effort than usual in school, they offer to help with the dishes without you asking them to, etc. It’s important to reward the effort rather than the achievement!

4. Take a break together

Young girl smiling and eating ice cream.

We often confuse taking a break with giving up, but these two couldn’t be more different. Everyone – even a machine – needs to take a break every once in a while. We lose our focus, get sleepy, and generally, lack motivation for a lot of things if we work too hard for a prolonged period of time.

ADHD makes it even more difficult, so make sure both you and your child pause for a while, whatever it is you’re currently doing. If you notice them or yourself getting tired, there’s no need to push it. Children with ADHD need some rest to be able to re-focus, and stressed-out parents do, too. So take a break for a while (but following tip #1, let them know how long it will last!) and play a game with your child or have an ice cream while enjoying nature.

5. Remove Distractions

Boy with ADHD doing homework while tiny people remove distractions (phone).

“Getting Distracted” is the middle name of almost any child, and when you combine it with ADHD, the usual result is that not much gets done. In order to help your child finish their homework or chores, remove the most common distractions – their phone, toys, laptop, or TV. It will help them focus and motivate them to finish the task in order to get back to their toys or games.

Before removing the distractions, make sure that you explain to them why that’s important and how it will help them, otherwise they might see it as punishment.

6. Spend More Time in Nature

It has been proven time and time again that green time is highly beneficial for children with ADHD. For one, they have plenty of space to spend their energy in. Maybe even more importantly, all that nature has a calming effect on children the same way it has on us adults, perhaps even more so on children who struggle with ADHD. You should try taking them to the park or a nearby woodland as often as you can, but it’s especially important when they’re upset and acting impulsively.

7. Ask for Help

Girl smiling and holding illustration of two hands gripping one another.

One major thing that parents of children with ADHD struggle with is understanding that asking for help does not make you an inadequate parent! You’ve got a lot on your plate, so having a friend, a family member, or even a coach help you out does not make you a failure. It simply means you love your child enough to understand that getting some help will benefit them. Have you recently caught yourself constantly waking up anxious? Or maybe not even wanting to get out of bed in the morning? These may be the consequences of some extreme stress you’re under. So even if it’s not just about your child, but about your own state of mind and happiness – ask for help. Do everything to make things easier on yourself.

 

Just Remember…

Parenting is never easy, and with an ADHD child, it’s even more challenging. But with enough education, trial and error, and openness to others, it can become easier. Keep in mind that you can’t pour from an empty cup: make sure to take care of yourself. Self-care is contagious – if your child sees you’re happy and satisfied, they’ll want to take good care of themselves, too!

 

Math Is Difficult, but Far from Impossible

Maryke K. is a  Nobel Tutor. She knows a lot about Chemistry, Physics, English Language, and Statistics, but one of her greatest loves is Math! She makes math fun (yes, it’s possible!) and finds the best way for students to learn it. Here she answers common questions about math and shares her personal experience in learning it.

 

Question: Let’s begin with fun stuff. What is the best math joke you’ve ever heard?

Maryke: What do you get when you cross a mosquito with a mountain climber?

You can’t cross a vector and a scalar… (laugh).

 

Q: Can you tell us how did you end up falling in love with mathematics? How did you become the math tutor?

M: From an early age, math has been fascinating to me. Because of that, I focused on it and worked hard. As I began sharing my knowledge with others, I discovered that mathematics was a path to helping people, and that’s what I love to do! And that’s why I became a tutor.

 

Q: Even though some people, like you, enjoy mathematics, there are others who find it hard. Based on your experience, why do some students fall behind in math?

M: Some people have a natural aptitude for mathematics, but that’s not the reason why others fall behind. I think the reason they do fall behind is they need it explained in a different way and there isn’t always time to do this in a classroom setting.

That’s why math tutoring exists! Not because you don’t have the ability to do math, but because a tutor is usually a few years older than you and they were in your shoes a few years before. So it’s easy to relate and find a great way to explain the unexplainable.

 

Q: Is there anything you’d recommend to those students? How should they study math?

M: If you don’t get math, just like anything else you don’t like, you’re going to have to motivate yourself.

Still, what I used to do is play. When I was younger, up to 6th grade, I would use computer games. I played educational games which meant I had to constantly do math in my head. Because of that, and by really putting thought into it, I made math fun, linking it to games.

So how you should study math? You find the fun in math and keep practicing. If you’re not good at it, practice is the only way to fix that.

 

Q: You’ve already mentioned teachers. Do you think that if you don’t understand math, maybe you have the wrong teacher?

M: It’s not about the teacher all the time, it’s usually about their workload. You can’t put a workload of 40 students on a teacher and expect every one of them is going to be catered to.

I think that everybody should be able to get tutoring. But since not everybody can afford a tutor, perhaps ask a friend who’s good at math to help you with the things you’re having difficulty with. You just need to have the additional help.

I come from a very humble background. I begged my parents to get me tutoring because despite having good grades, I needed even better grades to enroll in this program I wanted to get into. But we couldn’t afford it. The only help I had was reading math books and learning it by myself. That still wasn’t enough. I feel that if I had been in a smaller class, if my teachers could have catered to me specifically, then I would’ve had even better marks.. But it just wasn’t in the cards.

So I worked with a friend who was good at math and we made sure we helped each other. I did that my whole university career – we’d teach each other those concepts that we mightn’t otherwise understand.. We’d just work together and help each other. I feel everybody should do that because there’s always something that you don’t understand. So let the students be the teachers, as well.

 

Q: Some people believe that being good at math is a natural ability. What do you think about that? Can anybody be good at math?

M: I don’t think everybody can be good at math. However, I think everybody can do it. You just need the right way, the fun way to approach it.

There’s always going to be someone who gets 100% no matter what – someone with the natural aptitude. It may seem like you’ll never be as good as that person, but you can do it! You just need to accept that you have to practice a lot more than they do.

So, you can be good, but you have to practice. Practice as much as you can and eventually results will come.

 

Q: Natural talent vs. hard work. Do you think that people who aren’t naturally good at math but practice a lot eventually can become better at it than people who are naturally good but don’t practice?

M: Yes, that was me! I fell behind in my first year of engineering because I was like, This is going to be so easy! And all those people who were a little bit weaker than me in high school, were surpassing me. They were doing so much better than I was!

That’s because at some point math catches up with you. You might think it’s easy now, but there will be a time when you don’t understand anything. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so you don’t need to.

 

Q: What is your approach to teaching math?

M: Making it fun. I’m a very outgoing person and I always try to make people think of a fun way to go about something. I use visuals, I use tricks, I use anything that might make something entertaining and interesting!

No matter what your learning challenge is, what your skill is, it has to be fun!

 

Q: How do you choose between being an authority figure and a friend?

M: I think balance is the key. You need to be both an authority figure and a friend. I do believe my students respect me, but I also believe I open this door into letting them talk to me about their personal problems, not just focusing on math.

You need to listen to the challenges they have as that can affect their learning as well. For example, if their dog dies and they just don’t feel like doing math today, take things easier.

Being their teacher doesn’t mean you can’t be their friend. You just need to evaluate when that is appropriate. They’ll learn to trust you, and then they will respect you.

MAKE MATH FUN WITH MARYKE

She can’t wait to meet new friends!

 

Q: Does fun make math easy? Do you find mathematics easy overall?

M: Math is never easy. I have an engineering degree and when I was doing models I failed the math model. Yes, that thing destroyed me (laugh).

Now I’m doing a mathematics degree. I’m in my final year now and I’m realizing that math is always difficult. If you’re in that spot, it’s going to be hard. Right now, final-year math is unbelievably difficult, but first-year math was also unbelievably difficult. Math will always be difficult. It’s up to you to practice and find a way to understand it. So practice, practice, practice.

 

Q: Do you have any advice for parents to help their students with math?

M: Don’t start too late. I wish my parents had started earlier in letting me have fun with mathematics. I did start early, earlier than most people. But if they’d started even earlier, I feel that I would’ve been further ahead right now.

You need to make sure your kids are exposed to this environment. Let them play puzzles, let them play logic games when they’re very young. Because it opens a door for problem-solving skills and so on.

Make it fun and start early. But don’t overdo it. so that they start to hate it. Like anything, if you push your child too much, they’re going to resent it. Make sure you strike a balance between giving them constant stimulation and not overworking them. A great tutor would know how to help in that area, for sure.

 

Q: And if I’m a parent of a student with learning challenges (ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia…), what approach would you recommend for me to help my students with math? What should I do?

M: We all have those times when we’re faced with difficulty that causes anxiety. So did I. I know it’s not the same as ADHD, but it does pose a challenge when it comes to learning. One way to deal with it is to learn how to study despite the difficulty. Wishing it away won’t help, but finding a way to figure things out will.

What I would actually do was enjoy some free time but then dedicate 10 minutes to some math homework. It forced me to think about it, but not overwhelm myself. Of course, if you have a lot of homework you might need to up that to 15, 20 minutes. Some people will go up to 30 minutes or more, but if you constantly push a child they’re just going to completely resist.

If you’re helping your child with math, you need to make sure they’re not overwhelmed and that you are making it, again, fun. They need to have that feeling of I really want to solve these logic puzzles.

Also, I’ve always told my mom she needs to reward my brother, because my brother was a very, lazy boy when it came to math.The way she got him to finish his math was by giving him rewards. He has ADHD, and the reward for finishing was time playing computer games. And he would be so excited! Because that’s what children like to do, including me (laugh).

So,give them rewards, make it fun, and don’t make it too intensive!

 

Q: Why do we need math? Do we really need to know algebra, geometry, integers..? Why does math matters in the real world?

M: The things you’ll use depend on the field in which you’ll work. I don’t think you’ll need all the complex formulae and stuff.

But the basic reason everybody needs math is for logical reasoning. If you know math, you build a certain skill when it comes to reasoning with people, when it comes to logical thinking, solving problems at work in the future… So even though you don’t need quadratic equations, you still need to build these skills to be able to function in life and today’s world.

Long answer short, reasoning in real life and problem-solving skills.

 

Q: What are the uses of math? Are there any benefits to knowing math for a future career? What are applied-mathematics jobs?

M: As I’ve said, reasoning and problem-solving but not just that. For example, you’ll use it if you’re an animator. You’ll need math to put things together in a program and work through possible problems you might encounter when you animate different things. The same would apply to working as a game designer, It doesn’t mean that if you’re not good in math you can’t go into these areas. However, knowing math can be helpful.

Additionally, think about engineering, architecture, law… each requires logical reasoning, (especially law) and a background in mathematics.  Computer science, astronautics, the visual arts (such as painting).

 

Q: What message would you like to leave with our young readers?

M: Mathematics is always useful, so practice it and study it. You’ll use it in any career you choose. You’ll use it in the future just by practicing reasoning and in everyday activities that you need to think about.

However, if you’re not good at math, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful. If math is not going to be your career, you just need to find someone who can help you with logical reasoning so you can have a foundation to build on in your future life.

Math can be very useful and if you can’t figure it out on your own, there are great tutors to help!

IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL HELP WITH MATHEMATICS OR ANY OTHER SUBJECT, OUR EXPERT TUTORS ARE HERE FOR YOU

 

Mother’s Guilt: What It is and How You Can Overcome It

We’ve all felt guilty about one thing or another sometime in our lives. But perhaps the most haunting type of guilt is mother’s guilt. There aren’t many mothers who’ve never felt guilty about their parenting, even if it’s for just a second. But when does it become an issue?

Let’s start by defining the term “mother’s guilt”. It’s the guilt that arises in mothers who feel they aren’t “good enough” parents. There are various reasons they might be thinking this: punishing a child often, not letting them do what the other kids are doing (this can often happen with teenagers), and perhaps the most common one today (that we will be focusing on) – not spending enough time with them. Have you ever ordered a pizza instead of making them the dinner you promised, because you got held up at work? Or have you left them to deal with their homework themselves so you can answer a couple of emails, and lost track of time? If yes, it might have made you feel guilty.

And while not being sure about what you’re doing from time to time is perfectly normal, being caught up in guilt constantly, up to the point it messes with your everyday tasks – that’s a sign of an issue that you should talk about with someone.

But while talking to others about it may be beneficial for you, what will help you make a change and start feeling better long-term are the following:

1. Focus on the Good

There’s a fault in most human brains: we tend to focus on the bad and completely ignore the good. I challenge you to take a pen and paper right now and write down at least three things you think you’re doing well as a mom! It can be something as small as giving everyone a goodbye kiss when you leave for work in the morning, or the fact that you treated your kids to ice cream that one time last week. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t flag everything that’s good as unimportant. You might worry that your kids will hold your flaws against you, but they’re just as likely to cherish the memories you make with them.

2. Don’t Compare Yourself to Social Media Moms

How often have you seen someone’s bad photo on Instagram? Or a bad photo of their kids with the caption “I’m a terrible mom”? Everyone wants to look good on social media, so everyone chooses the best parts of their lives to display to others. Comparing your reality to their highlights makes no sense! Every mom has problems, even if they aren’t up to showing it online.

So the next time you see a mom who looks like they have it all figured out, take a closer look at your friends and cousins. Take a look at your own parents, too! Do any of them have it all under control 100% of the time, feeling perfectly proud of themselves?

And if you need to unfollow those moms or delete your Instagram account to make yourself feel better, go for it. Your mental health and self-esteem should be much more important than being able to look at pretty photos 24/7.

3. Ask for and Accept Help

Venting to friends may be a great way to feel better, but while it helps temporarily, it doesn’t necessarily change what you’re feeling guilty about. But asking for help does. If you’re worried that you’re not helping your child enough with their studies, and you’re afraid they might be falling behind, there’s no shame in letting an online tutor help you out.

Tutoring sessions all happen online, so it won’t be extra hard on you, nor on your child. Nobel tutors will help your child master the subject that’s troubling them, and they won’t even have to leave their room! That means no driving around for you, and no extra tasks on your to-do list. You don’t have to do everything alone. In today’s busy world, you have the choice to either let others help, or to take everything upon yourself until you go crazy from all the stress.

You can also opt for Academic Coaching where Nobel’s coaches focus on the child’s motivation, anxiety, and any other psychological barriers that might be impeding academic success.

4. Talk to Your Kids about It

The most common source of all misunderstandings are assumptions. (link to our article about communication). You might think that your kids are holding your lack of time for them against you, when they might really be proud of you for working so hard. But you’ll never know for sure until you ask them! Ask about their feelings and whether they have some ideas about how you can spend more time together. Make a plan and, just as important, share your feelings, too! They need to have you as an example that sharing feelings is a wonderful thing that can only lead to more good things.

Now, if they tell you they’re mad at you, sad, or disappointed, don’t despair. All feelings are normal, negative ones included. Try to talk to them more about it and see how you can change something. And if you think their negative feelings are something they might have trouble dealing with, our coaches can help – not only them, but you, too.

Try to bear in mind that this conversation will bring many emotional benefits to them as well. If they see their parents asking for help, your kids will be more likely to take care of themselves and ask for help for themselves, which will ultimately make them happier and healthier.

Word to the Wise

Overcoming mother’s guilt is not an easy thing to do, but the first step is always the hardest. The important thing is to let yourself know you have the right to live your own life, and that it doesn’t mean you love your kids any less than you should. You taking good care of yourself while finding alternative ways to help your kids is the best possible solution for the struggles of this modern age.

 

The Pygmalion effect – How Teachers’ Expectations Affect Students’ Achievement

The Pygmalion effect describes how a teacher’s higher expectations lead to the student’s higher performance. If a teacher believes that certain students are late bloomers, there’s a good chance that they will become exactly that.

Pygmalion effects in the classroom

This effect can be found in different settings, but here we’ll focus on the classroom and the discovery by two American psychologists, Rosenthal and Jacobson, who conducted a study to test if children could be brighter when expected to be by their teachers. In another words, whether changes in teacher expectations produce changes in student achievement [2].

In their study, at the beginning of the school year, all of the children in the study were given an intelligence test, which was disguised as a test that would predict intellectual “blooming”. About 20% of the children were chosen at random and the teachers of these children were told that their scores on that test indicated they would show surprising gains in intellectual competence during the next few months of school. The important thing to remember is that the only difference between those children was in the minds of their teachers.

At the end of the school year, all the children were re-tested with the same test. The children from whom the teachers had been led to expect greater intellectual gain showed a greater gain than did the other children.

girl thinking positively about studying

How to use these effects to achieve better performance among students?

Teachers, but also parents, influence whether children will have higher or lower achievement. So, now when we are aware of the power of our expectations, one question arises – how can we help our children?

  1. Look for the good and positive things in each child. Find something to like or appreciate about every child, even if it’s their independence and tenacity. The teacher’s behavior is important. However, there’s more to it than that – it’s about the way you think about the child.
  2. Be aware of your effect. Teachers should always bear in mind that their behavior can affect a student’s performance. Although it’s impossible to like all students equally, it is imperative that they are all treated equally.
  3. Reconsider your treatment. Think about how you treat students you find smart/charming and compare that treatment to the way you approach those you find uninteresting/annoying. Who do you criticize more? Who receives more attention?
  4. More positive treatment. Try to give more attention to students you neglected before. Also, reinforce them if you see them struggling or feeling unsure. This way they’ll be more motivated to raise their hands and ask questions. Consequently, they’ll work harder at your subject and do much better in it.

We, at Nobel Coaching and Tutoring, believe in your student! Achieving better performance demands hard work, but with our help it is much easier and faster. Therefore, there’s one more way to help – you can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of our Coaches HERE.

References:

[1] Babad, E. Y., Inbar, J., & Rosenthal, R. (1982). Pygmalion, Galatea, and the Golem: Investigations of biased and unbiased teachers. Journal of Educational Psychology,74(4), 459-474. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.74.4.459
[2] Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the classroom. The urban review, 3(1), 16-20.

7 Easy Steps to Stress-Free Holidays

Despite wanting to spend time with family during the holidays, getting together can be difficult to arrange. Everyone has different schedules. Work, school, friends, and many other things seem to get in the way. However, winter break is a great opportunity for togetherness and bonding with family.

Winter break

It’s the end of December and what does that mean? Winter break is finally here!
Some people will say this is the most wonderful time of the year. Winter brings not only snow, but also holiday magic, the joy of giving, and the happiness of sharing these moments with your family and friends. Also, schools are closed, and the kids are at home. Spending time with your child is a little bit easier now, right?  But winter break lasts (only) a few days – from Christmas Eve until January. So we want you to get the most out of it!

Winter holidays

How did you spend Christmas this year? We hope you enjoyed it and made some unforgettable memories. However, New Year’s Eve is fast approaching. If you’re out of ideas on how to celebrate it, read our articles Creative Ideas for How to Spend Holidays With Your Family part 1 and part 2.

Holidays bring stress, too!

How did you feel days (or weeks) before Christmas? Let’s admit it – we all get stressed out making plans for the holidays. We want everything to be perfect – which can mean that although holidays are usually joyful, they also bring a lot of tension. Family obligations and lots of have-to-dos can be overwhelming, so feeling out of control is not unusual.

A sad woman is looking outside through the blinds.If you’ve ever tried to organize dinner for New Year’s Eve, for example, you know it’s not easy! Let’s mention a few things that you’d do:

  • Prepare a favorite dish using your grandma’s recipe
  • Make cookies
  • Choose, buy, and wrap the-best-gift-ever for everyone

And, still, there’s so much more to do! Does this sound familiar?

We should keep in mind that nothing can be perfect. The good thing about that is – it doesn’t have to be! Also, do you really have to do all those things the way you’ve planned ? You don’t!  The key to memorable holidays is simply being together.

New Year’s Eve is coming soon, so don’t make the same mistake again. Here’s a few tips on handling that holiday stress.

Togetherness is the key

Dealing with all this pressure is pretty hard. So we’ve listed seven ideas that are easy to implement and can help you spend memorable and, more importantly, stress-free holidays with your family.

  1. Don’t try to do it all yourself.

    Everything’s easier if you do it together! Those things you “have to do” transform into family activities. Making cookies with your children is sure a big mess, but also so much fun! Probably those cookies won’t be the best you’ve ever eaten, but that’s okay because you made them together!

  2. Don’t worry about how things should be.

    The cookies we mentioned are a great example. Also, keep in mind that most families have less than perfect holidays – the meal didn’t turn out well, the cookies aren’t that pretty, family tension is high, etc. And if you have negative feelings, don’t deny them – there’s nothing unusual or wrong about feeling down at holiday time. Admitting and talking about them will surely help. Just try it.

  3. No devices – really listen to people.

    In today’s digitally-fueled world, it’s pretty hard not to answer calls, reply to text messages, or check what’s new on social media. Screen time often eats into family time. Still, we can’t not check our devices from time to time. How about making a rule that no devices are allowed during mealtime, for example?

  4. Be generous.

    Here’s one more family activity – make gifts for people who are homeless or feeling lonely. If you have toy experts in your house (younger kids) you can let them pick some toys and donate them to Toys for Tots. This will teach your children about sharing and brighten someone’s holidays.

  5. Show gratitude.

    Let everyone know how much you’ve appreciated their gift. Thank people who do things for you but whom you may have taken for granted. Show your family members how much they mean to you and how much you love them. Also, call a relative who lives far away and wish them happy holidays.

  6. Time is not money.

    Actually, it’s more important than money. The time we have to care for one another, especially for our children, is more precious than anything else in the world. This quote says it all:

    If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.

    – Abigail Van Buren

  7. Winter break is a break.

    Notice that you’re being hard on yourself. Even though you want to please your children and make everything the way they love, don’t forget about yourself. Treat everyone with kindness, including you! Take time out. Let yourself to sleep more, watch your favorite movie again, and generally do the things you love.

We at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring wish you Happy Holidays! Health, happiness, and lots of love this Season and success in the New Year!

Resources:

[1] Daly, K. J. (2001). Deconstructing Family Time: From Ideology to Lived Experience. Journal of  Marriage and Family, 63(2), 283-294. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00283.x

[2] Folbre, N. (2006). Family time: The social organization of care. London: Routledge.

[3] Hofferth, S. L., & Sandberg, J. F. (2001). How American Children Spend Their Time. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(2), 295-308. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00295.x

School Stress: High Achievers

Children, especially adolescents, frequently deal with significant stress during their school years. They usually cite academic requirements, school transitions, peer relationships, and over-commitment as their most challenging issues. So it is notable that so-called high-achieving students, almost without exception, are able to excel despite such challenges [2].

Low achievers versus high achievers

There are high and low achievers in every school and the academic disparity between them can often be linked to differences in motivation.

Less accomplished individuals are often more motivated to avoid failure [1]. They try to protect themselves from failing important tasks and the feelings of embarrassment and incompetence which result. When it seems that something is unlikely to be a success, they quickly give up. If they can’t avoid it, they procrastinate or don`t give their best effort. For example, the night before an exam they might decide to clean their room or go to a party. To them, this serves as an excuse for less success or outright failure.

On the other hand, high-achieving students perform much better academically because they have strong motivation to achieve something that’s important and valuable to them, so they’re willing to put in significant, extended effort [1].

High achievers and high levels of stress

Sometimes the stress high-achieving students experience is underestimated. High achievers are often admired and people aren’t always aware of their inner struggles. They’re faced with demands and expectations from themselves, school, their parents, peers, etc. They are trying to be perfect in every area of their lives and cannot permit themselves to make mistakes.

Sometimes parents’ reaction to “not an A+” increases the feeling of stress. Too many parents think that the road to college starts in elementary school and that every grade counts. They ask themselves, How hard should I push my child to get better grades? This is precisely the wrong question. Pushing a child makes the situation even worse. By focusing only on grades, parents lose sight of the importance of social interaction in academic performance.What matters most are not grades, but the habits of mind that children form in elementary school: self-control, goal orientation, responsibility, persistence, and resilience [3].

Students may simply not communicate their distress to the adults who are invested in their achievement or non-achievement [2]. Be aware that the consequences of stress differ. Pay attention if their grades drop rapidly or if they have a high frequency of absences. Personal stress in gifted students can also manifest itself in other ways. They can still excel academically and in extra-curricular performance, but might quietly experience significant stress from heavy commitments in or outside of school. One way to maintain the same level of high performance is to cheat, so it shouldn’t be surprising that high achievers are more likely to cheat.

If you are the parent of a high-achieving child, we have some suggestions for you that will make it easier for you to recognize these “quiet” indicators and help your child handle the pressure through communication and coping strategies.

Ways to deal with the situation

Talk casually and often.

It’s a good idea to talk casually to your child about their feelings and how they’re managing high-stress times in the academic or extracurricular year. Don`t push it! Your efforts could boomerang and the student might withdraw even more. You also need to be aware that you are a role model for your child. So try openly discussing minor stresses you yourself encounter every day and show them that communicating your frustration can help – not only to relieve the stress but also to help find solutions.

Highlight your student’s strengths.

Gently comment when you see them “down” and offer credible comments about personal strengths and resilience. It could be crucial support at a time of vulnerability and reinforces your confidence in their ability to cope. You trust them.

Help a student find “me time”.

Don’t let them over-commit themselves. They need some unstructured, free time with their peers or alone. Model the behavior of taking care of yourself as a parent as well. They need to realize it’s okay to take “me time”. If they’re already over-committed, help them rethink their choices about extra-curricular activities and set priorities. Some activity has to take a back seat to a higher priority one, which will allow them to be even better at the one (or more) they’ve chosen.

Mistakes can be a path to success.

Help them understand that it’s okay to make mistakes and that sometimes mistakes are a learning opportunity. They can teach us to see the positive, and encourage initiative and growth. Expect to make mistakes. Try to persuade them not to judge themselves against others and help them recognize their own progress.

Sharing feelings is good.

Show them that admitting their worries and mistakes is a way to get them out of their head and get advice. Help them realize they aren’t the only ones feeling that way.

 

If you are having difficulty helping your high-achieving student cope with school stress, we have coaches who are trained to help students and their parents manage the demands of being a top performer in school.

 

References:

[1] Beuke, C. (2011, October 19). How Do High Achievers Really Think? Retrieved February 13, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/youre-hired/201110/how-do-high-achievers-really-think

[2] Peterson, J., Duncan, N., & Canady, K. (2009). A longitudinal study of negative life events, stress, and school experiences of gifted youth. Gifted Child Quarterly, 53(1), 34-49.

[3] Tough, P. (2013). How children succeed: grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character. Boston: Mariner Books.

 

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Do Children Need Role Models?

I want to be like Superman. He fights bad guys!

The gamer I watch on Youtube didn’t graduate and he’s still doing awesome and making more money than some college graduates. So, why should I study more of what I’m not good at and neglect what I am good at?

My dad studied very hard so he could get a good job and earn lots of money and buy this huge house we live in.

If the values of our society could be represented through the image of the role models our children choose, what do you think they would be?

Merriam-Webster defines a role model as “a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others.”

Some consider role modeling a driving force in learning in that we emulate an example we perceive as desirable. Now, even if we don’t agree that role modeling is the most powerful way to learn, it’s nevertheless the way our children learn. So, we need to be concerned with how they learn, or rather, from whom they’re learning.

The market of potential role models consists of every single character that your child has ever seen – real or fictional, young or old, male or female, living or historical… Every. Single. One.

Who they choose as their role models depends on various factors.

How do we choose our role models?

Let’s play a game! We’ll try to read your thoughts.
Please follow our instructions:

  1. Think about somebody you admire. Somebody who inspires you.
  2. Now that you have that person in your mind – What is this person doing that you find so inspirational? How does this person behave?

Our guess is that the answer to #2 reflects:

  1. How you already act
  2. How you currently aspire to act
  3. How you wish you could act one day

Are we right?

Our role models are our psychological support in the challenges we face throughout life. They help us distinguish good from bad, right from wrong. We choose them for a specific purpose – to give us support and guidance when we need them. We choose them to stand by our side when we’re fighting for a goal, when we feel discouraged, when we’re uncertain about what to do next. We choose them because they appeal to us, because they represent a desirable image we should strive to attain one day.

Why do you think our children’s reasons might be different?

What kind of role models do our children choose?

Children choose their role models according to what they find appealing, That, of course, depends on their needs, preferences, challenges, aspirations…
If you don’t know what kind of role models your child chooses, ask them. They’ll tell you. However, be careful not to judge the book by its cover. The same role models might be chosen for different reasons. Some might opt for Superman because of his strength, some because he can live a double life without anyone knowing who he really is.

role model for kids infographics

 

How can we help our children choose the right role models?

Step 1: Find out who they look up to

Ask:
Who’s your hero?
Who do you look up to?
Who inspires you?
Who do you want to be like when you grow up?

Step 2: Understand the similarities between your child and their role model

Ask:
What do you have in common with this character?
How are you two similar?

Step 3: Understand the differences between your child and their role model

Ask:
How are you different from this character?
Is there something this character can do that you’d like to do, but can’t?
Is there something this character has, that you don’t?

Step 4: Find out what your child most values in this character

Ask:
What do you like most about this person?
If you could pick this person’s best quality, what would it be?

Step 5: Check your understanding

Share your understanding of what this character represents for your child.

(Don’t describe what this character is to you! Focus on your child’s perception.)

Example: So, when you grow up, you want to be just like Mr. Blake. He’s your favorite teacher. Both you and Mr. Blake love math and are very good at it. Everybody loves Mr. Blake because he’s the best teacher, even to those kids who hate math. What you most like about Mr. Blake is that he always wants to help you out. Right?

You can always ask more questions to get a better picture…

How do you know that everybody loves Mr. Blake?
What does Mr. Blake do to help out?

Step 6: Look for the connection

Look into the connection between the role model and your child, and the top quality that your child sees.

“Everybody loves Mr. Blake…  Even the kids that hate math.”

“He always wants to help out.”

Maybe the kids who hate math aren’t very nice to be around. Mr. Blake might be a bit of a “geek” and still be popular. If your child were more like Mr. Blake, would he fit in better?

Don’t jump to conclusions, though. Ask questions and let your child tell you whether something makes sense or not

Step 7: Role modeling

Ask:
What has Mr. Blake most helped you with?
What are you learning from Mr. Blake?
What can Mr. Blake teach you?
What skill can Mr. Blake help you with?
What do you see Mr. Blake do, that you’ve started doing?

At this point, you’ll probably be able to tell whether Mr. Blake is the “right” choice of role model for a child who, let’s suppose, doesn’t really get along with the popular kids.

Now, following on, you’ll probably want to help your child think about what Mr. Blake does or doesn’t do that helps him be so loved.

You might also be able to think of some good movies, books, stories, or other examples of people dealing with the same challenge who might help.

“You know who Mr. Blake reminds me of? Let me find that movie and I’ll show you.”

Another step you might consider is asking your child how they might respond if their role model were to mess up. That could open up a whole new discussion about how the role model is perceived, what kind of mistakes they could possibly make, and how tolerant the child might be of those mistakes.

The role models we choose are similar to training wheels on a bike, which give us the impression we know how to ride a bike even though we haven’t quite acquired the skill. They fulfill their role in teaching us that we can do something, and they encourage us to follow their lead and achieve what we deem important.

This teaching function of role models is why we should try to understand who they are. The odds are they will be one of the most influential teachers our children will have.

More about the parents’ role

Our children’s self-image is largely built on who we, the adults in their lives, think they are. They do something well, we tell them: “Oh, you’re so smart.” They stumble on a rock, we say: “You’re clumsy.” Sometimes it seems children are collecting all the adjectives we use to describe who we think they are, mentally noting our tone of voice, consequent actions, and how often we use those descriptions, into one great pool of attributes they’ll one day call their personality. While some might say: “My child was like that from day one!” others might say this or that particular feature is something you noticed as a parent first, something that you labeled (“as shy, stubborn, hyperactive”) and something you either tried reinforcing or changing.

Parents are our first role models. They give us an intuition of what is valued or not. What’s acceptable, what’s not. What’s desirable and what should be avoided. Of course, as children grow up they become more able to compare their parents to other people. (It starts with questions, usually followed by criticism. If you’re a parent of a teenager, you definitely know what we’re referring to.)

Parents are their children’s first representatives of how society operates.

At first, children imitate what’s at hand; then they imitate behaviors they believe are valued.
First, they will imitate dad cursing in front of the TV while watching football, just because they see it. Then, they’ll start doing it because it seems like the “right” way to watch a good game.

What does your child perceive as the values you are conveying through your own behavior? This is not to blame parents if a child has chosen a “wrong” role model. This is to help reflect on how we communicate values to our kids and how they are interpreting our communication.

by Ana Jovanovic
Coach at Nobel Coaching

 

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Understanding Shyness: How to Help a Child Who Is Shy

Jake is that kid on the playground who waits for others to tell him he can join in the game. Sometimes, it seems it’s much easier for him to be alone in his own world than to talk to others. He definitely doesn’t enjoy talking to people he’s not familiar with. He’s quite talkative at home, though. He also doesn’t enjoy being the center of attention. And when he is, he hesitates to speak up; he tends to mumble and easily gets confused. He’s only comfortable talking about Math because he loves it. For anything else, even if he knows the answer, he seems afraid to say it. 

They don’t quite understand why.

Jake’s parents say he’s very shy.

“Shy”

Such a little word, a simple and familiar adjective, that carries so much meaning.

Shyness is often linked to anxiety, a lack of confidence, or low social intelligence. It is often connected to those experiences where you might have felt uncomfortable, embarrassed, or socially inadequate. It leads people to avoid situations in which they perceive some sort of a threat.

Many people have unproven but strongly-held theories that shy people don’t have much of a chance of succeeding in life. It seems as though the world favors dynamic extroverts who connect easily with others. Consequently, parents often seek professional help when they feel that their children might be behaving in a way they perceive as shy.

Where does shyness come from?

There are many theories which attempt to explain how shyness develops.

Some argue there is something “built in” that makes us shy and others claim we might have picked it up by watching somebody important to us act in a similar manner. Some might say that we are, from an early age, aware of our shortcomings, which makes us feel insecure in the presence of a group. Generally speaking, “shyness” could denote a feeling of inadequacy in regard to certain expectations (i.e. Everybody is good at sports. I am the only one who’s clumsy).

But we’ll take another path.
Let’s not look at the theories. Let’s focus simply on understanding each child individually.

How not to be supportive

Let’s start with how you certainly won’t show understanding.

Describing your child as shy everywhere you go and interpreting every single behavior that includes withdrawing from the group as shyness won’t help. Also, telling them not to blush every time they do might be a bad idea. Making excuses for them every time they stall, get confused, or refuse to talk to people might not be the best way to support them.

“He takes after his father. He’s not talkative either.” Comparing your child to someone else or speaking about their behavior as if it were a fixed trait isn’t going to be of much use. You want your child to believe they can change something they don’t like about themselves, right? So don’t make them feel they can’t.

Understanding ourselves as parents

Now, here’s how you can help.

Explore why it is that your child might be acting in a way you think of as shy.
Ask yourself the following questions so you can understand better.
It’s important to be aware of your own thoughts and impressions.

  • How do I know that my child is behaving shyly?

(Recognize the specific behaviors. It’s important to distinguish specific behaviors from our interpretations of those behaviors.)

  • When did I first notice my child acting this way?

(The behavior could be seen a reaction or response to a specific event in the past.)

  • Why do I think this might be a problem?

(It is important to acknowledge our own understanding of the way our child is behaving and what we see as the effects of that behavior.)

  • What do I think are the main reasons for my child’s shyness?

(We need to take into consideration the variety of different factors that might be influencing the child to behave that way.)

  • What are the consequences of my child not changing?

(Recognizing and understanding your own fears and worries is one of the most important steps.)

  • When is this shyness most apparent?

(You can try to recognize specific triggers by looking at specific situations.)

  • Are there any situations where the shyness eases?

(What is it about these situations which differs them from those in which your child is extremely shy?)

  • How do I react when I notice my child being shy?

(What we say and do has a significant bearing on how our children behave.)

  • How does my child respond to my reaction?

(The response is often a reflection of how the child sees our reaction.)

  • Is there anyone else in the family who acts the way my child does?

(“Shyness” is often a learned behavior.)

  • Have I ever asked my child why they are behaving like this?

(If not, why haven’t I?)

  • Do I understand how my child perceives the situations in which they are shy?

(How does the world look through the eyes of my child?)

Sometimes, we might be too emotionally invested to be able to answer these questions and reflect upon our answers. But that’s what Coaches are for. The Coaches navigate you through this exploration process with their questions.

Understanding your child

Now, all the above questions can be modified to help your child express their perspective, too.

What’s important is to understand that this “shy” voice inside your child, even when it’s quite dominant, is just one of the many voices inside them. Your child might take the lead in some situations, even though in many more they decide to stay on the side. Help your child recognize that part of themselves that keeps them stuck. Look at those situations where you see the same behavior and ask the child what they have in common. It might be that the common denominator is a trigger for that part of you that says “You’re going to embarrass yourself”, “You’ll fail” or “Nobody likes to be around you”. Don’t disregard or ignore that part. Try to understand why it’s there.

Frequently, when we detect a behavior that we “don’t like” to see in our children we try to find ways to eliminate it. However, every single behavior has its own internal logic and a purpose which needs to be understood. Shyness can often protect a child from getting involved in situations where they feel they might get hurt.

Again, our emotional bias sometimes makes this hard to do. We have the impulse to protect our child from feeling bad, which is why, when they share a thought such as “Nobody likes me”, we’ll try to convince them that’s not true. The Coach would continue with questions such as “How do you know that?” or “When did you notice that?”

Suggestions on what to do

Each segment in this section is a suggestion on what you could do.

Understanding is always the first step.

There are specific strategies on how to help a child open up and feel free to explore their actions in everyday situations. Feel free to use whichever seems to make the most sense for your child.

  • Give your child a chance to practice getting by in unfamiliar situations. This doesn’t mean you should expose your child to a frustrating situation unprepared, and show them over and over again how they’re not managing it. It means that you should take them with you, teach them and make suggestions, and then let them deal with the situations on their own, step by step. For instance, you could take your child to the park and tell them: “Why don’t you go up to that kid over there and ask: ‘Do you want to play with me?’ Mom can’t play with you now. It’ll be much more fun with another child. Just go over there and try it. I’ll be right here waiting for you.” Encourage your child to participate in interactions with others.
  • There’s no need to describe your child as shy in front of the child. A “shy child” can easily become a role children slip into and start playing without wanting to relinquish it. Any chance to adopt more easy-going behavior should be supported and rewarded. Help your child explore some other sides of themselves. The creative one? The playful one?
  • Show your child that you want to understand them. Try to understand the way your child sees other children in their peer group and how they think those children see them. In case your child tells you that they know other children are mocking them or that they see other children as evil and bad, try not to be defensive but consider other options you could take. How would your child like to be seen by other children? Why can or can’t they achieve that? Why do they think that the way they are is exclusively good or bad (depending on how they think of themselves)? Use the answers your child gives you as a way to continue the conversation and better understand, and not as a reason to attack another child or condemn other parents.
  • Check – maybe your child simply prefers playing alone as opposed to playing in a group. Try to understand why. What wouldn’t they have if they played in a group? What would they lose if they did this? What are the risks of playing in a group?
  • Ask your child without judgment: “It sometimes seems you’re avoiding other kids and don’t want to talk with people very much (describe the “symptoms” of shyness). Is there a reason you do this?”
  • Pay attention to the way your child perceives the situation in which they are usually shy. How do they describe it? What do they feel? While the child is telling you about this, be aware of your own expectations regarding your child’s behavior.

how to support your shy child

 

Bear in mind that every child is different.
That is why the path to helping your child is understanding them.

The reasons why somebody acts in a certain way are highly individualized. Don’t generalize.
We attribute so many meanings to that simple adjective  “shy”. Let’s understand those meanings.

by Ana Jovanovic

Coach at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring

 

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

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

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