I am always looking for ways to improve the lives of students. I can’t walk into a classroom or a home without doing so. I have been privileged to be working in the field of education for the past twenty years. I became a Certified Special Education teacher in the late 1990s, right out of NYU, and since then I have problem solved and have figured out how to change instruction to reach all kinds of learners. I taught in New York City public schools, the private (Independent) schools, and acted as a field supervisor at Hunter College for special education graduate students. I have worked privately with families for about a decade. All of these experiences, and my insatiable appetite for learning how to improve the experiences for parents and children contribute to the ideas I’m about to share. My wish for you is that you learn ways to thrive and can empower your children to do the same.
Read. Listen. Find out information about child development and education. Learn about what happens in your child’s every day life. Attend classes and webinars. You don’t know it all and information changes over the years — so keep learning.
Watch your child without judgement. What does he or she do? Be in awe of him or her. Watch before you input your demands or ways of doing something. See what he or she can come up with.
Shane Kulman, this is my shout out to you. I’m taking her Mothers/Daughters webinar. It’s amazing. Take it. Shaun taught me how to better communicate with my children. State an observation and then ask a question about it. “I notice you didn’t check your punctuation on that writing, what’s up with that?” or “I see you are spending a lot of time on that assignment, can I help?”
Empower problem solving.
Also credit to Shane on this one, and so many awesome parents and educators who facilitate great opportunities to problem solve. Allow your child the opportunity to come up with his or her own solutions. Problems happen every day — sometimes every minute. “Oh, I notice you can’t find your socks, what should we do about that?” or “I hear you whining, how else can you tell me what you want?”
Goals and standards are paramount. I love telling my kids to employ “The Miele Way” — what is that? Well, quite frankly I made it up (don’t tell my kids), because to them it seems as though this notion is something sacred passed down generation to generation. When really it is a code I want them to employ in every situation. It involves being kind, generous, hard working, honest, helpful, and engaged. It means doing your best, even when the odds are against you. It encompasses making good decisions, being healthy and respectful. When you set standards which apply to your family, your child has the opportunity to rise to those standards.
Have skills for handling stress.
Stress will happen. The best plan is to have a plan for when it does. Families can practice mindfulness techniques such as breathing and meditation. They can engage in healthy habits such as eating well, sleeping well (going to bed at the same time every night), and exercising well.
Lead by doing.
Many children I know who are thriving have parents who not only teach their children to be strong students and all around great people, but also practice doing so in their own lives. Moms and dads who take good care of themselves at work, socially, emotionally and physically can demonstrate how to do so for their children.
Get support that works for you.
Everyone needs a support network and a way to access it. I built my career and business on providing individualized support — so it makes perfect sense to me that every family and every child will benefit from unique support. It is worth thinking about the type of support most helpful and also teaching our children to advocate for support when they need it. A new friend of mine and colleague was telling me that she learned she had a learning disability at the age of forty. I asked her how that was for her. She told me it was completely amazing because for the first time she could tell people how to give her information. For instance, when she was in a corporate meeting and people were firing off information, she would slow them down and ask for time to write out each step.
This is what we want for our children — to learn how they work and learn best and to ask those around them to provide information to them in a way which is best received.
A typical scenario is for me to meet a family during a time of crisis. Something is not working and I have been called in to figure out what is going on. Typically, there are behaviors going on which elicit certain accusations. These accusations are common assumptions adults make about kids. For instance, “You have failed English(gotten a C), you are so lazy!” or “You hit your brother, you are so out of control!” or “You are so disorganized, you just need to get it together.”
I rarely practice black and white thinking or view points, but shame and accusations are on my big NO NO list for parents. Go back to the start of this list and do that instead — observe, or ask questions. When we assume the reasons behind our children’s behavior, we are not helping them to become problem solvers or empower them to make good decisions. Instead, by accusing our children of being something, we have closed their ability to communicate. And the feelings around this are bad and hard to overcome.
What can you do if you have accused your child already? If you are human, you’ve done it and that’s okay — what matters is what you do in response to your own actions. To me, the next step is simple (albeit humbling)— own up to what you said, and say sorry. “Darren, I’m so sorry I said that you were lazy and that you didn’t care about school. I actually don’t know why you are not doing well in English. Can I hear from you so we can figure this out?” or “Tony, I’m so sorry I screamed at you and said you were wasting our money in private school. I feel frustrated that you are not excelling there and I actually want to find out how I can help.”
I work around the clock. It’s a crazy, hard (fun) job to run a small business — especially an education service business. I have a marriage, three children and myself to care for. I also have an amazing extended family and friends. I have to schedule in time for me to check out of work, to go out with my husband, to be with each of my children, to see my family and friends. I have to make time to go to the doctor, to rest when I’m sick, to exercise. The take a way here is to make time — plan time for work or projects, relationships and you time. You will demonstrate to your child how important it is to manage time to take care of all aspects of yourself.