Back to School Prep, Easy Action Items, Executive Functions Training, Great for All Ages, The Happy Student Podcast

#33 Back to School On Time

Teaching your kids to make good decisions can be really hard. Developing a family motto can make that a lot easier. Family mottos, such as “We are kind” or “We are inclusive” help kids develop a sense of self. Then, they naturally want to behave in ways that confirm that they are indeed kind or inclusive. When faced with a tough decision, parents can refer their kids to the family motto to then help them make a good decision.

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Without the ability to manage our time, we may spend all afternoon playing and not have enough time to do our homework because we saved all of our homework for later. Without time management skills, we get to school late and then, even if our backpack is organized, we are not able to pay attention to the teacher as she starts her lesson because we are just running into class. 

Here are a few good ideas on how to learn to manage our time. 

Start a morning music routine. 

  • Use a morning music playlist to get up and get ready for school.
  • Start with slower music just to get out of bed. By a certain song, your child knows he needs to be out of bed and brushing his teeth. By a more energetic song, he knows he needs to be out of the shower and getting dressed. By a faster song, he knows he should be eating breakfast. As the morning goes on, the music gets faster. By a certain fast song, your child knows it’s time to be gathering materials. And by the final, very exciting song, the message is to drop everything and run to the car! 
  • Play the same playlist every morning so that your child gets used to it.
  • It also gives your child some freedom from parents yelling at him to wake up. It is 100% up to them if they want to have to rush later. 

Have a seperate music playlist for studying. 

  • Have a 30 minute (or shorter for younger kids) playlist of just classical music. When your child is studying, it should be in 30 minute increments. 
  • Play the same playlist so that your child gets used to it. 
  • Creating this music habit will help your child start working when the music comes on as well as when there is just 5 minutes left, but his mind is drifting, it will be easier for them to come back on task knowing the playlist is almost done. 

Buy an analog clock. 

  •  Analog clocks are really good at teaching children about the passage of time – way better than digital clocks. Kids need to be able to estimate how long their tasks will take them in order to plan when to start their work so that they can finish it before bedtime.
  • Start teaching your children about how long it takes them to do work with the analog clock. Put a sticker on the clock when your kid starts work. Then when 5 problems are done, see what time it is and put on a new sticker to see how long it took to do 5 math problems. The same thing can be done when your child reads a 10 pages of a book. 
  • Another thing you can do with your analog clock is to have “time robber” stickers. This idea comes from Executive Functions expert Sara Ward. Time robbers are anything that take you away from the task you are supposed to be working on. So if you go to the bathroom, get a drink, sharpen your pencil, start daydreaming, or play on your phone, your time has been robbed. Whenever that happens during your work, put a time robber sticker on the clock. This helps your kids remind themselves to do their assignment. Once it’s all done, the two of you can talk nonjudgmentally about ways to avoid the time robbers next time, such as going to the bathroom before work starts.
  • Use analog clocks is to plan out an entire hour. Use a dry erase marker to draw your plan out on the clock so that you see when you should be doing each task. You can put stickers at the halfway marks so you can look at the clock and see if you are over half way done with your time or if you are moving more quickly than expected. 
  • If your child starts late, show on the analog clock how that affects the rest of the hour. Again, nonjudgmentally, just matter of factly. If your child senses any judgment, they won’t let you help them with the analog clock anymore.
  • If your child finishes early, yay! However, they can’t go to the break because that would encourage them to finish their work as quickly as possible and not as well as possible. So instead, they can start the next task or another part of homework for the remaining minutes.
  • Finally, if the work takes more than the time allotted they can 
    • keep working if they are on a roll and you two will re-plan the hour after the work is completed or 
    • they can take a break and go back to work and find time for the other work later or 
    • take a break and go on to the other work and find time to finish later. It’s up to your child. 
  • If you don’t love the analog clock, lots of people like timers. There are some that have a red face that as time passes, the face becomes white, so you can see how much time you have left based on how much red is on the face. 

Another good idea is the octopus watch for younger children. Every time they are supposed to do something, the watch vibrates and shows you what you should be doing.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

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Definitions, Difficult Topics, Easy Action Items, Executive Functions Training, Parent Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#105 Emotional Games with Alison Smith

We so often value logic and discount the value of emotions – well not today! Today, parent coach Alison Smith tells us about the importance of emotions and gives us ideas on how to help our kids develop their emotional intelligence.

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The importance of emotional intelligence is beyond just knowing that we have emotions and your children have emotions, so we need to deal with them.

Emotional Quotient (EQ) is our emotional intelligence. Our EQ is a better predictor of our future success than IQ.

When we are unable to identify within ourselves a particular emotion that we are feeling, it stays stuck inside. So, we don’t deal with it in a proactive and healthy manner. 

When we can pinpoint the exact emotion that we are experiencing, we can physically feel a change. It feels lighter and less intimidating. We can grow in our confidence, take a deep breath, and feel more ready to take on what we are faced with. 

In the English language there are about 30,000 words related to emotions. But, we typically only use about twelve words. Until we can state the emotion that is very specific to what we are feeling, we are still stuck. The emotion will then grow until we explode, leak, or both. 

By growing our emotional vocabulary development and recognizing it within ourselves and others we grow our empathy towards what it is others are experiencing. If we can pinpoint the emotions others are feeling (or take our best guess), then we can almost immediately feel more compassion towards them. Our interactions and communication will then be very different once we get a sense of where they are coming from. This can change relationships at home between parents with their children, couples, and parents with grandparents.  

Alison recommends a card game called You EQ that can help build one’s EQ.

  • There are cards called Conversational EQ because we are using conversation to develop our intelligence and also using conversation in the real world after the game.
  • Each card has an emotion on it. The simplest way to play is to identify the feeling that you have on your card and then say something about your thinking in relation to the emotion.  
  • There is no big conversation about it. There isn’t any feedback for each other, besides saying, “Thanks for sharing.”
  • This game should ideally be played several times a week for approximately ten minutes. It can be played with your kids, colleagues, work team, etc.
  • This game will help retrain your brain and improve conversation. 
  • There are about five different ways to play with each deck and each deck has a different focus. So, there is always something new. 

Other recommendations:

  • Today I Feel…: An Alphabet of Feelings
    • This book helps grow your child’s emotional vocabulary, which is an important starting place for emotional intelligence. 
  • The Ungame 
    • This is a non-competitive board game that works on improving your social and communication skills.  

References & Resources:

Alison Smith Parent Coach

You EQ Games

The Ungame

Today I Feel…: An Alphabet of Feelings

Michele Borba’s book: UnSelfie: How Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All About Me World

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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Definitions, Easy Action Items, Executive Functions Training, School Advice, The Happy Student Podcast

#100 : Work that Memory

Working memory is basically your short-term memory. If you struggle with working memory, you just don’t have the space in your short-term memory to remember what you just read. It can be hard for note taking because maybe you want to respond to your teacher’s question, but the person next to you is making a good point – how do you write down what they are saying while remembering what you want to say? It’s super hard and frustrating! So we’ve got some tips to help you improve your kids’ working memory!

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Working memory is basically your short-term memory. It’s all the information you are storing and using now.

If you disagree with the following statements, it means that working memory is not one of your strengths:

  • I have a good memory for facts, dates, and details.
  • I am very good at remembering the things I have committed to do.
  • I seldom need reminders to complete tasks.

Here are some other things to look out for if you are worried your kid might have weak working memory skills (these are provided by Attitude Magazine):

  • You want to join in a conversation, but, by the time the other person stops talking, you forget what you wanted to say.
  • You consistently lose your keys, cell phone, wallet, or homework.
  • You get lost easily, even when you were just given directions.
  • You have trouble following a conversation because you forget what the other person has just said.
  • You have many unfinished projects because you become distracted and forget about the first project.
  • You plan to do some work at home, but you forget to bring needed items with you.
  • You have to reread a paragraph several times to retain the information.
  • You miss deadlines at work because of your disorganization and inability to follow through on projects.

Tips on improving working memory:

Write it all down

Write down everything. If your kid really wants to use an app for things like a planner, that’s fine, but there is something about actually writing it down on paper that can help improve memory as well.

Break down overwhelming projects into simple, targeted tasks

Write down all of the things you have to do to study – like redo all the old tests and quizzes, redo the old homework problems, and so on. Then do one task at a time.

Reduce multitasking

Multitasking is really taxing on your brain’s resources. It’s much easier for your brain to do one thing and then move on to the next.

Develop routines

Routines make it so you don’t have to think about what you are doing – you just do it automatically. That reduces the amount of resources your brain has to use, freeing it up to spend those resources on other things.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation help to reduce distractions and improve focus, both of which are very important to improving your working memory.

Play games

Games like Memory, the card game, Uno, Go Fish, Crazy Eights, and Sudoku help you to stretch and grow those working memory muscles. You can also check out CogMed, Play Attention, and Lumosity for some working memory games.

Work on visualization

Have your kid draw pictures of what they just heard.

Have your child teach you the skill that they are working on

This gets them engaging with the information in a more active way than passively listening to the teacher and trying to remember it later.

One big overarching theme is reduce distractions.

Another theme is to help your kid interact with the information by visualizing it or teaching it to you or making it interesting or unique in another way that we didn’t talk about like turning it into a song or something like that.

References & Resources:

Attitude Mag

CogMed

Lumosity

Play Attention

Understood.org

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Difficult Topics, Easy Action Items, Great for All Ages, Self-Advocacy, The Happy Student Podcast

#92: A Resolution that’s Actually Good for You

Resolutions are not always good for you. Sometimes they can lead to burnout and feelings of inadequacy. Let’s resolve this year to do stuff that is good for us and for our kids – like get more sleep! A lack of sleep is currently leading to a public health crisis. Let’s help our kids lead happy, healthy, productive lives by helping them (and us) prioritize sleep!

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The Every Mom: “8 Doable New Year’s Resolutions for Moms” suggests resolutions we need. The resolutions are:

  1. “I resolve to put myself on the [to do] list”
  2. “I resolve to put down my phone”
  3. “I resolve to accept the mess”
  4. “I resolve to lean in to fun”
  5. “I resolve to let go of perfect”
  6. “I resolve to treat my body with kindness”
  7. “I resolve to leave space on my calendar”
  8. “Above all, I resolve to give myself grace

The thing about the “hustle” is that it’s not being shown to make people’s lives better. It’s leading to burnout. Do we want our kids to grow up and hustle and burn out? Or do we want them to grow up and have a great work-life balance in which they feel like they are really living a good life? I vote for the good life. Especially because, as I’ve argued before, that good life actually makes you more productive and is better for your career in the long run. And if we want our kids to behave in ways that will promote the good life, we have to too because they will do as we do.

The Washington Post just published an article “Go to Bed! Brain researchers warn that lack of sleep is a public health crisis”. The article says, “The growing consensus is that casual disregard for sleep is wrongheaded – even downright dangerous”.

Researchers are showing that:

  • Preschoolers, so kids ages about 3-5, who skip naps have worse memory than those who take naps. The kids who get more sleep overnight, but who missed naps, still have a worse memory.
  • Poor sleep may be associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • And bad sleep habits, like those all-nighters, can increase anxiety and feelings of loneliness.
  • As the article says, “’It used to be popular for people to say, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’ The ironic thing is, not sleeping may get you there sooner.’”

How do you get more sleep for your kids?

Prioritize sleep for yourself. Your kids will hear what you say about sleep being important, but if they see that you skip sleep, they will realize that in theory it’s nice to get sleep, but if you have something to do, you should skip it. They will do what you do.

  • How do you prioritize sleep for yourself? Remind yourself what you value. I value a happy, healthy, long life. So when it’s getting close to bedtime and I haven’t put away the laundry or responded to Fireborn’s Instagram comments, I think, yes, those things are important. But deep down what I value is that happy, healthy, long life. So it is time to go to bed. Those things can wait. As The Every Mom says, “I resolve to accept the mess” because what is important is my sleep. I’m also following another of The Every Mom’s resolutions – to put myself on the to do list. I’m sleeping because I am worth it.

Reduce the number of after-school activities your kids participate in so they can take naps or get their homework done earlier so they can go to sleep.

Establish bedtime routines to help your kids calm down and fall asleep easily so that they have good sleep habits for the rest of their lives.

Institute a no-smartphone policy for after a certain hour so that you kids can get uninterrupted sleep. This one is hard with older kids and will require a serious conversation with your kids about the reasoning behind it so that they really understand. They may not like it, but if they understand it they will be more likely to comply.

Let your teens sleep as late as they want on the weekends. It’s a natural part of their development that they want to sleep late. So don’t wake them up early because they are “wasting the day away”. That sleep is not a waste. They need it. Their bodies crave it. Let them have it.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

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Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Difficult Topics, Easy Action Items, Elementary School, Parent Tips, Parent-Child Communication, School Advice, Social Life, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student Podcast #91: Story Time: Using Stories to Decrease Fears

Getting kids to tell you stories about their day has numerous benefits! Better conversations, better relationships, and kids who feel comfortable coming to you when they need help. If you focus on positive questions, then you also get practice looking for the goods. And if you ask questions that are in line with your family motto, like “How were you kind today?” you show your kid that you value kindness and encourage them to act kind every day. Stories can also help kids develop better memory and it helps them make sense of their experiences, which can help reduce anxiety. But getting kids to open up to you about their day can be tough. Fireborn’s got some tips!

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Ways to get your child to open up about their day:

Change the question you are asking so that it naturally primes your kid to answer with more than one or two words. Instead of “How was your day?”, some options include:

  • What was the best part of your day?
  • What was the hardest or most challenging part of your day?
  • How were you kind today?
  • What did someone else do today that was nice?
  • In what way were you brave today?
  • What did you do today that was inclusive?
  • You can ask questions like what was the worst part of the day today or what was your least favorite class, I just prefer to focus on the positive stuff because our brains naturally focus on the negative stuff, so I like to give my brain more practice looking for those positives.
  • Try playing two truths and a lie, where your kid tells you two things that did happen that day and one thing that didn’t and you have to guess which one didn’t.
    • Gamifying the conversation like this may make your child more excited to participate.
  • You can get your kids to tell you more stories by telling them more stories yourself. This teaches your kid what kind of answer you are looking for when you ask how their day was.

Asking these types of questions encourages kids to specifically remember events that happened during the day and to tell you about those events.

Asking better questions leads to better conversations, better relationships, and kids who feel comfortable coming to you when they need help. If you focus on positive questions, then you also get practice looking for the goods. And if you ask questions that are in line with your family motto, like “How were you kind today?” you show your kid that you value kindness and encourage them to act kind every day.

You can get your kids to tell you more stories by telling them more stories yourself. This teaches your kid what kind of answer you are looking for when you ask how their day was.

What’s really great about asking these good questions or teaching kids how to respond with stories is that it gets kids to think about specific events that happened and to tell you about them, which helps your kid develop their memory muscles.

When we tell our story, it gives us time to reflect on what happened and make sense of it in a way that we may not have if we didn’t take the time to think about it again. So telling stories of our experiences helps us understand our past experiences, which then informs our present experiences as well. As your kids get older, the stories they tell and the meaning may get more complex.

Sometimes kids have bad experiences and don’t like to think about them, which makes talking about them very difficult. But the way we make sense of those experiences is through talking about them. Kids need to be able to tell their story about what happened so they can make sense of it and move on. You can help them tell that story too if they aren’t able to. The more your child can integrate and understand their scary experiences, the more experience they will have overcoming challenges in the future and the happier, less anxious they will be.

Resources:

Siegel, D. & T. Bryson. (2011). The Whole-Brain Child.New York: Random House.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

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PRIMED FOR SUCCESS
Easy Action Items, Great for All Ages, Motivating the Unmotivated

Primed for Success

“Focus on your child’s strengths to help her overcome her weaknesses.” Heard that before? Probably – it is a great sentiment and can be an effective strategy, but there are plenty of parents who will tell you that it is hard and sometimes it is not possible. If my child is good at dancing, it can be difficult to see how she is going to directly use dancing to improve her math, spelling, reading, or history. Maybe she is not actually interested in learning about the history of dancing or reading about dancing – and then what do you do?

You actually do not have to be dancing while doing math for dancing to improve your math. Instead, what you do before you start working can make the difference. Dancing for 5-10 minutes before starting math will actually improve your math, or history, or reading… Doing something fun before an activity that is decidedly less fun primes you to enjoy and focus for that second project. A dancer will be energized by dancing for a few minutes before working and will be ready to focus on the next topic. However, if said dancer is bored sitting in his chair tuning his teacher out, he is not prepared to transition effectively to solving math problems.

One of my former clients loved to play the guitar. When I arrived at his house for executive functions coaching, he would show off what he had learned the previous week during the first five minutes of each session. Afterward, he was ready to practice scheduling the rest of his evening, to organize his backpack, and to do whatever else we had on our agenda. Without that five minutes of playing, he would be flipping through apps on his phone, calling out to his mother in the other room, showing me a new toy… His ability to find anything to do other than work was amazing, except when he was primed by playing the guitar.

Priming for work by doing something you love first (or at least enjoy) can help everyone reduce procrastination. As Eric Barker describes, you make it your “personal starting ritual” (2015). You decided that you are going to get started on work after doing X. Before working on a big project, you take a walk, grab a coffee, surf the web, do a dance, play the guitar, take a nap (only one of those things!) and then you are ready to work. You have primed your brain to be ready to work as soon as you are done. Just remember to set a time limit!


Resources:

Alvarez, A. (2015). Personal communication.

Barker, E. (2015). 5 easy tricks for beating procrastination, backed by researcher. Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

Easy Action Items, Parent-Child Communication

Stop Saying What NOT To Do

Stop Saying What NOT To Do

#tbt that time your kid would not stop interrupting your conversation with another grown-up. So annoying, right? Grown-up conversation becomes a hot commodity when you are around kids all day. So when you tell your child to “Please stop pulling on my pant leg” or to “Stop interrupting”, you really do need them to give you a few more minutes. So why won’t they?

Most likely, they probably do not know what they can do instead. When you say, “Do not do that” she does not know what her other option is. So perhaps they will just sit there for a few moments and then start nagging you again for lack of a different option.

So, instead of saying what not to do, give them some options of what to do. Similar to the situation described in Clean Your Room!, using clear language helps children understand what you mean. Providing them with an action item lets them know what “Stop interrupting” looks like.

Perhaps “Stop interrupting” looks like “Mrs. Knight and I are currently having a conversation. You are interrupting. I know that you want to speak with me. Why don’t you think about your favorite fruits so you can tell me what we should put in the fruit salad for dessert tonight?” or “When I am talking to another adult, that means I am busy. Therefore, if you see me talking to an adult, you need to wait your turn. While you wait, you may play with your Legos.”

I remember my 3rd-grade teacher specifically telling us, “If I am talking with someone else, you may not interrupt. You may stand a few feet away from us and wait patiently. I will see you and know that you would like to speak with me next.”

Here are some other ideas that “Stop interrupting” could look like:

  • Jumping up and down 50 times
  • Finding a small gift for another family member (if you are in a store)
  • Filling out a “Squiggle-on-the-go“, suggested by CoolMomPicks.com
  • Running around the house 10 times
  • Counting how many blue things he can find
  • Eating a snack
  • Going to the playroom and finding an old toy to play with
  • Playing the quiet game (tehehe)
  • Playing with stickers (bring a sticker book when you leave the house)
  • Making up a dance routine
  • Listening to music
  • Reading
  • Waiting patiently while I finish talking and learning to entertain yourself. This is the hardest one to teach, but it is the ultimate goal.

Children need to learn how to come up with the above options on their own and how to wait their turn. Like my aunt used to say (and so did Harvey Danger, a band from my youth), “If you’re bored, then you’re boring.”

(If that is not enough ideas, see a good list from BuzzFeed to use with young children: 16 Creative Ways to Keep Your Kid from Having a Meltdown While You Shop.)