Elementary School, Great for All Ages, High School, Middle School, Parent Tips, The Happy Student Podcast

#99 Bob Sternberg on Wisdom, Intelligence, Creativity, and Success

Psychologist Bob Sternberg joins Fireborn to talk about how there is more to succeeding and thriving than testing well. He says “You don’t have to be the best student in your class to have something to contribute to the world.” That’s an excellent message to get across to kids because in school you are so often assessed based on grades that it may be hard to remember that you have value even if you aren’t the best in your class. In this episode, we talk about how to help your child really take that message to heart.

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What skills are tests missing?

Creativity

  • People need to aware and adept to the ambiance of the rapidly changing world in order to succeed. This applies both for businesses and in social aspects of life.
  • Schools don’t reward creativity, but actively penalize it. School want things done a certain way. For example, if the student does not solve a mathematical problem the way they were taught, but wrote the correct answer, they would still lose points for not following the way they were taught to solve the problem.

What can parents do?

  • The best thing to do is model creativity and not be dogmatic about it. Look for opportunities to demonstrate your own creativity to your kids. Be flexible in your own life.
  • Encourage your child to look at problems in alternative ways and take sensible risks.
  • Help your child realize that when you do things creatively you may get beaten down, but that’s ok, you have to be resilient in the face of objections or resistance.
  • Reward creativity.
  • Sometimes you have to look at things differently from how you have in the past by letting go of the things you may have once believed was true.

Common Sense or Practical Intelligence

  • This means knowing how to respond to different kinds of practical and social situations; such as handling conflict and making judgements of things that our “worth your time.”
  • Common sense or practical intelligence is weakly correlated with IQ type and academic intelligence. “Being a star student doesn’t buy you any common sense.”
  • Common sense or practical intelligence is important. Tests don’t value your ability to navigate the world, however

What can parents do?

  • Make sure your kids are talking to you about their problems and challenges with others.
  • Help them work through the problems they may have (don’t just tell them the answer) by discussing possible options with their advantages and disadvantages. This encourages social problem solving. By telling kids what to do it’s hard for them to develop common sense because then they don’t have experiential basis of what to do.
  • You should model common sense because children are more likely to do what you do, not just what you say.

Wisdom

  • Wisdom means using your knowledge and abilities for a common good. It’s taking the smarts you have and applying it to make the world a better place.

What can parents do?

  • Show that as a parent you value a common good. Show that you care about making the world a better place and you hope they will too.
  • Think about what to do to make the world a better place.
  • Have your child do prosocial things that will help whatever issues you think are important.

Find one’s passion

  • Parents can help their child find the “thing(s)” that’s right for them. This may be something parents did not have in mind. Parents can help encourage their child to find what excites them, whether or not it excites the parents. Just make sure that it doesn’t get them in trouble.
  • Parents may try to impose their value system onto their child, and that doesn’t work. It may not be what’s best for them.

What can parents do?

  • You may try a lot of things with your kids and find that most don’t work. Expose them to different kinds of experiences and interests, knowing that most won’t work.

Parents should show genuine interest and be willing to devote their time and mental resources to kids. When your kids talk, listen to them. When they need help be there for them. Don’t be intrusive and try to take over their life. Invest yourself in making the kids who they can be. This takes time and patience.

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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Difficult Topics, Elementary School, Great for All Ages, High School, Middle School, Motivating the Unmotivated, School Advice, The Happy Student Podcast

#51: Turning Around a Tough Year (Updated!)

Sometimes the start of the school year just doesn’t go your way. You missed some things the teacher said; you weren’t organized; you misbehaved; whatever. There are lots of reasons the school year might have started out poorly. The good news is that it doesn’t have to stay that way. The New Year is a great opportunity to turn around a challenging school year! To ease us back into the year, Fireborn’s got a quick four tips to make the rest of the year brighter at school.

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Four tips to make the rest of the year brighter at school:

Find that motivation

The first step is to make sure they are motivated to turn the school year around.

There are three components of motivation:

  • Autonomy: We want to be in control.
  • Mastery: We want to be good and get better at something.
  • Purpose: We want to do things that matter.

To help your kids find that internal motivation, help them set goals that matter to them academically. Let them choose what their goal is (autonomy). Set up a plan for success so that they get some small wins quickly (mastery). Ask your child why they chose this goal and talk about its importance (purpose).

Finding that motivation can be really tough, especially when it may seem like everything at school is just going terribly – at least, that’s how your kid feels. Trying to find a goal may be tough because they may simply just be too beat down by the system right now. If you are worried this is happening to your kid, well – the first thing to do is to think if they are truly depressed or need some professional help.

Another thing to think about is getting them excited about something at school. There are lots of potential goals that can help motivate your kids. Maybe an academic goal shouldn’t be the first priority because if your kid is having trouble socially and doesn’t want to go to school in the first place, going from a C to a B in English probably won’t help that. Maybe it should be finding an extracurricular activity that excites your kid. Having something to look forward to at the end of the day can help them get through school more happily (and maybe help them focus in class).

Get your child’s friends and family (maybe even his teacher!) on board.

Change is hard. Having a strong support system will help. Therefore, encourage your children to talk to their friends about their new goal and maybe even their teacher. Saying the goal aloud increases accountability because friends will ask how it’s going, plus they are there to help if they fall off track.

Find a tutor.

No matter what is causing the difficult year, find someone who can dedicate their time to helping your kids succeed in that area.

Work on developing your child’s grit and growth mindset!

Adjusting their mindset to think this way will help them feel comfortable asking for help and trying harder. Dr. Caren Baruch-Feldman wrote an excellent workbook for teens, The Grit Guide for Teens, to help them adjust their mindset, build their grit, and achieve their goals. Working through the activities in this book will also help develop that motivation (tip #1) to turn the year around!

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

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

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?

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

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

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!

5 Tips to Help Your Kid Build Their Attention Span
Elementary School, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student #85: 5 Tips to Help Your Kid Build Their Attention Span

Kids’ attention spans are notoriously bad. You give them 3 things to do and maybe they’ll do one of them. They get off task and distracted so easily. It’s super frustrating! Maintaining your focus is a skill – a skill we would like our kids to master, for our own benefit and for their benefit. Being able to focus is essential to paying attention in class and to getting homework done efficiently. Fireborn has 5 tips to help you help your child flex those attention muscles.

5 Tips to Help Your Kid Build Their Attention Span

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Maintaining your focus is a skill – a skill we would like our kids to master, for our own benefit and for their benefit. Being able to focus is essential to paying attention in class and to getting homework done efficiently.

Here are ways to help your kid build those focus muscles so they can do better in school and pay better attention to you:

  1. Give simple, clear, and consistent instructions.
    • If your kid is not following your instructions now, there’s a good chance they simply can’t. They haven’t built up their attention muscles enough yet to be able to focus and remember everything you said to do without getting distracted in the meantime. So start with something they can do.
    • If your child does one simple task easily, add on more tasks one at a time until there is one they miss. Then, ask your child to do the same tasks, including the one they missed, every day.
    • If your kid is young enough or truly inexperienced enough, even just one instruction could be stretching them, which is okay.
    • If you need your child to do multiple things, but they aren’t ready for that yet, you could say, “Okay, I have five tasks for you that need to be done and then you’ll be ready for a break from work. First, review your homework. Let me know when you’re done.” This way you don’t overwhelm them with too many to do items at the start and you give them an incentive: the faster they finish their tasks, the sooner they get a break.
  2. Review the series of events in the morning and evening.
    • At the beginning of the day, find a time to discuss what will be happening that day.
    • If they are having trouble answering this question, you can model how to think through the day by giving an example of your own.
    • If that’s too advanced for your kids, try prompting them with a few questions, like, “What’s the first thing you’ll do when you get to school today?” “What are you looking forward to doing today at school?” “What are you least looking forward to doing today at school?” And those same questions can be used for after school as well.
    • Then, at the end of the day, review what happened that day. This can be hard because kids often resist responding to “How was your day?” So instead of asking how their day was, ask more specific questions, like “What was the best part of your day?” “What was the hardest part of your day?” “What did you do that was kind today?” “What did you do when you first got to school today?” or “What did you do when you first got to chess class today?” “Who did you play with today?” If your child gives short answers, like “I played with Sandra.” Follow up by asking what game they played.
    • If your child is really avoiding talking to you – try to make it a game. You could say, “Let’s play two truths and a lie. You say two true things that happened today and one lie and I’ll have to guess which one is the lie.”
    • So you may be thinking that this seems like a lot of work to build memory and not a lot of work to build focus. That’s kind of true. These times for planning and reflection help with memory formation and really do build those memory muscles. But memory and attention are related: memory requires focus and attention. What we focus on and pay attention to are the things we remember. So by going through our days, we are paying attention to what happened – we are flexing our focus muscles and in turn also working on improving memory.
  3. Practice meditating.
    • Meditating is all about focus and building those focus muscles. You focus on your breath. You focus on the sounds around you. You focus on the present moment. You focus on how you are feeling. Each day you practice meditating, the more you are working out those focus muscles.
    • A great resource for meditation exercises for kids is Eline Snel’s book Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids.
  4. Limit screen time.
    • Screens are natural distractions. By limiting screen time to a few specific hours in the day or if you limit
    • them to specific activities, then outside of those hours, you limit the distractions and your child has a greater opportunity to continue with one task, even if the task is playing, without the interruption.
  5. Doing one thing at a time.
    • Multitasking and distractions interrupt your ability to focus on that one thing at a time. Therefore, if we can limit distractions and multitasking, then you can focus on that one thing you’re doing. And the more that you do that, the more you’re practicing maintaining your attention on one thing, the more you are building your attention span.
    • The Center for Brain Health recommends focusing on one difficult task for 20 minutes and then taking a 5-minute brain break. Once 20 minutes starts feeling easy, up it to 25 minutes of serious concentration followed by a 5-minute brain break. The Center recommends concentrating on one thing for up to an hour. After an hour, be sure to take that break! Young kids can start out focusing on homework for just 20 minutes but don’t expect them to do homework for an hour any time too soon. But you can expect your teen to build their focus muscles so they can work up to an hour at a time.

The homework this week is to tell us what your kid focuses on the best and what is the hardest thing for your kid to focus on. Send your homework along with any other comments or questions to info@fireborninstitute.org or message us on Instagram and Facebook at Fireborn Institute or tweet at us at SisuFireborn.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode. How do you help your children study and get ready for exams?

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

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!


Resources:

Center for Brain Health.

Firestone, K. (2017). “Take a Brain Break.” FirebornFireside.org: Fireborn Institute.

Harvard Medical School. “4 ways to improve focus and memory.Healthbeat.

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

Snel, E. (2013). Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids. Boulder: Shambhala.

 

Your Teacher Doesn't Want to Fail You
Elementary School, High School, Middle School, School Advice, Self-Advocacy

Your Teacher Doesn’t Want to Fail You

Has your child forgotten to turn in a few assignments?

Were they incorrectly graded on a test? 

If so, these are great opportunities for your child to learn to self-advocate, for your child to go to the teacher and talk about making up work or revisiting test questions in an attempt to improve her grade. However, students often feel uncomfortable talking with their teachers about these issues and so avoid these conversations.

Perhaps they feel embarrassed about missing those assignments and by not talking to the teacher about them, they can avoid directly thinking about how they messed up. Perhaps they are worried that those questions they answered correctly were actually incorrect. Perhaps they do not know what to say to their teacher.

To help them, if they are young enough (i.e., not in high school) and unwilling to self-advocate on their own, you can set up a meeting between you, the teacher, and your child. You will be there to support your child and help if he has difficulty saying what he wants to say.

Before the meeting, talk about how you envision the meeting going and what your child will say (with her input). The meeting will probably go something like this: You will sit down in the classroom together and say hello. The teacher will want to know or reiterate the purpose of the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to acknowledge that you have missed a few assignments and that has been hurting your grades. You would like to make up the work if possible. And it is your child’s responsibility to say that.

Your child will probably feel uncomfortable. So, you can remind them that their teacher is there to help him learn and wants him to succeed. So even if you can’t make up the work, the teacher will probably help you come up with a solution to make sure that in the future homework is turned in on time. Also, no matter what, this conversation will show the teacher that you care and will gain you some goodwill in the teacher’s eyes. A teacher’s goodwill cannot be underestimated. 

Then you both go and talk with the teacher. If your child is still uncomfortable, you can again say, “[Insert teacher’s name here], I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that teachers want their students to succeed, right? Otherwise, we would not even be having this meeting. So, [insert child’s name here], let’s talk about if there is anything that can be done to make up for the missed homework assignments.”

By reiterating this point in the meeting with the teacher, your child will see the teacher’s positive reaction and feel empowered by it. Then, even if your child cannot make up the work, the conversation has been framed in a collaborative tone (instead of the argumentative tone your child was expecting), which will encourage creative problem solving to help your child do well in this class.

Any time we self-advocate, we want to start the conversation (and hopefully end it) collaboratively. Teachers (and future co-workers and bosses) are much more likely to want to help you when you approach them in a friendly way, as opposed to an argumentative way. If you assume that the teacher wants you to succeed, it is much easier to see the conversation as collaborative as opposed to combative. And that is the lesson we want to impart on our children – that to successfully self-advocate, have a collaborative tone and assume goodwill on the other party’s behalf.

Once your child has gone through this process with you, she will feel more confident self-advocating by herself next time.

Have your child preview homework and then take a break
Elementary School, High School, Middle School, Parent Tips, School Advice

Have Your Child Preview Homework and Then Take a Break

Sometimes it can be intimidating to start homework if we know (or we think we know) that we don’t know how to do the homework and so we avoid that. But just previewing the homework, we don’t have to really worry that we don’t know how to do it. And then our brain does this amazing thing: while we are having a break doing other stuff, our brain is thinking about how to solve those problems. So by the time we start our homework, we actually have some ideas on how to approach that tough math question or what to write about for that essay.

So often helping kids with homework feels more like nagging them to just sit down and do their homework. That stinks. It’s really no fun for parents or kids. So how do you shift from being the homework nag to your kid’s homework coach? Fireborn’s got 6 tips for you on how to stop being a homework nag so that homework becomes, dare we say it, potentially a pleasant, collaborative, relationship-building opportunity instead of an all out fight!

How do you shift from being the homework nag to your kid’s homework coach?

  1. Preview the work with your kid and then take a break.
  • Do something fun on the break.
  • There is no pressure during this break.
  • While they are having a break doing other stuff, their brain is thinking about how to solve those problems.
  • Now, by the time they start homework, they actually have some ideas on how to approach the tough questions.
  1. Establish a study time habit.
  • Have a specific spot (that your child chooses) to do homework.
  • Have a routine to start the work.
    • Examples: eat a snack, put on classical music, or exercise.
  • Try to start at the same time every day.
  1. Ask your child to just do short bursts of homework.
  • It is less intimidating to do 10 minutes of work than to do all of the work for a subject.
  • “Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part and once your child has started, he can decide that he wants to keep reading.”
  1. Make sure your child gets breaks.
  • “Powering through is not actually a thing. And it’s really bad for your brain.”
  1. Help your child develop intrinsic motivation to do homework.
  • There are three parts to internal motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose
  • Autonomy- the want to be in charge.
    • To give them autonomy with homework, you can try letting them choose…
      • What time or place they do their homework.
      • The order in which they decide to do their homework.
      • What music they listen to.
    • Mastery- the want to do things that we are good at and that we want to get better at
      • To give them mastery with homework…
        • Make sure to celebrate the small wins.
        • Give your child as many opportunities to get better at stuff that they like, both with homework and extracurricular activities.
      • Purpose- the want to do things that matter
        • To help them with purpose for their homework…
          • Have your child set personal academic goals and plans for the year.
            • These goals should explain how and when the child will accomplish these goals. The more specific the goal and the plan, the better.
  1. Assume good will!
  • “Taking a breath and remembering your child wants to do right by you will help adjust your mindset so you can respond more effectively when your child is avoiding studying for that exam.”

By doing these things, instead of nagging your child, you’re actually teaching her strategies for how to study when you aren’t there to nag her.

You can learn more on The Happy Student Podcast Episode#55: How to Not Be a Homework Nag!

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Math Games for Young Kids
Elementary School, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student #70: Math Games for Young Kids

We do a lot of literacy work with young kids – we read to them, we ask them to tell us stories about their days, we encourage them to color and to write. And for whatever may be the cause of this, it’s just easier for parents to work on these verbal skills rather than math skills. But we really want to encourage those math skills as well! So in this episode Fireborn reviews some easy math activities that you can play with your young kids to help get their brains learning those important skills.

Math Games for Young Kids

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It’s often easier for parents to work on verbal skills than math skills. But, of course we want our kids learning how to do math as well. Here are some easy math activities (and some discussions that even get into science as well) that you can play with your young kids to help get their brains learning those important skills.

  1. Find math games online and on your phone.
  1. Engage kids in thinking about math by asking them questions throughout their day.
  • Ask simple counting, more/fewer, and subtraction questions while they eat to bring a little math into your life.
    • How many goldfish do you have there?
    • If you eat 1 of them, how many would you have left?
    • Do you have more or fewer goldfish than I have?
  • You can also play these games at bath time.
    • Counting toes or playing with different sized containers asking which one holds more water, pouring water from one into the other to show which one has more are two different games.
    • Another great bath time game is to discover how many rubber ducks it takes to go from one side of the bath to the other. Does it take more or fewer boats to do the same thing? What about if you go the other way across the tub?
  1. Problem solve together.
  • When you are at the grocery with your child, ask your child to determine how many bananas you should buy. When they tell you, “4”, ask how they came up with 4. Talk through the solution with them (if they lead this discussion, it’s even better).
  • This is called “Math Talk” and just having conversations about math helps build those skills in your kid’s brain.
  1. Play some board games that use the math skills of counting or addition/subtraction.
  • Candy Land, Yahtzee, and Trouble are some great examples.
  1. Read math books.
  1. Practice mental math.
  • Just start rattling math off like, “Take 5. Plus 7. Minus 2. Times 2. Minus 10. Plus 3. What do you have?” (And the answer in this instance is 13.)
  • It’s just to keep you sharp. You can play it with your kids in the car on the way to school.
  • Make it as challenging as your kids need it to be. Not so challenging that they can’t do it and it’s not fun, but challenging enough that it keeps their attention.
  1. Engage your child in a building activity.
  • Building activities are great for math and STEM, like building a fort or making a model house.
  1. Practice hypothesizing and making predictions (here’s where we bring in a little science).
  • How many basketballs do you think we could fit in your bedroom if we took out the furniture?
  • What would happen if we didn’t have a sun?
  • How many pieces of pizza do you think you can eat at dinner?
  • How far do you think this paper airplane will fly?
  • How many times do you think we need to hit this piñata until the candy comes out?
  • What would happen if humans had two sets of arms?
  • What would happen if there weren’t any gravity?
    • These example questions get your kids thinking creatively and analytically and they help them start to hypothesize and predict, while still being fun.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

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!