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.)

Encouraging Persistence Instead of Complacency
Parent-Child Communication

Encouraging Persistence Instead of Complacency

Honors Chemistry my sophomore year of high school was one of the hardest classes I ever took. My teacher, Mr. Spooner, expected so much more of me than had ever been expected before. It took me months to figure out that “good enough” for other teachers was not good enough in his class. Looking back, his feedback on homework clearly outlined his high expectations.

Just because I worked for hours on my homework and could not figure out the answer was no excuse to not have explained my thought process or to not have thought further into the problem, he would say. Whwasn’t I finishing the problem? Where was I getting stuck? What if I pretended as though I got that part right and moved on? Where would that take me? I would explain my thought processes to him in person, but he wanted me to write it on the paper while I was doing the work, not discussing it the next day with him. It was okay to get the wrong answer, but it was not okay to give up and to write nothing (or too little).

By the time I finally figured out what he was asking of me and I was able to do it, I understood why he wanted it: writing out my thoughts usually generated ideas that led to the correct answer. It encouraged increased consideration of the problem and boosted my ability to problem solve. Instead of giving up, writing down why I was confused and how I thought the principals should be applied but were not working, often showed me the flaws in my thinking and made me reconsider.

Giving up too easily was never okay for Mr. Spooner and I am so grateful I had someone to teach me that lesson.

In his most recent book Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners, veteran teacher and educational writer Larry Ferlazzo explains that “There may be times when students are having difficulties meeting their goals. If and when that occurs, researchers recommend that accountability is still important and it should not be dismissed with a shrug… Find out from the student why they think they are having difficulties, elicit from them ideas on what they can do differently and perhaps provide some of your own suggestions” (2015, 31). Too often teachers (and parents) accept less from their learners than they should and fail to push hard enough.

Based on my own experience teaching and my failure to push hard enough at times, I would wager this stems from a desire to acknowledge how hard the student has already worked, how hard the work is, and a desire to keep the child engaged. But that actually often has the opposite effect. If children are not held accountable and are not held to a higher standard, they will then not push themselves to do better. They will limit themselves to those lower expectations. That is what I had been doing.

Mr. Spooner was not one of those teachers. I remember a classmate, a smart one too, once complained after getting a bad grade, “But Mr. Spooner, what about our effort? Why aren’t you trying to motivate us instead of making us feel bad about our grades? What about our self-esteem?” He responded, “I’m not here to help your self-esteem. I’m here to teach you.” I disagree. In the short-term, he did not help with self-esteem, but in the long-term, his class boosted my self-esteem more than any other. He was there to teach us to push ourselves and in our effort and eventual success we were rewarded with the knowledge that we can accomplish more difficult tasks than we thought. We did not need praise anymore. The work other teachers did to preserve our self-esteem was actually hurting us and keeping us from that knowledge that we were more capable.

Kids need some pain points to overcome challenges. Therefore, like Mr. Spooner, we need to stop saying “It’s okay” so feelings are not hurt and so that ‘self-esteem is maintained’ because that is not how it works. 

Instead, Ferlazzo recommends “a strategy called ‘plussing’ that is used by Pixar animation studios with great success… ‘Using words like ‘and’ or ‘what if,’ rather than ‘but’ is a way to offer suggestions and allow creative juices to flow without fear'” (2015, 7), such as “What if you tried this?” and “And why do you think this is happening?” By asking questions starting with “and” and “what if”, judgment is removed, but students are still required to continue thinking about the problem, instead of being given permission to give up.


Ferlazzo, L. (2015). Building a community of self-motivated learners: Strategies to help students thrive in school and beyond. Routledge: New York.

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.

The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student #32: Back to School Already? Okay, Here Are Some Tips

It’s just about time to be going back to school – can you believe it? We can’t. But we do have some tips to help your child feel prepared for and excited to start the first day of school. In the episode, we review a few general things you can do to help your child get ready for school, as well as a few tips to help your kid if he’s going to a new school, and then a few more tips on how to help your child be organized this school year.




So as we think about sending our kids back to school, there are some rather mundane things we want to remember.

  1. You need to make sure you have all vaccinations and forms filled out for the school.
  2. You can also do some back to school shopping for new clothes so your kids feel their best and freshest on the first day – new clothes can be a nice little confidence boost on an exciting, but also a little nerve-wracking first day back.
  3. Make sure you have some after-school activities already planned. For younger children, have some playdates already scheduled. Sign your kids up for some after-school activities, preferably of their choosing.
  4. Make sure your child has everything ready the night before for the first day of school, such as the first day of school outfit, backpack and school supplies, lunch plans, bus stop information or information about how he is getting to and from school, and any supplies for after-school activities.

If your child is going to a new school, here are some specific tips for making the first day a little less scary:

  • Take her to tour the school. Help her find her locker and her desk and check out her classroom.
    • If you can’t visit the school, go through the photos of the school online. Look at pictures of the principal, vice-principal, teachers, and specials teachers. Read bios of your child’s teachers to help make the teacher seem more like a real person and less like a scary, unknown abstract idea of a teacher.
  • Meet his teacher (optimally without other children present).
  • For younger children, take them to play on the school’s playground a few times.
  • Introduce her to any future classmates.
  • Review first day preparations:
    • Go over how she will get to school. Walk or drive the route a few times.
    • Go over what time he will need to leave the house in the morning. Determine what time that means he needs to wake up as well as if he needs you to wake him up or if he can set an alarm.
    • Have clothes out and all school and after-school materials ready to go.
    • Review how she will know which classes and classrooms to go to.

In order to be successful at organizing, you have to find a style that works for your child. There isn’t a one size fits all rule. To stay organized, you have to figure out what your child’s style is, and plan accordingly. Techniques to help your children learn to organize and plan are trial-and-error processes. Help your child discover his/her organizational style by giving him/her some options to start using. Let your child know that if those options don’t work, you can try something else. This will help him/her learn what works best for him/her much faster (and more happily) than insisting organization be done a certain way.

Tip 1: Discover Your Child’s Organizational Style

  • Marcella Moran, President of The Kid Organizer and co-author of Organizing the Disorganized Child, has identified 3 organizational styles: visual, spatial, and chronological/sequential.
    • Visual organizers need to see everything. If anything is stored in a drawer, it’s forgotten because it can’t be seen. Visual organizers tend to be the ones color-coding everything.
    • Spatial, or “comfy”, organizers like for everything to be within reach. Beds are often a favorite place for this kind of organizer to work because they are comfortable and large enough to fit everything that is needed. Dining room tables or a desk with a rolling chair are also good options.
    • Chronological/sequential organizers “organize in a way that makes sense to them” – but they often just look messy to other people. But if you move something, they will be upset because now you have messed up their system and how will they ever be able to find that again? This is why it’s sometimes okay to be messy – messy rooms for these organizers may actually be organized.
    • You can have more than one organizational style preference.

Tip 2: Embrace Your Organizational Style

  • Once you’ve determined your child’s preference, embrace it to set him/her up for organizational success!
    • For visual organizers: Try one binder and one notebook (make sure they are then same color) per school subject. Also, strive to make sure that your child’s workplace is always decluttered (because clutter is visually distracting). For a child that is visual, use an academic planner with a bold exterior for easy spotting, and get rid of drawers!
    • For spatial organizers: Try 3-subject notebooks, so they can have more subjects in one place. Spatial organizers also tend to like to move while they work – sitting on the bed, lying on the bed, lying on the floor… Moving from room to room between subjects can help keep them focused too.
    • For chronological/sequential organizers: Try accordion folders for organizing handouts. If your child is this kind of organizer, they tend to have a ton of random papers, so mesh trays and labels can be helpful to keep papers in one spot! Stackable containers filled with whatever your chronological/sequential organizer deems necessary are another good option.

Tip 3: Use Page Protectors to Keep Your Child’s Backpack Neat

  • Loose papers are the downfall of every organized backpack. It is so much easier to stuff handouts and returned papers and quizzes into your backpack instead of hole punching them. Even if they come hole punched and you diligently put them in your binder, they rip out easily and end up messing up your backpack anyway. It takes very little time to put your paper into your page protector and then it stays there forever. Have some empty page protectors ready in your child’s binder for organizing returned papers and handouts right away!

Tip 4: Minimize Backpack Pockets

  • Often we look at a backpack with lots of pockets and we think, “Wow – there is a spot for EVERYTHING!” But what it actually means is, “Oh no! There are more spots to lose my things!” So when hunting for a backpack, find one with as few pockets as possible.

Tip 5: Find a Planner Your Child Will Use

  • You can always go with a traditional academic planner, but if those traditional planners aren’t working for your child, try having him/her write down homework on sticky-notes (in a sticky note wallet). You can also encourage your kid to keep a small memo pad in his/her pocket to write down things throughout the day.
  • At home, they can transfer their homework notes to a large weekly calendar. (Try two Elmer’s Weekly Calendars – one is not enough). I love this because you can see your whole week really nicely. Also, it feels awesome throwing away a sticky-note once you’ve completed an assignment.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode!


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!

Slow Reading Comprehension
School Advice

Episode #56: Slow Reading Woes


Being a slow reader is frustrating! It stinks to have to spend so much more time than your peers just to read through and remember the same amount of information! While we can’t make your child a speed reader over night, Fireborn does have 4 tips to help make reading go a bit faster and to help your child remember more of that information.

Slow Reading Comprehension




What used to happen to me: As I would look over the huge amount of reading for the night, literally just staring at the number of pages in the book, I was stressed. And that stressed, totally overwhelmed feeling did not make me want to just dive on in and get started. It made me want to hide from my homework.

Tips for reading a book from an executive functions coach:

  1. Focus on one chapter at a time.
  2. Go through the chapter once by reading all of the titles, headlines, and bold words, skipping everything else.
    • Even if read quickly, the brain is now ready for the information. It is subconsciously working to help organize the information.
  3. After the initial run through, do the normal read through.
  4. Skip the pictures and anecdotes on the side, especially when in a rush.
    • These are rarely tested on.
    • Some people need those extras to make the reading interesting or at least bearable, but if the option is skip it or to not get through all of the reading, get through all of the reading.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode and how you handle your children’s slow reading comprehension?


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!


Making Group Work Bearable
School Advice

7 Tips for Making Group Work Bearable

Every job you apply to wants to know how well you work on teams. And schools have picked up on this. They are assigning more and more group work to kids at younger and younger ages, trying to prepare them for the “real world”. And there certainly is a lot of group work happening in the real world these days.

But I just have to say, I hate group work when I don’t get to choose my team. In the real world, you apply for a job and you meet everyone on your team before you accept that job in an effort to figure out if you can actually work well with those people because sometimes, no matter how great a communicator you are, you just aren’t going to work well with everyone. In business school in particular, group work with groups I hadn’t chosen were the bane of my existence. I can’t tell you how many times the same member of my team had an issue with his car, making him late for almost every meeting. I actually believed him until one day I noted, “Wow. You have a ton of car trouble. That stinks.” And he asked me what I was talking about.

So, if group work can be difficult for adults, it’s definitely difficult for kids, who are still learning how to communicate effectively with their group mates, coordinate, organize, and be aware of all the different pieces of the project, as well as dealing with lots of noise and distractions while working together.

There are certainly benefits to practicing working in groups when you are young. It helps you learn how to communicate well with your peers and negotiate. It helps you learn to delegate tasks and combine resources and skills. It helps you learn to manage lots of moving pieces.

But it can be a really hard learning experience.

Continue reading “7 Tips for Making Group Work Bearable”

Halfway School Mark Advice For Parents
School Advice

Halfway School Mark Advice For Parents

The school year is officially in full swing. No more “getting to know you” activities or tiny projects to gauge students’ knowledge. This is the time for unit tests, big projects, and progress reports. Not only are students overwhelmed with work (and trust me, we are), but parents are starting to feel more distanced from their child. They send their child to school for 6 1/2 hours a day, and often have no idea of what happens behind those school doors. Don’t worry it’s not too late to learn about your child’s school day!

These are some ways to figure out what is going on…

1. Talk to your child.

Don’t just ask your child “How was your day?” unless you simply want a one word answer to end the conversation. This question does not increase communication between parent and child. Rephrasing your questions can help you learn more about how your child is actually feeling and what he or she is doing during the school day. A child will share more when asked specific, guided questions. Here are some great questions

2. Talk with other parents.

Meeting with other parents can facilitate a discussion about what is happening in the classroom. They can inform you about things going on that you might not have known about. By forming bonds with other parents, you can all be advocates for your children together.

3. Talk to your child’s teacher. 

Back to school night might have already passed, but there are still opportunities to learn about the upcoming curriculum. Emailing the teacher to ask questions is a perfect tool! (Be sure to not overwhelm him or her with emails; be the teacher’s friend, not his or her stressor). You can also try to schedule a conference either in person or via the phone with the
teacher to check on your child’s progress. Your child’s teacher wants your child to succeed just as much as you do, so work together for the betterment of your child.

4. Volunteer at your child’s school.

During the school day, parents can volunteer around the school or in the child’s classroom. Parents can attend school parties or chaperone school field trips. Parents who want to get more involved can also join the parent association for the school. Parents who are not available during the day can volunteer for events that are after school hours or during the weekend. By volunteering, parents can learn about the dynamics of the school. When parents volunteer in their child’s classroom they can get a glimpse of how their child acts during school hours. This can also give you the opportunity to observe what activities your child does during the school day.

5. Visit the school’s website.

School websites are very informative. Most websites include a school calendar with upcoming events, programs to help parents feel involved in the school community, as well as pictures of the school. Checking this website regularly can help parents stay informed.

6. Ask to see your child’s folder or backpack.

Checking your child’s folder or backpack is the easiest way to get involved in your child’s academics. Completed assignments or tests are a great way to monitor your child’s progress and keep you informed as to what is going on in the classroom. Asking to see these papers can help you be more proactive and can prevent your child from falling through the cracks; it also discourages your child from hiding less than stellar grades. Additionally, this can help you ensure that your child completes all the homework assigned and is prepared for any upcoming tests.

7. Help your child with homework.

By sitting with your child while doing homework or checking completed homework you can better determine how well your child is grasping the curriculum. If you see your child is struggling you can either help your child yourself or get help for him or her. By knowing what your child is struggling with, you can help reinforce the skill using everyday situations. For example, if your child is having difficulties with subtraction, then at the grocery you can grab 10 apples and have your child subtract 3 to see how many are left. This will also help your child see how school learning is applicable to everyday life.

8. Help prepare your child for tests

Similarly, helping your child prepare for a test is a great way to get involved. This can help you understand what your child is learning in school and how they are performing. You can also provide the support your child may need if they cannot grasp the material in the classroom.

9. Read with your child.

Reading with your child is a great way to enhance your child’s literacy skills. However, it is also a good way to assess your child’s reading competency compared to the grade-level expectations. By reading with your child every night you not only have quality time together, but you help build a lifelong reader.

Although your child spends the bulk of his or her waking day in school, there are easy ways for parents to feel connected. It is important that parents know what is happening while their child is at school so they can help their child excel. By using these tips, parents can be more involved and research shows a child performs better in school when his or her parents are involved.

Written By: Emery Tedesco

Emery Tedesco is heading into her second year as a college student at the University of Delaware. She is studying Elementary Education with a concentration in Special Education. Emery continually dedicates her time at Lakeview Elementary School aiding in a second grade general education and special education integrated co-taught classroom, assisting in summer reading/math camp, and volunteering in any classroom in need of support so she can continually spend time with children and refine her craft. At the University of Delaware, Emery dedicates her time to helping children through Project Sunshine whose mission is to bring joy to children in the hospital. In addition, she is a member of the Association of Pre-Professional Leaders in Education (APPLE). APPLE helps inspiring educators learn about the best steps to take as future teachers.


By Submitting This Form, You Accept the Mollom Privacy Policy. “Twenty Ways You Can Help Your Children Succeed At School.” Colorín Colorado. WETA Public Broadcasting, n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/twenty-ways-you-can-help-your-children-succeed-school&gt;.
“10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Elementary School.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/school-help-elementary.html#&gt;.