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Success at School Begins at Home


by Melanie R. Miller, M.Ed., School Counselor, Parent Educator, Certified Positive Discipline Associate


Before children can learn their “three R’s”, they need the vital protections provided by the “four C’s”; Connection, Capability, Counting and Courage. (Kottman, 1999)

A child who can connect with others (connection), can take care of oneself (capable), feel valued by others (counting), and have courage, have a greater opportunity to grow up responsible, productive, cooperative, self-reliant, resilient, resourceful, contributing, and happy.  (Kottman 1999) And you guessed it, do better academically!

For the purpose of this article, I would like to focus on the “capable” portion of the “four C’s”.  Think of the child who, in the morning, gets himself dressed, participates in the preparation of breakfast, is included in problem solving the issue of how to get ready and out the door by 8:05am, is encouraged to take a risk, is allowed to make mistakes.  Now think about the child, who is told what to wear to school, (mom actually dresses this child!);  is not allowed to help with breakfast because it takes too much time or is too messy; is constantly reminded about what he has to do to get ready for school; isn’t allowed to walk to school with friends because mom or dad don’t trust him to get there on time.

Which child feels more capable?  Which child is going to walk into their classroom with confidence and a feeling that they can contribute and be an important part of their classroom and their learning?

In our society of super moms and busy schedules it’s just so much easier to do things for our kids that they can do for themselves.  We all know how long a six year old can take to tie his shoes.  We all know how painful it is to watch our child struggle as they learn a new skill or try a new math problem.  But what message do we give them when we step in do it for them?  Could it be the message of;  “you’re too little, let someone bigger do it”,  “I can do this better than you”.  “Stop trying, you’ll never get it”, “you don’t do it well, so don’t even bother”.   And off to school this child goes with a belief of “I’m not capable, others can do things better than me, I’ll just mess it up if I try”.  A child with this belief is not going to feel capable of learning and is not going to take responsibility for his or her education.

Children are born feeling capable.  Remember the baby that tries so hard to hold up her head while lying on her tummy, or the two year who’s favorite line is “I can do it myself”.  As parents we can nurture and guide this journey of developing capability.  The following suggestions will hopefully guide you along the way.

*Stop doing for children what they can do for themselves.  What are you doing for your child that developmentally, he or she can do on their own?
*Have faith in your children.  Have faith that they are capable.  When you want to step in and do something for them that they can do for themselves, ask yourself, “Am I acting from faith or from fear?”
*Allow your children to ask for help….instead of just jumping in when they are struggling.  Give them the dignity to be capable of doing the task themselves.  ASK if they would like to do the activity together or by themselves.
*Actions speak louder than words.  We can tell our kids over and over again….”you can do it, you’re smart, you’re capable”.  But do our actions voice those same words?
*Allow your child to contribute to the family.  If your child likes to cook, give him meaningful way to contribute to a family meal. Gives him jobs that truly make your task easier; not just jobs that keep him busy while you actually prepare the meal!
*Believe that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.  When your child makes a mistake….celebrate!  Acknowledge the mistake and ask your child what they learned from it.  Ask them to help you with a solution on how to repair the mistake.  Children feel better when they’re not just part of the problem (the mistake), but part of the solution (the repair).
*Model making mistakes….Take yourself lightly.  Say “whoops, I made a mistake”.  Share what you learned and voice your solution for repairing it.  At dinner time have everyone share a mistake they made during the day, and how they repaired it.
*Brainstorm household chores (contributions) with your kids.  Create a routine for getting the chores done.  Along with the boring, menial chores, allow children to do chores that once were only adult chores. Remember when your five year old couldn’t wait to sweep the floor?  That was a job only for adults!

So, when your child heads off to school, give them a big hug and a kiss.  Tell them to take risks, get messy and make lots of mistakes.  And when they come back home and tell you about the difficult day they had…..Give them a hug and listen, listen, listen.  Tell them you have faith in them and you know they will find solution!

Article based on the work of Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D, Lynn Lott, LMFT, et.al.


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