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Joyful Musings--a weekly blog

Joyful Parenting Coaching is focused on clarity, consistency, connection, being an effective parent, finding balance as a parent, and above all being a confident and joyous parent. Topics include communication, having difficult conversations, having constructive conversations, chores, routines, family meetings,  I teach parent education and parenting classes because parenting is a skill—not something we are born knowing. Get the parenting skills you need today!

Filtering by Tag: self advocacy

3 Metaphors for Parenting Teens

Elisabeth Stitt

Parenting a teen is a new game! The main goal of parenting a teen is to raise an adult. That means your main parenting task between roughly 12 and 18 is to make the shift from being the captain of the ship to being the wise guide. After all, it is simply not possible to drive down the street for you child and to claim that your child is learning to drive. Before he or she can get a license, your child has to get behind the wheel and drive down the street without you in the car. Keep these three metaphors in mind in helping you be the parent of a teen.

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Making Pancakes: Teaching Independence from Toddlerhood

Elisabeth Stitt

by Elisabeth Stitt

Earlier this fall I wrote a blog called Set Your Kids Free:  10 Things They Need to Be Able to Do by Middle School.  People really wanted to hear what they could expect from their kids by that age.  But they were unsure how to get there.  So, I wrote this guide to making pancakes to give you a sense of how to break down tasks.  All learning can be scaffolded and all kids can learn--often much sooner than you than you think.  Remember, your job is to do yourself out of a job one small skill at a time.

With Your Infant

Talk/sing to your child to narrate what you are doing as you do it:  

Now it's time to measure the flour, measure the flour, measure the flour/Now it's time to measure the flour early in the morning. [crack the egg, mix the batter, test the pan, etc.]

With Your Toddler   

Begin to ask, What do we need? What's first?  As soon as he can safely stand on a sturdy stool next to the counter, you do the measuring but let him dump the contents [except the eggs] into the bowl.  He can do the mixing.  You get the pan to the right temperature.  By putting your arms under his from behind, you are going to protect him from the hot pan. Hand him a small pitcher (like a creamer size) of batter and guide him as he pours it onto the pan.  Do one pancake at a time to make the flipping easier.  (You can have a second pan going at the back of the stove to actually feed the family!) Have him watch for bubbles in the batter.  You take the spatula, lift up the pancake and flip it.  When it is ready, guide his hands on the spatula and help him get the pancake to the plate.  Put a spatula in his toybox, and he will start flipping all kinds of things.  

With Your Preschooler

Show him the recipe.  Model how you follow along with your finger and check that you have each ingredient.  Have him gather all the ingredients he can reach (alone or with a low stool).  Begin to have him do the measuring.  It is easier to start with smaller measuring cups and a sturdy, wide-mouthed container for things like flour and sugar.  For hard tasks like pouring out the salt, start by having him hold the spoon and scrape the excess off with the back side of a butter knife.  If cracking the egg is hard, have him practice with half a dozen eggs at a different time, warning about the dangers of raw eggs and being super careful about his not putting his hands in his mouth.  Teach him to wash his hands carefully afterwards.  Flipping the cakes will get increasingly independent.  Give him a hand when he needs it, but also be ready to sacrifice a few pancakes to the floor as he is learning.

With Your Kindergartner/First Grader

Have your child read the recipe.  This should be easy as by now he should have memorized it.  If he is struggling, print it out in the big type--a piece of paper is easier than a cookbook--and read it aloud with him.  At this point, you and your child have made a ton of pancakes.  By this time, he should be capable of handling the whole process on his own, with a few assists in turning on the stove and checking the pan temperature.  You will be standing near by--at the ready in case anything becomes dangerous--but you will let your child make mistakes (like putting the bowl too close to the edge of the counter and having the whole thing tip onto the floor!).  Remember, the purpose here is not the pancakes.  The purpose is the learning.  Having to clean up a bowl of batter is a much better teacher than reminding him for the millionth time.  

With Your Second/Third Grader

Your child makes you pancakes.  You eat them up happily.  Whoo hoo!  Good job, Parents!

Breaking It Down 

Pancakes are a great place to begin with independence because children love to eat them, so you have built in motivation.  But you can break down any task and engage your kids in it--making their beds, doing the laundry, planting a garden.  You name it.  When kids master skills, they feel important, and when those skills help the family, they feel needed.  That brings families together.  

Taking Action

Are you afraid that you are doing too much for your kids and that you are failing to teach them to stand on their own two feet?  Not to worry.  Earlier is better, but it is never too late.  Just give it a go, starting wherever your child is developmentally ready and going one step at a time.  

If you still feel insecure, let's troubleshoot together.  Sign up for a complimentary introductory strategy session HERE.  






September Newsletter: Back to School: What Teachers Expect

Elisabeth Stitt

Do you ever feel judged by your child’s teacher?  

I promise you, teachers have an internal checklist of what they hope their students will be bringing from home.  They know they won’t get it all the time. They know that their job is to deal with the child who walks through the door no matter what he brings.  They know that every family—no matter how wonderful the parents—suffers ups and downs and may take some time to right itself.  But if they were able to write a list of what they consider primarily the parents’ responsibility for sending kids ready to learn, this would be it: 

1.     BASIC NEEDS MET.  Perhaps it seems obvious that it is the parent’s job to make sure that the child comes to school with enough sleep, not smelling, well fed and appropriately dressed.  This is too often not the case, however.  Parents will claim they can’t get their child to bed on time or they can’t get their child to wear anything but the too short shorts and the diaphanous top slipping off the shoulder to school.  Many of us teachers are parents ourselves.  We get it.  We know it is hard.  We still see it as your job to figure out how to make it happen (though we are happy to offer our perspective and experience). 

2.     SHOWING RESPECT AND CONSIDERATION.  A teacher has to help kids develop a definition of what respect means at school, but the basic concept needs to come from home.  Have you worked in an office where in the break room there is a sign that says, “Your mother doesn’t work here; clean up after yourself"? Well, the same idea goes for school.  Your teacher is not your mother.   Her job is to teach you academics, not to nag you to clean up after yourself or to lecture you about touching other people’s things without their permission or to stop interrupting. 

3.     HOMEWORK DONE BY THE CHILD.   Someday, I will write a whole column on homework (including my general belief that there should be very little of it), but for today let me say this:  The main purpose of homework is to give the child the chance for independent practice.  It is much less important that the child do the homework right than that she do it herself.  If she has worked the allotted time (find out what your school’s policy is), have her stop. If her teacher gives her a hard time for not finishing, train her to talk to her teacher ahead of class, to explain to her teacher that that is how much she got done in the allotted time.  Teachers do not know how long the work they assign takes:  They need accurate feedback.  They do not need perfection, and they certainly do not need you to sit with your child, while he does his work.  Sure, if you have a kid who takes 15 mins. to settle down, you can make sure the timer starts after that 15 mins., but the actual work should still be done on his own. 

4.     TEACH YOUR CHILD TO ADVOCATE FOR HIMSELF.  Did your mother write notes to the teacher all the time?  Mine didn’t. She would, however, talk through with me my conflicts with a teacher.  She would listen to me, acknowledge my frustration, but then she would ask me how the teacher was likely to be feeling, what the teacher’s priorities were.  She would help me sort out where I was only one of thirty children in the room and where I could reasonably make a request.  She would role play how to talk to teachers, so I could respectfully let them know my wants or needs.  If a few of my tries did not solve the problem, only then would she approach the teacher—and then it was to enlist the teacher’s help in solving the problem, not to condemn her, and certainly not to make excuses for me. 

5.     LIFE AND CHARACTER SKILLS.  Caring, consideration, compassion, gratitude, thoughtfulness, diligence, organization, persistence, tolerance, trustworthiness, patience, etc.  These get practiced at school, of course, but they need to be taught and modeled at home regularly and explicitly.  These are all traits you can start working on in toddlerhood.  Yes, mastery takes time and repetition, and teachers will work to reinforce these skills, but you have the greatest power to train your children in these areas.  Your daily reflection with them of where they have—or how they could have--displayed these qualities establishes their importance to your child.    

Kids who come to school with the above conditions in place at home learn better and take more joy in their learning.  They are able to regulate themselves and are ready to take full advantage of all that a teacher has to offer.  This is teachers’ greatest hope.