Sep 012013




Learning by Doing

Photo credit: BrianCSmith


I’ve been thinking about a mother who told me that her parents did “not approve of” her approach to her elementary school-aged son’s “less than stellar” grades. As the conversation unfolded I remember she shared a number of important thoughts.  She was proud of her child.  According to Mom, the young “offender” was:

– kind and compassionate
– a bundle of energy
– very curious and interested in learning
– socially motivated, with great people skills to match
– fairly disinterested in grades

While the “prevailing wisdom” — both from her in-laws and several elementary school teachers — was that this “live wire” should be grounded from sports, outdoor breaks and extra-curricular activities until his marks improved, this Mom disagreed.

“I know people think that I’m  far too easy on him, that he’s lazy, and that I’m making excuses that enable poor school performance.  I just can’t figure out how to turn teachers’ comments into a currency that’s meaningful for him.  And, I still think, if you’re trying to raise a life-long-learner, education needs to be its own reward. Am I wrong?”

Perspective is an interesting thing.  Is this kiddo reflecting his Mom’s values?  Clearly she did not consider test scores or grades the holy grail of learning.  She worried that turning the whole grade “thing” into a battle of wills would have a detrimental effect on her child’s considerable curiosity and desire to learn.

“Maybe I’m wrong but I think that punishing him because he learns differently will do a lot more harm than being a ‘C’ student ever could,” she said.

In an era that sees parents challenging students’ grades on behalf of their kids this is an unusual attitude. A child appears to be performing below potential and receives grades that reflect that reality.  Isn’t that as it should be?

Or do you think  she’s being short-sighted?  Limiting her child’s future opportunities by not demanding high scores?  Or is she choosing her battles wisely and  accepting her child “as is,” regardless of the opinions of others?


Dec 282012


Sox Bench

Sox Bench (Photo credit: Oberazzi)


For years your kids have played organized sports. The focus has probably been on having fun, on feeling good and maybe learning something about the game. On building confidence. And, of course, on self-esteem.


But are these leagues being used to teach attitudes, skill and lessons that will serve them later in life?


I remember watching a friend fill in for an absent youth league baseball coach. I don’t think it was the ’substitute teacher phenomenon’ that rendered one of our young team members absolutely incapable of controlling himself. Especially his language. It became completely inappropriate. Rude, crude and downright abusive – and it didn’t seem to matter whether it was directed at his peers or the adults involved.


The substitute coach asked him to stop. Then he told him to stop. Then Coach explained very clearly. “This is the last time I am going to tell you to stop swearing. If you do it again – even one more time – you won’t get to play today.”


Of course, our young friend, fully schooled in his own ’star power’ couldn’t imagine such a scenario. As a result, he was very surprised when the next curse word resulted his being removed from the bench.


How would you react?


You could join in with the kids’ complaints about the coach’s unfairness. You could complain to the league or to the other parents. Or, you remind the kids who you are close to you that, with his behavior, the young ’star’ chose to be in the stands rather than to help them win the game.


Maybe you could even thank the coach and ask if he’d consider becoming more involved. After all, don’t your kids deserve someone who will model doing the right thing instead of the easy, popular thing?




Dec 272012

Day 28 - Unwrapping Christmas gifts

Day 28 – Unwrapping Christmas gifts (Photo credit: PictureWendy)

Have you ever met a parent who did not what to do the best they possibly could for their children?  Unfortunately, sometimes that beautiful wish gets translated into massive piles of consumer goods.  Stuff.  And it might not be the right stuff.

 Our intentions may be good, but over-spending, “over-gifting” behavior can teach our children a number of things we might not want them to learn.  I don’t think, for example, that any parent wants our children to define our love for them by the gifts that we buy for them.

 What other messages can we send when we repeatedly overindulge our kids’ material wants?  Are they learning about the difference between “wants” and “needs”?  How about saving versus “buy now, pay later”?  And, if everything they want just “shows up” are we teaching them to expect “something for nothing?”

 We all love to give our children nice things, but the things we buy for them can never replace the pride that comes with earning their own money and making their own decisions about how to spend it.  Things they are given without work or personal effort have little lasting value for them.  When children purchase something by contributing at least a portion of the cost with their own hard earned money, they learn valuable lessons in money management and the self-esteem that comes from realizing that there is a relationship between their work and the result.

 And those are gifts that keep on giving.