Start of the School Year: The Pit in the Stomach Comes Back

August 26, 2015

At this point in the season, the pit in the stomach is reforming with back-to-school just around the corner

I know it’s been a while since my last blog post.  A combination of summer doldrums taking over and other professional responsibilities undercut motivation over the last few weeks.  Snapping me out of it was my friend, Luqman, in Malaysia, writing, “Hey, Doc, where have you been?  How about a new blog?”

Luqman’s request helped me to remember that people actually read these things (sometimes),  and  keeping in mind that there are people on the other side of the world who are interested added new fuel to my engine.

So, Luqman, this one’s for you.

Most of my blogs are created while showering.  (Is that too much information?)

So, via the shower thought of the morning, here we go.

As most of you know who read these posts I try and take a down-to-earth perspective on these school issues.  I do my best to help the moms (it’s almost never the dads), back away from the ledge a bit.

So with the start of the school year, here are a five guidelines to get you through:

1.      Breathe deep a lot – meditate – calm it down.  Look, homework is going to make you crazy.  Try not to bite on the hook.  For the child who has boring homework, seeing you go off is entertaining.  Don’t give it to him.

2.      Ask yourself, is the work in the kid’s zone of competence?  If it is not, if it is simply too hard for the child even with some parental  support, then send it back to the teacher with a polite note saying that the work is above the child’s head.

3.      If the answer to #2 is yes, then it’s the child’s problem.    Repeat after me the following mantra to say to your child, “You’re a big boy (or girl).  You can manage your homework.  If you choose not to, that’s your choice, but I will have to write a note to your teacher telling her what you chose.”

4.      Pecking doesn’t work.  Pecking, badgering, cajoling, nagging, yelling generally do not work.  Focus on the mantra in #3.  If the child chooses not to do the work, don’t  get caught up in it.  Put the problem where it belongs – on the child.

5.      Link “give and you get” messages.   Do you think like I do that modern kids are living pretty comfy lives?  It strikes me that the arrangement we have with our kids is pretty one-directional (in the kid’s benefit).  Start changing the direction by stating,  “This year I am tracking you each night on the calendar.  It’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in terms of effort and taking care of yourself.  Good things come to people who have a lot of “yes” showing up on the calendar – we do fun things. When there is a lot of ‘no,’ it’s going to be very boring around here.  Which do you prefer?”

So, pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up and remember…summer’s not all that far off.

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