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  • Dealing with Competitive Parents

    Pic by Beth Kantor

    From tiger moms to competitive sports dads, parents can sometimes put undue pressure on their children and on teachers. They can also make other parents feel judged and inadequate. When this happens, the community and support system that is essential to raising healthy, happy children is eroded. Understanding what motivates competitive parents and learning how to deal with them can help to establish a supportive and caring infrastructure that creates the perfect environment for students to learn and grow.

    Why parents compete

    Understanding why some parents are competitive can go a long way to helping you to deal with them in an understanding and constructive way. Parenting really is the most difficult job because it doesn’t come with a manual. Every day, parents make decisions on how to raise their children which they understand will have far-reaching consequences. It’s intimidating and some parents need to reassure themselves that they are making the right decisions by justifying their positions.

    Unfortunately, some take this too far; to the point where only their ideas on parenting are validated and they may be a little aggressive in defending them. Family therapist, Mary Beth McClure explains: “Because there’s no external system of reward, we can always feel like we’re not doing enough, no matter what. So becoming competitive with another mom can be an unconscious way of trying to prove to ourselves that we are doing okay.”

    Dealing with judgment and competition

    Understanding that competitive parents could actually be insecure about their own parenting decisions may help you not to take their judgments personally.

    Avoid having these conversations around your children as they should not be made to feel bad when another parent is bragging about their child’s achievements.

    The best way to promote a positive parenting community is to be a good example. Compliment other parents on jobs well done or on the achievements of their children.

    When parents brag or judge, tell them they are doing a good job and then change the subject. Praise given in front of peers or authority figures like teachers, coaches and principals is even more rewarding. A recent study by Make Their Day and Badgeville found that most employees would choose recognition in front of their colleagues over a pay raise. This helps to highlight the importance we place on getting recognition and praise.

    Avoid gossiping about other parents and don’t encourage this behavior in others.

    When you feel like a parent is being judgmental or competitive, explain gently how they are making you feel—you may be surprised at their reaction. Most parents really don’t realize that they are acting in a negative way and they may appreciate the head’s up.

    Forming cohesive, supportive parenting communities can be a wonderful asset for parents, tutors, teachers and schools. When we work together, we can create a caring environment for families that helps them to thrive and grow.  So try to be open-minded about other parent’s techniques and foster friendships and community among your school’s parents.

  • Tutors: How Every Student Can Benefit

    Pic by the US Department of Education

    While poor test scores and bad grades are obvious indicators that your student needs help, there are many other instances in which a tutor can really help your child to learn the skills they need to be confident, independent, successful learners.

    The most important factor in determining whether your student could benefit from a tutor is communication; speak with them about the kinds of help a tutor can offer and speak with your child’s teacher too.

    Building Confidence

    Not being top of the class can cause students to feel less confident. This, in turn, could seriously affect their performance in class. When students lack confidence, they tend not to ask or answer questions in class. The teacher may overlook quieter students and they won’t participate in class and group activities with as much enthusiasm which will affect their academic performance over time.

    Executive Skills

    More than other assets like intelligence and talent, executive skills determine the success of a student. The ability to organize time, prioritize tasks and memorize data is key to academic performance. If you know that your child is smart, but they don’t study, have trouble focusing, often don’t hand in work or fail to study for exams, they may need some help with their executive skills.

    Teaching executive skills early on will ensure that they are able to handle their workload in later grades and at college. While they should get some training in executive skills at school, large class sizes mean teachers just don’t have time to teach these skills.

    A one-on-one tutor who specializes in executive skills can help your child to organize their time and carefully plan so that they leave enough time to complete assignments and study for exams. Learning to focus and acquiring memorizing skills will also help to minimize time spent studying.

    Honing these skills should reduce the daily homework hassles and frantic morning searches for lost homework or anxiety over forgotten assignments.

    Academic Foundations

    Each student will have gaps in their academic foundations which get compounded as they move through their school careers. Each new grade builds on the last and teachers don’t have the time to go back and explain work that has already been covered. When your child gets one-on-one tutoring, their tutor is able to start at the beginning and work through the academic foundations to find gaps and fill them.

    Better Grades

    Students with great grades need tutors too, especially if they have schools, scholarships or programs they want to qualify for. If you have a talented student that has started to struggle, chances are they are just bored. When gifted students get bored, they tend to stop paying attention in class and don’t work as hard because they aren’t challenged. When this happens, their grades suffer and they may miss important opportunities.

    Whether your child is bored or they want to turn their A into an A+, you can trust a one-on-one tutor to help them to excel. Your tutor can work with teachers to find extra, more challenging work for your child to take on.

     

  • Money Lessons All Children Should Learn

    Pic by MikiI Yoshihito

    Teaching your children how to effectively work with their money provides them with an important life tool that is essential for their future success. You can start from an early age to teach them how to effectively budget, how to save and how to focus on providing for their needs before spending money on things they want.

    Budgeting

    Learning how to create a budget and live within it is arguably the most important financial lesson any kid could learn. Luckily, it’s an easy one to teach. It’s never too early to start teaching kids to stretch their finances to accommodate their lifestyles. Start with an allowance that should cover all the ‘I want’ requests.

    Lori Mackey, author of “Money Mama and the Three Little Pigs” suggests a 10-10-10-70 system for teaching kids to budget.

    “When your child gets their first dollar, we suggest that you teach them to save 10 percent, invest 10 percent, give 10 percent and live from 70 percent. When you give them a dollar, you give them two quarters and five dimes and then you sit with them and say this dime is for something that is important to you or that you want to help,” she says. This money can go to a charity or school drive or to a family member who needs assistance.

    The Value of a Dollar

    Once your kids start getting the hang of budgeting, give them some practice. This could mean that they have to take care of their own budgets. Here you can give them a weekly or monthly budget and they have to use this to pay for all their own expenses like school lunches and trips, stationary, internet and phone bills.

    You can also allow them to participate in the family budget. This means they can be responsible for planning the family meals for one week to fit into a budget. They can also do the grocery shopping so they get a better idea of what things cost and how much money is spent on day-to-day living.

    Wants versus Needs

    An important concept that goes hand-in-hand with budgeting is the idea of wants and needs. Helping your child to identify the difference between these is a lesson essential to effective money management. They must learn to identify their needs and budget to cover these before spending money on things they want.

    Saving

    Encouraging saving is a slightly more difficult idea as the deferred gratification can seem too far away for impatient children. One way to help is to have a piggy bank or jar. Watching the jar fill with savings each week is a good visual and tactile representation of the rewards of saving.

    It also helps to have a goal to save towards. Start with short-term goals that are more attainable so that your child gets rewarded before they get bored or lose interest. Then help them to select bigger and more long-term goals when they get the hang of it.

    Investing

    The last 10% of their allowance should go towards long-term investments like college funds. You can also teach older kids how to invest their own money so that they understand how to do so for the long-term.

  • Go to University… For Free!

    pic by Francisco Osorio

    Thousands of the top universities are offering a range of courses online for FREE. That’s right, you can get access to amazing courses from universities from around the world in an incredibly wide range of topics. Although the courses don’t give you credits and you can’t qualify for a degree, this free library of resources in an asset to the curious and those who like a challenge, no matter your age.

    Free online courses offer prospective students the opportunity to peek into the fields they are considering for a career. If you want to listen in on a lecture by an esteemed professor or at a top school, you can do so with an online course. This is also a great way to get a sneak peak at the top contenders when you are deciding which school you want to go to.

    If you would like something to show for your efforts, some of these online universities offer a diploma course is you are willing to make a payment.

    There is also a wealth of information for school students who are struggling to meet stringent college standards. We have included some math and science online universities which offer courses and course materials for free.

    Here is a comprehensive list of courses you can enjoy for free online.

    ALISON – over 60 million lessons for self-paced study

    Coursera –Learn from over 542 courses on a wide range of topics

    Carnegie Mellon University’s 15 Self-paced courses online including biology, logic, French, and statistics

    Stanford Online: Enjoy free online courses through this Ivy League school

    Princeton See streamed lectures on iTunes channels and enjoy audio lectures, notes and online textbooks too

    MIT Open CourseWare – Free access to MIT courses including video lectures, audio lectures, online textbooks and notes. Many courses available in a variety of languages

    Open YALE Courses – Introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale

    Khan Academy – Watch thousands of micro-lectures and enjoy courses on school and university subjects

    Zooniverse – Take part in a huge variety of interesting courses which explore nature, science, and culture

    TUFTS Open CourseWare – TUFTS offers courses in all areas of interest. It’s a great place to try out your college courses before you commit to a field of study

    Harvard Medical School Open Courseware Choose from Harvard courses on a variety of medical subjects, enjoy video lectures from top teachers

    Maths & Science – Courses, tests and learning materials about mathematics and science for students from first to twelfth grade

    edX.org – Free courses by MIT, Harvard, Barkley, Georgetown, Boston University, University of Washington, Karolinska Institute, Kyoto University and many more

    Duke U – Duke offers a wide selection of free courses on iTunes. You can search on iTunes for other university courses from prestigious schools

    Kutztown University’s free courses – More than 80 free business online courses which are especially good for the budding entrepreneu

  • Ten Tips to Hassle-Free Homework

    Pic by Michael Bentley

    Do you and your children fight constantly about homework? You nag them incessantly while they procrastinate until you are all stressed out and unhappy. Some families have daily homework struggles that can be mitigated with a few steps from the pros.

    Start by getting involved with your child’s homework schedule. Communicate regularly with teachers and tutors so you know what tests and assignments are coming up. There’s a temptation to help with projects or even to do homework yourself, but teaching effective executive skills like prioritizing, organizing, studying and memorizing will only come with practice.

    If your child is smart but scattered, consider a tutor who will help them with executive skills so that they are organized and can excel academically. Honing their executive skills will allow them to become effective independent learners who can cope on their own and will put an end to your daily homework headaches.

    Ensure that your child has a good place to do homework that is free from distraction or disturbance. It should be well-lit and comfortable and there should be no TV, texting or other time-consuming distractions.

    Choose the right time of day. Asking your child to do homework right after school may be a little much and it’s understandable that they will want some time to decompress. Doing homework too late at night when they are tired is also a bad idea.

    Help your child with time management so that they factor in enough time to complete homework, assignments and bigger projects to avoid the last minute panic. Encourage them to do the most difficult tasks first.

    Food can play a big part in your child’s mood. Ensure that they eat healthy meals so that they have the energy they need to concentrate and avoid too much sugar.

    Exercise may be just what the doctor ordered. Exercise helps to relieve stress and elevate mood, improve concentration and stimulate higher cognitive functions. If your child is struggling to get motivated or battling with an academic task, get them to do a little exercise.

    Offer rewards and reinforce positive homework habits. If homework is done by the stipulated time and without you having to ask about it, offer rewards and praise.

    Don’t let homework drag on all night. It may be good to let your child take a break and come back to it or to face the consequences of not turning in homework on time.

    Be patient; changing ingrained habits can take time. Always work with the teacher and tutor who will both have great suggestions on how to get your child motivated. They can also let you know what your child needs to work on in order to improve their academic performance.

  • Exercise Can Relieve ADHD Symptoms

    Pic by USAG Humphreys

    ADHD can cause students to have trouble staying focused and impedes their academic performance. For about two thirds of those suffering from ADHD, prescription drugs may bring some relief of symptoms, but the side effects can be severe. New studies show that exercise can help to relieve the symptoms of ADHD for many students and help them excel academically.

    Exercise as an alternate ADHD medication

    The Pediatrics research journal recently published the results of a study which showed that children who exercised regularly displayed improved brain function and cognitive performance. Their executive functions improved and they even scored better on their tests, especially for math and reading comprehension.

    Executive functions are essential in combating the symptoms of ADHD as they allow the student to resist distraction. An improved executive function will allow students to maintain focus and will improve their working memory. Executive functions also govern a student’s ability to move from one task to another which is called cognitive flexibility.

    John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard, has suggested that exercise be prescribed as a medication to combat the effects of ADHD because it causes the release of dopamine and serotonin. These two ‘feel good’ hormones boost academic performance and improve mood. “Think of exercise as medication,” says Ratey. “For a very small handful of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD ADD), it may actually be a replacement for stimulants, but, for most, it’s complementary — something they should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention and improve mood.”

    Exercise also has a wealth of benefits that go beyond the classroom and it has no bad side effects! The biggest problem for most parents is getting sedentary students away from TVs and computer screens and outdoors where they can exercise.

    Get your kids moving!

    The best way to get your kids moving is to make it fun rather than a chore. You can take walks around your neighborhood; just 30 minutes four times a week will do the trick. Encourage your kids to participate in outdoor activities and get them to join a club or sports team, bike to school and go for hikes on the weekend. Be a good example for your children and find fun and exciting ways to get them moving every day.

    There are many local resources for parents like Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign which offers parents advice on how to get their kids moving. The British Heart Foundation offers tips on how to encourage exercise and how much exercise children need. Canadian families can get a tax cut called the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit. Parents can claim up to $1000 per child for expenses related to fitness, sports and exercise.

  • Does your Child Need Glasses?

    Pic by Palinn Ooi

    It’s tough to tell if your child needs glasses; accustomed to the blur, they may not realize they aren’t seeing as well as they should. Poor eyesight may mean that they are missing out on notes the teacher puts up. Not having great vision can also be an impediment to fast reading and may prevent them from excelling in sports. Luckily there are some signs that can alert parents to the need for a trip to the optometrist.

    Eye strain often results in headaches. If your child complains regularly of a headache, try to ascertain what they were doing leading up to the symptom. If they have been busy with schoolwork or reading, consider having their eyes tested.

    Don’t mistake red eyes and tears for allergies; children who rub their eyes while reading, watching TV or working on their computers could need a pair of glasses.

    Another telltale sign is children who sit really close to monitors and TV screens or need to hold books really close or far away in order to read effectively.

    Short attention spans and struggling with the hand-to-eye coordination that is required for sports and arts and crafts may also be indicative of a visual impairment.

    You can test your children regularly throughout their lives in order to ensure that they are not suffering from poor eyesight which can prevent normal development.

    Babies should have their eyes tested at 6 months and then every two to three years by a registered optometrist.

    An epidemic of myopia (shortsightedness) is sweeping Asia. 80 to 90 percent of students need glasses during their school careers and a small percentage of these (10-20%) will have high myopia which could result in blindness.

    Myopia can be caused by a lack of sunlight or from too much time reading or sitting in front of computer and TV screens. Ensuring that your children eat a healthy diet and spend at least two hours outside every day will help them to develop and maintain excellent eyesight.

    Eye exercises are also helpful in maintaining healthy eyes. A really easy and effective exercise to do is this one:

    Sit in front of a window. Hold your finger six inches away from the tip of your nose. Focus on your finger and keep looking at it for ten seconds. Now look out the window and focus on an object in the distance for ten seconds. Repeat this exercise ten times. Do this every day to help improve eye function.

    Speak with your optometrists about exercises you can do at home to help improve eye health. If your child does need glasses, ensure that they wear them regularly to prevent further deterioration.

  • Encouraging Girls to be Leaders

    Pic by Francisco Osorio

    There’s a reason we have so few women in leadership positions; they aren’t always encouraged and empowered to step up. Women make up more than half the population, but in the US, they make up only 18.5 percent of congress and 24.2 percent of state legislatures. Ever noticed how boys are encouraged to lead while little girls are often called ‘bossy’? Studies show that the gap in confidence starts around middle school. Here’s how to create a culture where little girls are free to lead.

    Ban Bossy

    The organization Ban Bossy is on a mission to change the way we describe leaders. While boys are often described as ‘charismatic’ or ‘confident’, girls get the ‘bossy’ label when they have a take-charge attitude. This organization is encouraging parents and educators to be more aware of the language they use when addressing girls so that we can create a culture that encourages young girls to lead.

    Even Beyoncé’ added her support with her video: “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss.”

    Watch it here.

    Build Confidence

    Remind your daughters and students every day that they are valued and capable. Resist doing things for them or taking over tasks that they are not doing well; this sends the wrong message. Instead, encourage them and help them to do things themselves.

    “That’s for boys’

    Ban this phrase from your vocabulary. If she wants to play with mechanical toys and cars, perhaps she will grow up to be an engineer. If she wants to play sports, that’s a great way to learn to be part of a team. In fact, playing a sport or belonging to a club is a great way to encourage leadership.

    Don’t always Let Her Win

    A good leader is able to overcome adversity; where others see problems, a good leader sees a challenge. As much as you want to shield your children from disappointment or failure, see these as teachable moments that will help them to deal with tough times. Encourage a ‘can do’ positive attitude and be a good example.

    Foster Independent Thinking and Decision-making

    Wherever possible, encourage your daughters to find their own solutions to problems and to make their own decisions. Of course you will be there to guide them, but try to let them make up their own minds; it shows that you have faith in their abilities.

    Love Her Just the Way She Is

    This may sound intuitive, but often we tend to validate only those traits that represent the people we want them to be. Recognizing each person’s unique gifts, talents and personality traits for what they are is essential in building self-confidence.

    Teach Her About Money

    Ensure the she has a good understanding of how to manage her finances effectively. It’s never too early or too late to teach the value of savings, investments and deferred gratitude.

    Pursue Passion

    Foster passion in all areas of her life and encourage her to follow her heart, to set goals and to create plans on how to achieve them.

     

  • Healthy Haunted Halloween Treats

    Every year, parents dread the sugar-fueled mania that is Halloween. If you want your kids to enjoy their ghoulish holiday without having to compromise their health or your sanity, then try these great spooky treats that are fun and healthy too.

    Crunchy Halloween Mummies

    Recipe and picture by Betty Crocker

    Cut slices of celery that will serve as coffins for the mummies. Now fill the hollow with cream cheese or vegetable spread to form the mummy’s body. Thinly slice ham and place over the spread in a crisscross fashion to represent the bandages. Pop in some cranberries for eyes and you have a spooky Halloween treat that’s healthy too.

    Witch and Wizard Broomsticks

    Recipe and picture by Catman

    These cute little treats are easy to make and are perfect for the Quidditch fan. Cut a strip off a cheese slice, then cut small incisions along the edge. Use a scissors here if you need to make a lot of them. Roll the cut cheese slice around the bottom of a snack stick and secure with a chive. You can also provide a dip of hummus for the brooms to ‘sweep’.

    Cheesy Eyeballs

    Recipe and picture by Cute Food for Kids

    These cheesy eyeballs are freakishly fun! Using a small paintbrush and red food dye, create the small veins on the eyeball. Thinly slice black olives to make the corneas and then fill the centers will ketchup to create spooky cheesy eyeballs.

    Octo-pepper

    Recipe and photo by Carrying Sunshine

    Turn a healthy snack into an attack from the deep. This wonderful pepper octopus can be created from a red, orange or green pepper. Slice the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Save half of the pepper and thinly slice the other half into tentacles. Place your dip (tzatziki or hummus) into a bowl, and place the half pepper in the middle. Arrange the tentacles around the head. Use the dip to attach two slices of olive onto the head as eyes.

    Goblin Mouths

    Use sugar snap peas to make these spooky treats. Slice a pea down the middle and add a slice of cherry tomato and some cheese strips to make goblin mouths.

    Pearfectly Wicked

    Recipe and picture from Tesco

    These frightful fruits are a healthy dessert for your trick or treater. Peel pairs and place in a pot on medium heat. Pour in enough apple juice to half cover them and place the lid on the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove pairs and leave to cool enough to handle. Continue to simmer the apple juice for 10-15 minutes until it becomes syrupy. Slice a little off the bottom of the pears so that they will stand. Use cranberries or raisins to make the eyes and sunflower seeds for the mouth. Pour the apple juice over the pears and serve when cool.

  • Tips for Teaching Gratitude to Your Children

    Pic by Lori Hurley

    You want your children to have everything they need and so it’s only natural that we do all we can to keep them happy. Unfortunately, the result of this generosity is all too often a sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction. Instilling gratitude in your children is a wonderful gift. Knowing and really feeling how lucky they are will make them happier and healthier.

    Why should kids be grateful?

    While you may prattle on about how children in Africa don’t have new toys or vegetables to eat, it’s completely understandable that this has no effect on your children. They don’t really understand how lucky they are because their only points of comparison are the other children and families in your neighborhood.

    Giving your children a real sense of gratitude means changing their outlooks and attitudes and studies show that it makes happier children. “When kids recognize that the things they own and the opportunities they have come from someone other than themselves, it helps them develop a healthy understanding of how interdependent we all are — and they may be more inclined to treat others with genuine respect,” says Andrea Reiser, happiness coach. Being appreciative also improves your kid’s manners and their relationships to other people.

    How to instill gratitude

    Count your blessings: Every day, encourage younger students to list a couple of things they are thankful for and why. Get older kids to keep a gratitude journal. Make this a part of your daily routine over dinner or on commutes so that you highlight gratitude as a daily necessity.

    Be a good example: Be gracious when accepting gifts and constantly talk about all the things you are grateful for. You should also make it a regular occurrence to remind your children that you are grateful for them so that they understand how wonderful it feels to be appreciated.

    Less is more: I know you want to give your kids everything, but resist the temptation. When you shower your kids with too much stuff, gifts lose their value and they never seem quite satisfied. Instead, resist the urge to spoil them and get them to pitch in for the things they really want.

    Learning to give: It really is better to give than to receive so encourage your kids to give generously to friends and family members and to people less fortunate than themselves. Getting them involved in volunteering, charity drives or holiday toy collections makes their good fortune far more tangible. When they are working with or helping people less fortunate, they have something new to compare their lives to that helps them to realize how fortunate they are.

    An ‘attitude of gratitude’ is a wonderful way to make your kids happier, healthier people who have great relationships with others because they are able to express appreciation and sincerity.