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September 2012 Issue 1 Volume 21
Raising Well-Adjusted Kids
Attend WSPTA’s 100th Annual Convention
Photo: 37th Annual WSPTA Convention, (Tacoma, May 2, 1950) Courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library, Northwest Room
May 3-5, 2013 Bellevue Hyatt Hotel (located next to Bellevue Square)
An inspiring weekend with a variety of training opportunities, engaging keynote speakers, and plenty of fun! Photo courtesy of University of Puget Sound
You won’t want to miss out on this very special celebration. Plan ahead to attend! The
a Washington State PTA parent involvement publication
Washington State PTA 2003 65th Avenue West Tacoma, WA 98466-6215 Website: www.wastatepta.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (253) 565-2153 or 1-800-562-3804 Fax: (253) 565-7753
6 3 Key Ingredients to a Happy Family
Video Games and Your Children
School and Family Partnerships: The Parent’s Role
How to Discipline Without Provoking Your Child
Parenting Teenagers Homework Help: What Parents Should Know
The Child Advocate is published online every month from September through
May by the Washington State PTA, 2003 65th Avenue West, Tacoma, WA 984666215, (253) 565-2153. Contributors are welcome. Call the State PTA office for guidelines. Whenever PTA is used it also refers to PTSA. PTA is a registered trademark of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers. Novella Fraser, Washington State PTA President Bill Williams, Washington State PTA Executive Director Karen Fisker-Andersen, Editor
“Making every child’s potential a reality.”
PTA is: n A powerful voice for all children, n A relevant resource for families and communities, and n A strong advocate for the well-being and education of every child. The Washington State PTA accomplishes the mission of PTA by
• Speaking on behalf of children and youth in the schools, in the community, and before governmental bodies and other organizations that make decisions affecting children; • Supporting parents* in developing skills to raise, protect and advocate for their children; • Encouraging parent*, teacher, student and community involvement; • Promoting opportunities for positive outcomes for children; and • Being a financially stable, well-managed organization that promotes diversity, provides quality service, models best practices and values its members and employees. *Parent may include adults who play an important role in a child’s family life since other adults (grandparents, aunts, uncles, or guardians) may carry the primary responsibility for a child’s health, welfare, education and safety.
3 Key Ingredients to a Happy Family R
aising kids in todayâ€™s fast-paced culture can be stressful for both parents and children. Fueled by the desire to supply children with consumer goods and experiences in the hopes that these things will lead to their future success and happiness, some parents may be left feeling exhausted, isolated and overwhelmed. Instead of purchasing the designer clothes, the bigger house, the nicer car or the exotic vacation, parents should consider focusing on the real ingredients for a happy family and successful children -- building meaningful relationships, practicing good communication skills and providing unconditional love. Focusing on these three key ingredients not only will help to simplify your lives, but it will make life more fulfilling as well. Build Meaningful Relationships
To build meaningful relationships, families need to spend time together. The importance of the family dinner cannot be overlooked. It provides
The Child Advocate, September 2012
an opportunity for all the members of the family to connect each day and discuss what is going on in their lives. These frequent connections are essential for building meaningful relationships. Try to arrange your schedule so your family has family dinners together as often as possible. Relax together by organizing family game nights, family movie nights or planning family vacations. For families with older children, consider inviting another family to join your family for some of these special occasions. Teens especially will be more engaged and less likely to resist participation when they have friends along. Celebrate together by organizing a special evening when a member of the family enjoys a significant accomplishment. Clear your schedule so you can enjoy your time together without worrying about getting to your next appointment. If your job takes you away from the family often or for long periods of time, you can still maintain meaningful relationships by calling home, leaving your children notes to find while you are gone, email-
ing or texting them, or compiling a small care package for them.
Children need to know that their parents will love them without any consideration of their performances, skills, talents or behaviors. A parent’s love should always be unconditional. This of course, doesn’t mean that parents need to love bad behavior, but that they still love their children even when they behave badly.
To communicate effectively, be positive, calm, and respectful. No one wants to be around someone who is negative or complains all the time. Find a way to stay positive, even when you need to provide criticism. Approach a difficult discussion by pointing out positive things before bringing up the things that need attention. If you are angry or in a bad mood, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation and cool down a bit before you communicate your thoughts. Heated discussions often involve harsh words that are destructive to relationships. Avoid lecturing or making judgements; these only inhibit good communication. When you are in a situation where you may have made a mistake or said something you regret, be respectful to that individual by apologizing to him. Other conversations that communicate respect include telling someone ‘thank you’ when she has done something for you, or congratulating someone for a job well-done. Words of encouragement and appreciation cannot be overlooked in maintaining healthy relationships. Use them frequently. Take every opportunity to start conversations with your children. Television, movies and human interest stories can spark conversations about values, beliefs and making choices. Ask your children their opinions. Talk to your children when you are doing things together, such as running errands, working on a mutual hobby, walking the dog, fixing something or shopping. Be mentally ready and available to listen and discuss things that concern your children.
To make your children feel unconditional love: • Be aware of how your praise is being interpreted by your child. If you are only praising your child for his achievements, then he might feel that your love is conditional on his performance. Instead, praise your child for hard work, self-motivation, determination, or being resourceful or creative. • Tell your children you love them often. Make sure your body language supports that by smiling at them, and giving them loving pats, hugs or kisses. Even a high five, a tousle of the hair or a touch on the shoulder can make a child feel loved and cared for. These gentle touches should not be manufactured, but natural. • Write a loving note and place it on your child’s pillow, in a suitcase, on a mirror or in a lunchbox. • Do something kind for your child, such as letting her invite a friend over, making her bed for her on occasion, or renting a movie she likes. • Be authentic with your child. Spend time together doing things you truly enjoy. Remember, you are the primary role model for demonstrating loving relationships in your children’s lives. n
Video Games and Your Children
B ecause kids often play video games online with their friends and use headsets to talk with one another, we may assume they are engaged in a pro-social activity. But depending on the type of video game they are playing, this may not be the case. Violent video games are becoming increasingly popular among young people and many parents are concerned about the safety of these games and the impact they may have on young people. Children who play violent video games:
• Are more likely to view violence or the threat of violence as an appropriate response when they are angry. • Are desensitized toward violence and less empathetic to victims of violence in real life situations. • May view violence or aggressive thoughts as normal. • Are more argumentative and physically agressive and often view other people’s words or actions as aggressive. • Are less interested in doing well in school. What Can Parents Do?
The most important thing parents can do is talk to their kids. Make them aware of the negative consequences of these games. Voice your concerns. Some other measures you can take: • Computers and video games should always be in a public location in your home; never in children’s rooms. This not only makes it
easier to monitor the games they are playing, but also the amount of time they spend gaming. • Violent games are meant for a more mature audience and not for young teens. If your child begs you for a new video game that his friends are playing and it is meant for a mature audience, encourage friendships with children who don’t play these violent games. For teens who are seventeen or older, limit the time they may play these games and make sure they are playing online with people they already know from school or the community. • Enroll your children in sports or other activities they might be interested in, outside of gaming. • If you notice signs of an addiction, such as a drop in grades, secretive habits, a disinterest in doing other things, or lying about their gaming, seek advice from your child’s doctor. n
a Washington State PTA parent involvement magazine
School and Family Partnerships:
The Parent’s Role Iersdeally school and family partnerships involve teachworking with parents to help children achieve success, and parents supporting the teachers and their efforts at home. There is a two-way flow of communication, respect and good-will that connects the school and family. In reality, school/family partnerships work beautifully in some homes, but seem nonexistent in others. There are many reasons for this. It may be due to parents who are uninformed about the benefits of parent involvement in education, parents with previous bad experiences at the school, parents who are hesitant to get involved because they don’t know anyone at the school or because they don’t know how much time will be required, or parents who have language or culture barriers or who are unable to get to the school due to lack of child care, transportation, or long work hours. For these groups of parents, PTA can play a pivotal role in providing information on the importance of building school/family partnerships, the benefits of parent involvement in education, and what parents can do to be supportive of teachers and involved in their children’s education. Another group of parents who experience a breakdown of the school/family partnerships are aware of the importance of parent involvement, but may be unsupportive of teachers because they may have disagreements about grading, curriculum, or homework policies. These parents often leave teachers feeling discouraged. Of course, there are avenues for resolving problems that occur in the classroom, but parents need to remind themselves to focus mainly on the conflicts that negatively affect student learning. To work with these parents, PTAs can provide them with information on the importance of school/family partnerships as it relates to student achievement, and how to problem solve with teachers effectively. The Parent’s Role in School/Family Partnerships:
• Send your children to school every day, well-rested and fed, with positive comments about them After school take time to talk to your children about their day. Find out what they are interested in, who
The Child Advocate, September 2012
their friends are and how they feel about school. • Spend time reading with your children and if time allows, doing other extracurricular learning opportunities. Go to the library, visit museums, enroll them in clubs or classes that expand their interests. • Provide ample time and materials for your children to successfully complete their assignments. Monitor your children’s progress on homework assignments. Talk to them about tests that have been graded and returned. Discuss what they did well and what areas they need to work on. If appropriate, help your children by quizzing them,
or suggesting they make flashcards or providing instruction when they don’t understand something.
• Make an appointment to meet your child’s teacher if your child is experiencing difficulties at school.
• Display your children’s work at home. Hold high expectations for your children’s education.
• Write a note or send an email to let your children’s teachers know that you appreciate their efforts.
• Establish a positive relationship with your children’s teachers early in the school year. Attend parent teacher conferences. Volunteer in the classroom or at school, if time allows.
• Finally, join PTA. PTA remains one of the best ways to get connected at school, get to know other parents and teachers at the school, and find out how you can be involved in your children’s education. n
How to Discipline Without Provoking Your Child Tips for Effective Discipline:
• Parents should communicate their children’s boundaries, explain the reasons for these boundaries, and provide clear consequences for crossing the boundaries. • Discipline should always be fair and without harsh treatment. The consequences of misbehavior should be appropriate for the ages of the children and their abilities to understand rules. A time-out is usually an appropriate form of discipline with younger children. With older children, the natural consequences of their misbehavior may be the best consequence. For example, if a child forgets to do their homework assignment, he will receive a “late” deduction on his grade. Or if a teen is late coming home from a party, then the loss of the privilege of going out the next time would be a natural consequence. • Parents should make sure they are in aggreement on their rules about discipline.
T he purpose of disciplining your children is to teach them to make better decisions, not to create a power struggle or to exasperate them with arbitrary rules. Discipline should: 1) teach your children to respect safety, and the rights and property of others; and 2) teach them life skills necessary to get along with one another. The focus of discipline should not be to generate obedience, but to help your children learn a process of thinking so they can make better decisions. Children need discipline to become well-adjusted adults. Parents who offer their children no clear set of rules or discipline are more likely to have children who are insecure and unhappy. On the other extreme, parents who focus more on punishment, rather than the process of teaching kids to think and respond to their environment, are more likely to have children who rebel against their parents or become depressed.
• Discipline is most effective when parents are loving and calm. It should never occur during times of anger. If you find yourself yelling at your children, apologize to them for yelling and explain that you need some time to yourself to calm down before you discuss their behavior. Be a good role model for the kind of person you want your children to become. If you yell at them, eventually they will learn to yell at you. Conversely, if you apologize to them when you have made a mistake, your children will learn those good habits as well. • Discipline should never be legalistic. Children should feel free to explain their actions and in special circumstances, be able negotiate the consequences they face as a result of their actions. • When your children are acting appropriately and responsibly, praise them and let them know how much you appreciate their responsible behavior. Providing positive encouragement, when appropriate, will help prevent attention-seeking patterns of misbehavior. n
a Washington State PTA parent involvement magazine
Parenting Teenagers P arenting tactics used when children were younger often don’t work with teenagers. Here’s a few things to consider to bring back stability and peace in your home during your children’s teen years: Practice Good Communication Skills
Be willing to listen to your teens without interrupting, judging or criticizing. Never belittle their problems. When teens feel safe dicussing a problem with you without the threat of being verbally attacked or insulted, they are more likely to confide in you to help them look for solutions. Developing good listening skills: • Resist the urge to fix your child’s problems, lecture or give unsolicited advice. This is tough to do, but focus your attention on just listening. Your child’s body language will also provide insightful clues into the sitatuion and how she is feeling. If your child asks for advice, put youself in her shoes and try to give her gentle advice, keeping it mind how you would want it given to you. • Watch your own body language. Resist the temptation to look at your watch or think about other things that you need to do. • Don’t overreact by yelling or getting angry. If you child shares something with you that concerns you, try to treat him with the same kind of respect you would treat a good friend. Focus on Empathy
Try to put yourselves in your teen’s shoes and see things from their perspectives. Allow them to have feelings of sadness, anger, disappointment and annoyance. Instead of trying to avoid these emotions, look deeper into what may be causing them to feel the way they do. This demonstrates to your children that you care for them. Other things to consider: • Think before you speak. Ask yourself how you would react if someone were to say those words to you. • Teach your teen how to have empathy for others. Take a meal to a family who recently lost a loved one, do something special for a parent who recently got divorced, or volunteer at a food bank. Foster a Spirit of Cooperation
As leaders of the family, your parenting style will help determine whether or not your family has a spirit of cooperation. Parents who pro-
The Child Advocate, September 2012
vide encouragement and support, know what’s going on and are involved in their children’s lives, and set appropriate limits and consequences, are more likely to have happy and well-adjusted teenagers. • Point out the good qualities your teen possesses, such as working hard, being determined, resilient or resourceful. Encourage your teen to use those good qualities when possible. • Avoid using your teens to constantly chauffeur younger siblings. It is appropriate for teens to help out around the house and with younger siblings on occasion, but make sure it is balanced with their need to be with friends as well. • Provide opportunities to host your teen’s friends at your house. Respect her need to connect with friends and offer a place to do this. • Avoid power struggles with your teen. Try to see his point of view and negotiate with him for a win-win outcome for everyone when possible. • Encourage your teen to earn your trust. Provide your teenager with opportunities to demonstrate responsible behavior and allow your teen greater privileges and freedoms when she has demonstrated responsibility and earned your trust. n
What Parents Should Know
omework is an essential component to your children’s successes in school. Not only does it help your children learn specific subjects better, it also provides an opportunity to learn responsibility, timemanagement, task management and selfmotivation--all things that are essential to success in life. How Parents Can Help:
• Become familiar with your children’s learning style and help them figure out ways to study that best suits their particular styles of learning. • Review the papers they bring home. If your child seems to be having some trouble with a particular subject, spend some time on the weekend, when there is plenty of time, working on this. • Never do your children’s homework for them. If your child is having trouble on an assignment, show her how to do a similar problem so she understands the process needed for doing the assignment. • Be available to your children when they are working on homework, but don’t hover over them. • Teach your children to brainstorm for ideas when they are getting ready to write a paper. • Encourage your children to proofread and check their work before they turn it in. You may also check your children’s work, if they ask you to.
• If your children don’t have homework, then homework time can be used for silent reading or getting ahead.
• Quiz your younger children on spelling words or other memorization facts, if needed.
• Encourage your children to work efficiently by learning how to manage their time. For example, if your child has a big project due or a test coming up, help him make small deadlines to accomplish specific tasks leading up to the due date.
• If you don’t know how to help your children, encourage them to figure out how to get help--such as calling a friend, going to school early the next day to get help, consulting their class notes, or using a homework help website.
• Encourage your children to make a checklist for their homework each day. It is rewarding for them to be able to check off things on the list when they are completed. Encourage your children to place the things that are due immediately at the top of their list.
• Create a place in your home for your children to do homework. This space should be well-lit, with plenty of counter or desk space, free of clutter and distractions, and stocked with the supplies they will need. Some children work best in quiet bedrooms, others do best at the kitchen table. Help each child figure out where his most productive place in the house is and designate that place as his homework space.
• Make healthy snacks available for students during breaks from doing homework.
• Have a set routine that includes plenty of time for homework. Turn off the TV and the cell phones during this designated
homework time. It is best for your children complete homework at least 20 minutes before bedtime. This allows children to relax and unwind as well as get their backpacks ready for the next day. If a child’s homework extends into her bedtime, you may need to consider a way to begin earlier so your child can get plenty of sleep.
• Have a good attitude about homework. Be supportive of the teachers and avoid complaining when your children have homework. However, if you find your child is taking an extraordinary amount of time in doing homework each night, you may want to arrange a meeting with the teacher to make sure your child isn’t having difficulties in that class. n
a Washington State PTA parent involvement magazine