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Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem

February 19, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

A mother and daughter chat happily on a park bench

Today’s equivalent of being ignored is not receiving as many “likes” or “re-tweets” as you may like. Unfortunately for our children, this is paramount in their world. They may feel pressured to conform to being like others, not just in their physical appearance, but also in their online persona.

Recently, I noticed my stepson, who is 12 years old and lives with his mother, using many derogatory terms in his Facebook posts. Graciously, I asked him to stop, to which he complied. This made me think about him and many other children like him, who may behave this way because of their low self-esteem. They are looking for ways to define who they are, to prove how tough they are, or just trying to fit in with the “cool” kids—all attempts to reinforce their self-esteem.

There are certain things that are important to your son or daughter that may seem trivial to you such as a funny video or even what seems to be a childish spat with their friends. One good way to reinforce his or her self-esteem is to listen. I mean, really listen to your child when he or she talks to you. Look directly at your child’s face when he or she is speaking and, if possible, sit down so that you are at the same eye level. This lets your child know he or she is really being heard and that his or her opinion does matter.

When your child feels strong enough to express his or her opinions to you, without the fear of being ridiculed, he or she will willingly share more with you. This is your opportunity to highlight some of his or her special skills or outstanding abilities. You can point out how he or she has such a unique way of looking at things, and how that is something really special. Draw out more conversations from your son or daughter, and you will see there are things he or she may be really good at that you may not have been aware of.

There is almost always a way to turn a seemingly negative situation into a positive learning experience where your son or daughter’s abilities can shine through, raising his or her self-esteem. For example, if your son is complaining because a teammate does not pass the ball during soccer practice, discuss how his frustration can turn into a teaching opportunity. Your son or daughter may be a good coach for a little league team because of their ability to see the big picture when it comes to the game.

Finally, teach your son or daughter to embrace differences, not only of their own, but also of those around them. If your daughter speaks more than one language, encourage her to become fluent. Let her know that because of these differences, she is unique and has much to contribute to society, whether it is face-to-face or online.

Not only will your son or daughter’s self-esteem rise to new levels as he or she learns more about him or herself, but the world will seem much less intimidating as your child is reminded of the important roles he or she plays in it.



Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

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Couple Chat: Acceptance and Tolerance

February 18, 2014

By Ana and Mario Vela

Ana and Mario Vela with their four dogs.

Photograph by Jennifer Shaffer Photography

In the Couple Chat series, we pose one or two topical questions to a couple and ask each person to answer privately. Each person then reads the other’s response and the couple discusses their thoughts on the topic. They share their discussion together in the reflection.

For today’s Couple Chat, we asked expectant parents Ana and Mario Vela about acceptance and tolerance. Here’s what they said.

In your opinion, what is the difference between acceptance and tolerance?
Ana: I believe acceptance is more positive than tolerance. When I think of tolerance, I think about understanding that some people will have a negative outlook on life and others, and that we cannot change their way of thinking. To me acceptance is essential in this life because there are several factors we cannot change about ourselves (our skin color, our gender), and there are beliefs that we are raised to follow (religious, cultural), that are not meant to be harmful to anyone else. We have to accept people in those areas, and tolerate people who wish to cause harm to others.

Mario: Acceptance is the belief and approval of other opinions, practices, and people. Tolerance is a fair perspective and an attitude to endure towards other opinions, practices, and people.

Acceptance is stronger than tolerance and takes a deeper level of understanding. Tolerance is more a behavior to coexist with others, rather than believing in the lifestyle or characteristics of others.

How would you teach acceptance and tolerance to a child?
Ana: I am Latino, and while growing up as a child in a very diverse neighborhood, my parents were constantly dictating what kind of people I should not associate with. This was based on their observances from not experiencing diversity prior to their first years in the United States. I didn’t understand why my parents were so negative, and in class my teacher would encourage acceptance.

I ended up becoming friends with kids from all ethnic backgrounds, and I eventually introduced them to my parents so they could see that these kids were no different than we were. Ultimately, I ended up teaching my parents about acceptance and have changed their way of thinking.

I believe I would not have to teach acceptance to my child, as it is something children are born with and if I model it myself then it will continue. I don’t believe I will need to teach my child about tolerance until he or she experiences hate for the first time (I had to learn when I experienced racism as a young child), in which I do not look forward to informing him or her that some people do not understand the concept of acceptance and that my child will continue to meet others as he or she grows up.

Mario: I would teach my child through modeling behavior-- demonstrating acceptance of others and tolerance of others. However, it’s important that the child understands he or she does not have to be tolerant or accepting of all others. Protesting is fair.

Also, I can provide examples through media and experiences. I can expose my child to other SES, religions, forms of education, and countries. By exposing him or her to others’ lives, my child can be more aware of differences and more accepting and tolerant of other ways of living.

Reflection
Ana: After sharing our answers, Mario disagreed with me in that tolerance is not always negative, but rather it can be a neutral situation. And further, he believes tolerance is a first step to acceptance. We came up with a couple of examples, and I can see his point of view.

I grew up in Virginia in a very diverse neighborhood, then moved to Laredo, TX and Mexico where there was no diversity—it was predominantly Mexican American. The lack of diversity was a culture shock to me, and going from middle class to poverty was also difficult, but those are the experiences that have shaped who I am.

Mario did not grow up experiencing diversity, so he strongly believes that exposing our child to these experiences through travel and media will help shape their way of thinking, which I agree with.

I like how Mario had very practical ways of teaching acceptance and tolerance to our child, and I never even thought about empowering our child to find ways to change society if he or she does not want to tolerate certain situations. This was a great exercise as we had not thought about this topic before, and it made us realize that we have so much to teach our child.

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Building a Leader

February 17, 2014

By Jessica Vician

A young girl flexes her muscles in superhero garb.

Today is Presidents’ Day, during which we celebrate George Washington’s birthday and honor all United States presidents. Regardless of political affiliations, most of us can agree that each president we elect is a leader. While you might not aspire for your child to become president one day, teaching your child leadership skills will help him or her on the playground, in the classroom, in college, and throughout a career.

Here are three important leadership qualities and skills you can help your child develop.

  1. Listening. Teach your child to be a better listener. When someone speaks or shares an opinion, your child should listen to what that person is saying. Teach him or her to consider the speaker’s opinions before responding.

    Each of us learns more by listening than by speaking. By practicing listening, your child will learn more about people and the topic discussed and can apply that knowledge to future conversations.

  2. Assertiveness. While your child learns to listen to others, he or she should also learn to effectively communicate with others. Teach your child to be politely assertive so that he or she can communicate his or her needs and opinions with others. Being assertive will help your child with his or her own self-respect while also helping manage others.
  3. Set goals. A leader accomplishes many things. In order to do that, he or she must be organized to set and achieve goals. Help younger children set goals like completing five chores a week to teach them time management and the reward of accomplishment. Help teens set longer-term goals like getting four A’s in a term. This type of goal requires longer planning and dedication, but the reward is greater and can positively impact your teen’s future.

As your child develops and practices these skills, he or she will build knowledge, confidence, and self-respect, which are all qualities of a leader.

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5 Easy Ways To Make Time For Your Partner

February 13, 2014

By Beth Wilson

A couple's feet warm up by the fire.

Each week contains 168 hours. Sounds like plenty of time, right? Not so much. My husband and I are a two-income family, which means that I have a total of 90 minutes of commute time each day. On top of that, I’m actively involved in my church and I hit the gym three times a week. With this kind of busy schedule, my husband and I must be intentional about finding time to love each other. After all, maintaining a healthy relationship between us influences how our children view relationships.

Here are five ways we make our relationship a priority throughout the day.

  1. Eat together. When we’re both home in the evenings we eat dinner together and stay at the table until the other finishes.
  2. Prioritize activities. I limit voluntary participation in activities that will require me to be away from home in the evenings.
  3. Do things together. We take an interest in, and occasionally participate in, the other person’s hobbies.
  4. Be together. When we’re home and doing our own thing, we still try to be in the same room together.
  5. Talk to each other. During the workday we chat on the phone at lunch time.

These small things make a huge difference for us, helping each person stay connected to the other. However, sometimes life will take over, time will be at premium, and we will become people who cross paths while getting ready for work in the morning and fall exhaustedly into bed at night. When that happens to us, simply communicating, “I miss you” sends the clear message that it is time to move the other person up on the priority list and clear the calendar for some quality time.

If you find that you and your partner aren’t prioritizing your relationship, start small and try these tips. Often the littlest efforts go a long way and can help your relationship get back on track and become a priority once again. As we know, a healthy relationship with your parenting partner models positive behavior for your children, setting the tone for their own healthy relationships.

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You’re Not Failing As a Parent

February 12, 2014

By Jessica Vician

There are good days and there are bad days, but at the end of the day, when you put your child to sleep, you know you did something right. You did a good job.

Parenting is tough. Sometimes it’s exhausting. You’re trying to raise a child to be better, brighter, and happier than you are. But no one, even your child, is perfect. Give yourself a break. You’re not failing—you’re on this site to seek answers, advice, or better yourself as a parent. That’s a great step and demonstrates your desire to be a better parent.

If you’re feeling down or struggling with parenthood, read on. I asked several parents, from newbies to grandparents, for advice to those feeling the pressure of being a perfect parent. Here’s what they said.

“Parenting is really hard. Parenting changes everything but it doesn’t change who you are.”

“Everyone feels that they’re failing as a parent at some point or another.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Look at acquaintances or friends who have older children and ask them how they handled situations that are similar to yours.”

“There are good days and there are bad days, but at the end of the day, when you put your child to sleep, you know you did something right. You did a good job.”

“Know that each child’s success is different and that’s okay.”

“Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need it.”

“Take a time out. Take a breather. If you’re mad, don’t react right away because once you say something, you can’t take it back.”

“It’s okay if some days you say ‘Being a mom is too hard.’ It happens.”

“Each situation is different. Just because something worked in the past with one child doesn’t mean it will work with another. Learn to adapt to new situations and don’t blame yourself if one approach doesn’t work. Try another.”

“You’re not alone. We can always do better, but sometimes we only have enough in us to give ‘good enough.’ And that’s okay.”

Thanks for reading, and thanks for visiting the site. Remember that just being here makes you a good parent. You care so much about your child that you’re seeking additional help and advice. Meet other parents and exchange advice in the forum.

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