Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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My son is smart but doesn’t perform well on tests. How can I help him do better?

February 28, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A student struggles during an exam.

Question: My son is smart and does well in school but doesn't perform well on tests. I'm worried he won't get into good colleges because of his SAT scores. What can I do to help him?

Answer: People refer to this phenomenon as the Poor Test-Taker Syndrome. Don’t worry, it’s not a disease and it can be changed. It requires strategy, practice, and patience.

Try these tips that might help your son perform better on tests:

  1. Practice makes perfect. Create practice tests for your son in the subject he will be tested on. After he completes a test, grade it and let him know which answers were incorrect. However, don’t tell him the right answers. Let him retry the questions he missed and learn the right answers by rereading the text. Keep practicing!
  2. Calm down. Exams are often timed, which can result in anxiety for your son. He might be rushing through the questions and making careless mistakes. Remind him to breathe deeply before the exam starts and remember that he is a great student in class. These exercises should help him focus and remember that he already knows what the test is about.
  3. Learn concepts instead of memorizing. Memorizing is not always useful if your son is under pressure. Help him understand the concepts behind the facts he is studying. After he reads a passage, ask him to briefly summarize what he just read, which will help him understand the concept rather than memorize an answer. If he understands the material, he should perform better on the test.

If none of these strategies are helping your son with his test scores, talk to his teacher, school staff, or your healthcare provider to determine if he has a mild learning disability.

We discuss addressing difficulties, emphasis on critical thinking, and homework support in greater detail in in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher three-book series. Please refer to pages 50, 66, and 85 in Through Elementary and Middle School for more information.

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My mother says inappropriate things around my children. How can I make her stop?

February 21, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A young boy covers his ears.

Question: My mother makes inappropriate social comments around my kids. I don't share her opinions and don't want my kids to. How do I address this issue with her?

Answer: The best way to solve this problem is by being honest and direct with your mother about what you want your child to know about the world.

The next time your mother makes an inappropriate comment, address what was just said with your children directly. For example, if she made an inappropriate comment related to race, religion, or sexual orientation, stop the conversation politely and explain to your children, in terms they can understand according to their age, that while Grandma might think differently, in your house we are all equal and deserve respect no matter our skin color, religious beliefs, or other differences.

Your mother might get uncomfortable at that point, but you have to show your kids that you don’t approve of those kinds of comments or behavior. Remember, children model behavior they see and hear at home.

After that initial conversation, follow up with her in private, explaining that while she has a right to her beliefs, your family’s philosophy is different. Lay down some rules for her to follow when she is talking in front of your children.

Be prepared to accept that she might not change her points of view, but stopping her from speaking about these views in front of her grandchildren is a big step. Regardless of her reaction, have confidence in knowing that teaching your children what is good, right, and appropriate is more important than this confrontation.

Finally, talk to your kids about Grandma’s different viewpoints. Let them know that you and Grandma disagree on the things she said, but never put her down regarding other aspects of her personality.

If any family member exhibits undesirable behavior, talk to them and to your kids about what they just saw or heard. This will allow your children to maintain a healthy relationship with that particular relative.

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My daughter is boy crazy and growing up too fast. How can I help her slow down?

February 14, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Cartoon characters stand in a meadow with hearts around them.

Question: My 12-year-old daughter is boy crazy. She and her friends spend hours talking about celebrity crushes and the boys in their school. I’m worried she’s growing up too fast—this seems like something teenagers do! What can I do to help her slow down?

Answer: With increased exposure to sexuality in the media, it is nearly impossible for children to remain uninfluenced by sexual and romantic culture. Even though your daughter is only 12 years old (a tween), she is one year away from officially being a teenager and therefore is influenced by teenage likes and dislikes.

Crushes are healthy and normal at her age. The fantasy of a celebrity crush is still relatively innocent— your daughter is unlikely to start dating a member of One Direction (or the latest boy band when you read this article). She is exploring her feelings for the opposite gender in a healthy way.

Once she targets those feelings toward boys in her school, it is time to talk to her about dating and what your family feels is appropriate for her age based on your morals and ethics.

At YOU Parent, we suggest that you encourage your daughter to analyze her friendships and romantic relationships. Help her seek positivity and trustworthiness in both her friendships and dating partners. By engaging in open conversations with her about these relationships, you establish trust with her and can encourage her to use good judgment that aligns with your family values when it is time to date.

We discuss teen dating and building healthy relationships in greater detail in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher three-book series. Please refer to pages 42, 64, and 65 in Through High School and Beyond for more information.

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My son won’t share anything with me. How can I get him to speak to me?

February 7, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A son puts his hand up to stop his mother from speaking to him.

Question: My 10-year-old son won't tell me about his day or talk to me about anything. How can I get him to speak to me?

Answer: Sometimes children don’t want to share with their parents, whether they’re teenagers, toddlers, or in between. There are many reasons, from shyness to privacy wishes. Whatever the cause, it’s still important to speak with your son daily about his life, even if it’s just a few sentences at dinner.

Here are some quick ways you can sneak in a conversation with him.

  • Tell him about your day. Often times sharing about you will prompt him to talk about himself.
  • Watch TV. Sit with him and watch one of his television shows and ask questions about the plot or characters. He might share his thoughts on the show as well. A word of warning: you might want to wait until a commercial so you don’t interrupt and aggravate him.
  • Visit someplace new. Take your son to dinner at a new restaurant and ask about his food. If his initial response is one word, ask more detailed questions. Why did he choose a cheeseburger instead of pizza? What’s his favorite cheese?

While he talks, listen to his tone. Is it normal for him? If so, then he might just be going through a phase where he doesn’t share much with his parent(s). If he sounds upset or angry when answering normal questions, or avoids answering them, he might be dealing with a problem. Find a quiet, safe place to speak with him about it. Tell him you noticed he hasn’t been himself lately and you want to help him. If he’s not receptive, you may want to speak with his teacher or school counselor to see if they have any insight into what could be wrong.

For more information on speaking with your child of any age, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher three-book set. For information on speaking to younger children, see pages 46 and 60 in Through The Early Years. See pages 43 and 77 in Through Elementary and Middle School for newer ways to interact with your child. If you are worried that your child is suffering from depression or struggling with peers, see page 64 in the same book and reach out to a school counselor for additional help.

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