Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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How can my wife and I manage time with our kids when we both work?

March 21, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

Two siblings laugh with their parents while enjoying breakfast together.

Question: My wife and I have unusual schedules. While she works Monday through Friday, I work Wednesday through Sunday. How can we manage to spend time with the kids together?

Answer: It’s difficult to spend time together as a family when both parents work. It’s even more difficult when each person’s time off doesn’t match up.

Regardless of your children’s ages, there are small things you and your wife can do to ensure you spend time together. It will just take some extra effort.

  • Read. If both parents are home on certain nights, read to your younger children together.
  • Eat. On days when you’re all home in the morning, eat breakfast together and talk about what each family member has planned for the day.
  • Schedule. Manage your family’s schedule just as you manage your child’s schedule. Keep a calendar of events in a central location so you know when everyone is available.
  • Activities. On days off, start family activities like game nights, and sharing meals.
  • Vacations. Plan a road trip and/or vacation with your family. Spend some extended bonding time together that you will all remember when it’s tough to see each other frequently.
  • Celebrate. Try to change shifts with a co-worker every once in a while so the family can celebrate a milestone together.

These small efforts add up. From a family breakfast on Monday morning, reading before bed on Tuesday, family dinner on Wednesday, and game night on Thursday, that’s already four family events for the week.

For more information on finding time and activities to share with your family, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. In Through Elementary and Middle School, see pages 42-43, 58-59, and 84-85. In Through High School and Beyond, see pages 36-37.

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How do I effectively discipline my child without being physical?

March 14, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A child frowns while his mother disciplines him.

Question: I don't want to discipline my kids by spanking them, but my husband does. He doesn’t think there’s another option. How can we effectively discipline our kids without being physical?

Answer: Disciplining a child is no easy task. It’s normal at times to feel desperate, frustrated, and mad. If you or your husband feels the urge to spank your child or act out in anger, take a time-out and breathe. Striking your children will only have negative consequences.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child and discourages any form of physical punishment. Effective discipline is possible without being physical. You and your husband can start by setting limits.

Be clear about your house rules.
It’s up to you to define and make clear what you expect from your children. Discuss house rules with them often, when you are all calm. If your rules are clear and easy to understand, your children will have an easier time following them.

Be consistent.
Every adult who cares for your children should be consistent when enforcing rules and actions. Remember that children model behavior and may not follow rules if you or other caregivers don’t follow them, too. Discipline helps your children learn to behave in the real world with real people.

Be supportive.
When pointing out unacceptable behavior, always communicate that you still love and support your children.

Set measures that are developmentally appropriate.
Each age comes with specific techniques to discipline a child. For example, at the toddler stage, you must ensure safety and limit aggression. Use brief verbal explanations and redirect your children to an alternative activity.

In contrast, while disciplining a teenager, you should explain rules in a noncritical way. Parents shouldn’t belittle the teenager, but instead explain the logical consequences of his or her actions.

Disciplining with love, understanding, and consistency while modeling behavior has much better results in the short and long term than using physical discipline.

For more information on the issues addressed in this question, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series, specifically Through the Early Years. See page 13 for information about taking time out for yourself, page 38 for understanding the importance of modeling positive behavior and page 56 for information about establishing boundaries for your child.

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My special needs child is falling behind in school. How can I help?

March 7, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

F on a test

Question: My daughter is special needs and is falling behind in school. I don’t think she’s getting the extra attention she needs in the classroom. How can I help her succeed?

Answer: With any child, it is important that you as the parent are involved in your daughter’s education. Since she has already been diagnosed as special needs, it is important that you follow up with the school regarding her declining progress. Both public and private schools are required to educate every child who enrolls in them. There are many rules and regulations in place for public and private schools. In either case, to help your school make the best accommodations for your daughter, talk to the administration about adapting your daughter’s curriculum using these five techniques:

  1. Scheduling. The teacher may need to allow your daughter extra time for assignments.
  2. Setting. Your daughter may perform better if she works in a smaller group or one-on-one with her teacher.
  3. Materials. The teacher may need to provide class material in various formats or include extra notes.
  4. Instruction. The teacher may need to reduce the difficulty of assignments or reading requirements.
  5. Student Response. Depending on your daughter’s needs, the teacher may be able to accept her responses in a different format, such as verbally instead of written, or in an outline instead of an essay.

You may also need to speak with the school regarding an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which would provide a different level of special education services. If your child is enrolled in a private school and the above options are not adequate, you will need to speak with your local or state educational agency (LEA or SEA) about further accommodations.

You can learn more about special needs education and an IEP in our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, specifically on pages 16-17 in Through Elementary and Middle School and page 23 in Through High School and Beyond.

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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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