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Back To School Basics

by Colleen Langenfeld
Copyright (c) 2004

The school year is in full swing again in many places and with it, another opportunity to make the days run a bit smoother than they did before. Like most parents, I've discovered there are a handful of challenges each year that need to be addressed to make for a productive, successful school year.

Do any of these scenarios ring true for your family, too?

If something's buggin' you, it needs fixing! If each year you find yourself nagging about the same issues, pay attention! Sit down and figure out what's really going on, then formulate some different approaches until you're seeing tangible improvements.

Lay out expectations clearly. Whether my kids are 7 or 17 (and I've had both), they deserve to know what is expected of them up front. They will develop more confidence and live up to their responsibilities more often if given a clear game plan to follow that's appropriate to their age and abilities. In other words, not too hard, but definitely a stretch. Such a plan, followed through on, will make them feel great about themselves.

Make sure everyone's in charge of...themselves.
Then give them the tools they'll need to live up to their responsibilities. Reward appropriately when they follow through. A son who doesn't have his own alarm clock is not likely to even try to get up on his own. Want your daughter to make her own lunch? Make sure you have the healthy food on hand she needs to get the job done.

Everyone needs a space. A space for homework, studying, and stuff. A place to dream as well as to work. Doesn't need to be fancy, big, or expensive but should be kept neat and reasonably organized. Encourage your kids to take pride in their accomplishments and take care of their possessions. Yes, this requires discipline. That's the point.

Set limits.
Children needs boundaries no matter what they say! When teachers set homework deadlines, back them up at home. Chores, curfews, bedtimes, TV/computer time, and regular schedules all are tools parents can use to teach self-discipline and respect for others.

Do unto others... If sibling rivalry is approaching a severe level in your home, perhaps a season on the Kindness Team would be valuable. Like most sports, this requires daily practice, coaching, and a team approach. Drills are vital. You can track progress through a simple scoring procedure and you'll see real results in no time. Am I confusing you? Let me spell it out. Nagging never works to get kids to be kind to each other, but make a game of it (literally) and you will see progress. Be creative and enlist your 'team's' aid. Then point out at every opportunity how much better daily life is when people are getting along. This is an ongoing learning activity and one they'll take with them for the rest of their lives.

These are some of the challenges in our family that often seem to crop up each new school year. Watching our children mature is a true joy, but definitely not one that comes without cost. Both parents and children have a part to play in this engaging drama. This year, make your parenting efforts pay off and use your energies to make lasting changes in your home!

About the author:
Colleen Langenfeld offers helpful ideas to busy working moms. Use our resources at to make your life feel easier, healthier, and smarter now!

Anthony Kane, MD

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