Learning strategist & parenting coach Kimberley Acres helps us in this time of physical distancing and online schooling with parenting philosophies and online learning tactics, including optimizing our children’s workspace, setting boundaries, and celebrating!
References & Links
PARENTING TEENS & ONLINE LEARNING
- When parenting, we need to let ourselves off the hook. Ultimately, our children’s education is their education. They need to own their own education and to own their own learning.
- Consider the TREE metaphor for parenting and your child’s education. Formal education provide the trunk of the tree, from pre-school to post-secondary education. Parenting means provide the nourishment in the soil and also by exposing their kids to different life experiences. Each of these experiences grows another new branch in the metaphorical tree. Importantly, this does not require a specific lifestyle, it just requires creativity, curiosity, and intuition.
- Stages that children go through as they mature: When they’re young, children look for role models. They mimic the behaviors of those around them. As kids grow, they start to demand autonomy. They seek independence, privacy, and secrecy in what they’re doing and with whom. When parenting, Kim encourages us to consider it a privilege to be able to come along for the ride when our kids are teenagers.
- As families, we share values. But we can’t insist our children accept all of these values. We can discuss and model values, but it’s up to the child to accept them.
- Kim discourages us from thinking about our parenting mistakes Instead, consider the words of Brad Reedy, the author of The Journey of the Heroic Parent: there’s no way you’re going to avoid screwing when you’re parenting, you will make mistakes – even at times big ones, and that’s okay. Kim encourages us to celebrate and to be learners
- Validation. Regardless of our child’s age, we should encourage them and celebrate. Remember: validation is about effort. Praise is about outcome. This relates to intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards. Younger children may be less capable of understanding intrinsic motivations, but at a certain point, we can encourage our children to focus on the intrinsic satisfaction associated with effort and practice. When it comes to extrinsic rewards like cash for goals scored or grades achieved, Kim encourages us to consider: who are those rewards really for?
- Hold space. Silence is uncomfortable, but don’t feel obliged to fill the silence. Sometimes parenting means bing quiet. Listen for what isn’t being said.
- Friends. Listen to what your children tell you about their friends, and also to what their friends are saying. The implicit messages here can be golden.
- Ask permission to discuss important topics with your teen. You probably don’t want to have the conversation when they’re busy or stressed-out. Asking permission also implicitly communicates a level of respect that your child will appreciate .
- Admit when you’re wrong. Apologizing to your teen demonstrates respect for them and it also models vulnerability, which then gives our children license to be vulnerable.
- Keep it light. This is a unique learning experience for all of us. Probably your first pandemic, right? Ask your child and ask yourself: what’s the story that you want to tell yourself about this Covid-19 experience after it is over?
- Kids learn everywhere. Learning at home isn’t really anything new! What’s new is the virtual or online focus of this learning. When parenting, we want to encourage our children to do the best they can. No matter what, this is a great opportunity for kids to learn new skills. So generally, keep it positive. Bring a lightness to this learning.
- Questions to ask your child:
- What do you LIKE TO DO? Something that’s a positive experience for them and that gets thinking positive.
- How did you FEEL at a time when you were the most PROUD?
- What are your STUDENT STRENGTHS? This is something we want our older teenagers (grade 11 and 12) to grasp. We want them to be able to identify and state “I’ve learned the best when I’m doing these things.”
- Is it your practice? Like when you shoot hoops every day and your game improves? Or when you do math exercises every day you do well in tests?
- Is it working fast? That’s a great student strength. Then you have lots of time to double check your work.
- Is it being able to focus when it’s quiet? That’s good to know. Let’s make sure there are no distractions so you can really
- Ask your teen to send you a photo of their workspace and also of where they keep their phone when they’re doing their online schooling. This encourages students to think carefully about their physical work environment, which impacts the quality of their work.
- Encourage teens to customize the learning environment, including their workspace (which desk or table, which chair, on what device, in which room) as well as what they’re wearing. Kim suggested that we might encourage our kids to wear their favourite team’s sports jersey when they’re doing their online schooling.
- Set boundaries. Yes, we need to celebrate, but parenting means setting clear and consistent boundaries. Then whatever the boundary is, most of the time, kids will be respectful.
- Celebrate! Overall, when parenting during this unprecedented covid-19 experience, we should seek to keep it light. Keep it positive. Children are doing the best they can. When we observe their efforts, validate them. Look at this as an opportunity – and celebrate.
REFERENCES & LINKS
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberley-acres-1793a0104/
- Email – [email protected]
Books & Resources
- The Journey of the Heroic Parent by Brad M. Reedy, PhD
- How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
- The Four Agreements– A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – Don Miguel Ruiz
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
- WEBSITE: Kids Health
- PODCAST: The Life Coach School with Brooke Castillo
Talk About Talk & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
- Email – [email protected]
- Free Communication Coaching via the weekly Email Blog – https://talkabouttalk.com/blog/#newsletter-signup
- Website – https://talkabouttalk.com
- Podcasts – https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/
- Shownotes & Transcripts – https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#shownotes
- Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/2512948625658629/
Dr. ANREA’s INTRODUCTION
Well, hello there. I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki. Please call me Andrea. Thanks for listening. Talk About Talk is where you can learn to communicate more effectively, so you can advance your career and improve your relationships – with everyone around you, including, as you will learn in this episode, the teens and tweens in your life.
If you go to TalkAboutTalk.com, you can see the full archive of all the communication skills topics that we’ve covered in the podcasts and email blogs. We’re releasing podcasts bi-weekly, every second week, and email blogs every week, so you can always go to the talkabouttalk.com website and catch up on everything you missed.
Today’s episode’s focused on PARENTING TEENS and TWEENS: and specifically OUR ROLE AS PARENTS or GUARDIANS IN OUR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION.
This topic is always important, but these days it’s even more resonant, with COVID-19 resulting in regular school being abruptly cancelled and, if we’re lucky, replaced with online or virtual learning.
We are very fortunate to have Kimberley Acres with us for this episode, a parenting and learning consultant whom I’ll introduce to you in just a moment.
Parenting Kimberley Acres & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
As you’ll hear from Kim at the very beginning of the interview, children are always learning, in school, at home, and everywhere else they are. And we, when parenting, have always, and will always, play an important role in that learning. So we should recognize that this phenomenon of “learning at home” is actually nothing new. What is new though, is the shift to more online learning.
Regardless of how you want to describe what’s going on and what our role is when parenting, I can tell you personally from my recent conversations that this moment in time of physical distancing and online learning stresses many of us parents out. Well, I have good news. At the end of this podcast, you’ll feel more knowledgeable and more optimistic about how to handle the current situation, AND about your role as a parent in your child’s education.
Here’s how this episode will unfold.
I’ll introduce Kim and then get right into the interview. Then, after the interview, I’ll summarize everything for you. So good news – you don’t have to take notes. Not at all. Just sit back and listen. I’ve categorized the learnings from this episode into three areas:
- Parenting philosophies to consider
- Parenting Tactics
- Specific tactics to help you enable your child with virtual or online learning.
As always, this summary is easily available to you on the talkabouttalk.com website. Just go to the podcast tab and then the printable shownotes. The shownotes for each episode include the summary, references and other resources, and the transcript.
OK – let me introduce Kim.
Kimberley Acres is a career educator. She earned her B.A. and B.Ed from Queens university. Since then she’s been working with students around the globe, be it in the classroom, online, at the rink or in sports fields. In her business, KJA Coaching, Kim encourages collaboration, communication, and celebration to help families break out of the parent-teen trap.
As you’ll hear, Kim has two teenage daughters, and she says that her daughters provide much fodder for personal growth as she celebrates them through their voyage into adulthood. As a parenting and learning consultant, Kim journeys with parents as they discover their ability to be the best parent they can be! Currently Kim is working with students as a Virtual Learning Coach to bridge the gap from the classroom to the Learn at Home model, and to bring students to their ultimate level of self-empowerment and success: which is, owning their learning!
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki: Thank you so much, Kim, for joining us here today to share your expertise.
Kim Acres: Thank you for having me.
AW: All right, let’s start with a general question. What should we as parents be thinking about in terms of our role in our children’s education?
KA: That is a great question for today, particularly after most of us have been housebound with our children, watching them and ourselves struggle through what education looks like in the time of COVID-19. I’d like to take that question and sort of put it into two parts. The first part is the role of the parents and the second part is our children’s education.
It is sometimes challenging for us to really recognize that it is our children’s education, and in my experience, working with parents through hundreds of parent teacher interviews, the thing I noticed the most that’s such a challenge. For parents is to let themselves off the hook. Ultimately, our children’s education is their education. And the moment we let ourselves off the hook, we empower our children to own their own education and to own their own learning.
All of us as parents struggle with this idea of who we want our children to be of having control of accepting our children the way that they are. And then as a result, encouraging them and empowering them to own their own experiences. I can give you an example of a time a strong memory I have years ago coaching ice hockey, and I had a five year old girl, a really great skater at that age and I was tying her skates. And as I’m tying her skates, she said, I’m so excited for today. My mom said if I get a goal she’s going to give me $5.
KA: And I had this tightness in my stomach because as a coach, and – anyone who’s had their child in that age of hockey knows that we change their positions every game. So some games, they’re a defenseman some games, they’re at center some games, they’re the goalie, and I had put this little girl on defense that day.
So I knew exponentially that her chance of getting a girl had gone down significantly. Needless to say, she didn’t get a goal. And I will never forget this, the idea that it’s not one experience that dictates our child’s education. But the moment we let go of owning it, or controlling it, or trying to make it something, our children get to own it.
AW: That’s a great point. But when you said we need to let go of the outcome, we need to let ourselves off the hook. I’m in my mind saying so much easier said than done. Right? I mean, I’m seeing impending disaster and I just want to save them and it’s such a cliche when parenting – we save our kids.
KA: It is let me share a metaphor. It’s one that has over time been a powerful perspective on education for me. If you think of your child’s education as a tree, and the education system as the trunk and education from kindergarten through to post secondary education will provide for our children, the foundation, the strength of the trunk.
When parenting, we offer the nutrients, we take our children on trips, we walk around the block and have a conversation, we get them a bicycle, we become the motivators of the branches, and that leads sometimes we even get to pick the tree, it can be an oak, it can be a weeping willow, it can be a birch tree. That metaphor has provided for me so much solace in the education system. There is no perfect education system, but every education system will provide that trunk what the rest of the tree looks like.
Is it in our domain, we get to see our children after school, we get to be the recipients of what their day was like, and the capacity to accept that we don’t have to control the outcome. We don’t need to be fearful for our children. And there’s a lot of fear right now around this time period, what are students going to lose? The opportunity inside, of being at home as a family is much greater than the potential loss. So what’s the role of parents?
I know a lot of parents are feeling right now that they need to be teachers as well. But if we can let go of the outcome, ultimately, and trust that everything is an education, we will see our students, our children thrive inside of this and a very simple thing we can do is validate. What’s the difference between praise and validation? Well, praise is That’s great or Good job.
It’s almost meaningless. But something that validates is a strong statement. I saw today you spend a lot of time on math, we validate their action. Rather than saying good job on math today. I want them to feel as though even if they’re not strong at it, they’re not scared of it. So a validating statement right now is probably the best opportunity we have to support our kids in their learning is to validate what they’re doing.
AW: So would you say that the validation is about effort versus the praise is about outcome?
KA: Yes, yes. Our children aren’t always going to be successful. And if we’re only looking at their outcome or the outcome that we want for them, we’re almost setting them up for failure.
AW: Well, this links to your metaphor, which I absolutely love, I love metaphors in general. And I think the tree metaphor is really beautiful. I love it. And I’m wondering if working within that metaphor, if we should be thinking about when parenting, our role, as you said is it’s the foundation. So are we the soil, the nutrients? And so therefore when parenting should we be really focusing on providing learning opportunities. Is that our job?
KA: I will be the last person to tell parents what they should do, I really want us to escape from that word should, and look at what we can do. And all parents from every background have the skills to look at what they can offer. It might just be a little sticky note beside our teenager as he or she is forcing herself to look at these online videos that says hot chocolate later, or lunch at 12.
And those statements of validation take away the pressure of having to be something in my experience as a teacher of high school students, they put enough pressure themselves, and they do it instinctually and sometimes it’s in the form of acting out. Sometimes it’s in the form of defiance, sometimes it’s in the form of complacency.
But yes, we look at our job as broadening and education’s job is moving kids upward, then every opportunity we expose our children to becomes a branch. But if we trust it, and then we actively look at who we are as part of their lives outside of the institution, we can build the most amazing strong branches and leaves and fruit and berries and seeds that will create possibilities and opportunities for our kids for years and years and years and beyond the math or the geography or the English tutorial that they’re working on today.
AW: Exactly. Well, that’s beautiful and very empowering as well. And I want to go back to your story about the young hockey player who skates you were doing up. And I was wondering what your take is on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations and rewards as I guess, particularly in terms of parenting.
KA: That action of wanting to motivate our children beyond the actual experience is deep and real. And we’re also living in a culture where everyone gets a red ribbon. So there’s a certain age where kids will thrive on that idea of competition, but it runs out. extrinsic motivation versus intrinsic is really a developmental part of who our children are.
And if we go back to Eric Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development. For example, we know that there are ages in which students can’t possibly or our children can’t possibly comprehend the satisfaction of an intrinsic reward, but it comes with experience. So I think that story really was a reminder to me of the need to be careful with our extrinsic motivators because they run out. What happens at age 16. What happens at age 19? If our children are still looking for something outside of themselves, what happens when our teenage daughters get on Instagram? Or they get Snapchat or they follow TikTok videos, and they see others looking their best because everybody can look good on social media, right?
AW: I think that’s, that’s a great example. You go on social media, and suddenly it’s all extrinsic, right? And I actually hadn’t thought of that. I have to tell you this my now 16 year old was playing a basketball and we he would do really well in practice, but not in games. And one time I said to him, I’m gonna pay you $1 for every rebound and $5 for a basket, and he had the best game he’s ever had in his entire life.
And the assistant coach said to me, what did you feed him? So Afterwards, I said, we’re never doing that again. But now you know what you’re capable of, Here’s your money. Think about it. And we actually still talk about it because we talked about intrinsic and extrinsic rewards in this house, actually, so
KA: Well, and I can add to that, if you want just the idea of who’s the reward for? As parents, we want to see our children succeed. And we sometimes will offer these types of rewards because it makes us feel better and right. It felt great, I’m sure, right.
AW: To be honest, the whole time I was ashamed because I know about all the research on extrinsic. I mean, I was proud of his basketball progress, but I was ashamed of anyway, that’s fine.
KA: That’s a really honest share.
AW: so so as we were talking about intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, you said there may be an evolution as as children mature, so I’m wondering if we can talk a little bit about how children’s needs evolve as they mature.
KA: Currently, when I’m talking to students they’re virtual learning, I’m talking to a range of ages. And it is very interesting to identify what kids know about themselves at different ages. And when we’re young, we’re really looking around for the models. Most of us as parents have had our young children come home at one point or another and throw out a swear word.
Sometimes we marvel at where that came from. That’s part of the learning at that stage is the maturation is to sort of mimic. But as kids grow, they start to demand autonomy. And as the adolescent brain changes, and it’s a very intense change through those preteen and teen years, and a little bit of understanding of that can really support us as parents and how to support them.
And I would encourage every parent to talk to their preteen and their tween about what’s happening to your brain and not use it as an excuse. That’s not fair. But to use it as knowledge, helping them to understand themselves, helping them to understand their friends, Why are my friends acting out? Why does my best friend not care about school anymore? Why doesn’t my friend talk to me instead of just looking at his phone all the time when we’re walking home from school?
AW: Yeah. And implicit in that answer, I think was something that I think is really important, which is you can ease your way into the conversation about your child by talking about their friends, right?
KA: Very much. Yeah, and think about when their friends are over. Yeah, it’s very entertaining when you sit down at dinner with a friend, your child and one of their friends, the liberty their friends have with sharing that sometimes your own child won’t. So hearing through our children’s friends and their boyfriends and girlfriends and others that they bring into their lives is a great way to covertly and quietly discover what they are up to, and the role we play in the same home.
It definitely changes over time, and a lot of us will see our teenagers become a little more secretive. Maybe they will bring friends into their lives quietly as their primary confidant. Some of our kids will go to their rooms and predominantly live in work in their rooms. I always want to know what’s going on with my children, but lots of times they’re not going to answer a direct question anymore. Because it’s theirs. And I want to empower them to be young people.
I want to empower them to make their own choices, preferably good ones, but there are going to be times when they make ones that I don’t like. And a couple of little strategies that have really allowed my children and I to stay sane with each other would include modeling. If they see me going out and getting some exercise. When they see me calling somebody on the phone to have a chat. If they see me taking a risk starting a business That has been a key to empowering them to be themselves and know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Mm hmm.
AW: I find that empowering and inspiring personally as well, right? It takes some of the weight off to think, well, I just have to show them.
KA: Correct. Correct. It goes back to that thing we talked about right at the beginning, that we don’t have to own the outcome they get to have the outcome. Being able to come along is a privilege when our kids are teenagers, if they still want us to come and watch a game, if they still want to show us how they’ve done in school. It’s a gift. And I celebrate those moments.
AW: That’s an important mindset. I think it’s not my right. It’s a privilege.
KA: Yeah, it is. And we ultimately need to remember the end game. We want our children to step out into the young adult world with enough confidence and resiliency, self advocacy to own their own personal experiences. So that idea of really holding space just hold space. Silence is uncomfortable, but it is a gift to teenagers Hmm, hold space. Listen for what isn’t said. And don’t listen as an L1 learner.
When my kid says something, I’ll say oh, well that happened to me too or Oh when I was this age. They don’t need to hear about our experiences now. They need to be okay with their own. When we become an L2 or an L3 learner, we’re watching how our kids are telling us information. We are watching for the gestures we’re watching for what they don’t say. So that idea of holding space, modeling and the last little piece that has been gold for me and I know for parents that have been able to do this it’s been gold for them as well, is admitting when we’re wrong. Right?
I do sometimes get angry with my kids. For even still for the littlest things they did when they were five coming in with muddy boots, or not putting their dishes in the dishwasher. How many times do we need to tell them those little simple basics that they should be able to help out with?
AW: And this is amplified right now with all of us being contained in our homes with our family. right?
KA: So, this was pure luck, I think. But I found myself a few years ago, apologizing for an angry outburst. And it was a very vulnerable moment for me. And I realized, I think I had finally found this self awareness to realize that there was something else going on in my mind that caused me to get angry with my daughter.
And I went back to her bed an hour later, and I said, You know what, I responded incorrectly. If I could take back what I said to you an hour ago, I would here’s why I think I said it and I just said what I was worried about, and being human and being vulnerable also gives our children license to be vulnerable. And who isn’t vulnerable today in this moment, in this time in history, I want our children to remember this time as one of opportunity to look at decisions that adults have made that they see value in. Right? So those are the three little things I would share as gems.
AW: So modeling, holding space and admitting when we’re wrong, and being vulnerable. Your story there reminded me of a conversation that I had with my eldest just at the beginning of this physical distancing situation that we’re all in and I said that I read online. I think it was Gretchen Rubin, the happiness guru. She said, as we’re embarking on this new social experiment that none of us have experienced before. Ask yourself, what story do you want to tell yourself when this is all over? Isn’t that empowering? It actually gives me the shivers.
KA: What a great comment for all of us. But yeah, what opportunity will you discover in this? Yeah, Brené Brown, recently in an interview was asked a question about having courage right now and that people who are courageous must be really excelling. And she commented back something along the lines of Well, no, because taking a risk is messy. Being courageous means that you’re trying something you haven’t tried before. And then she said, I will misquote her slightly, but she said something like, this is my first pandemic. How about you?
AW: Yeah. I love it.
KA: And that’s it. Right? We are all human. We’re all vulnerable, where we are all looking at ourselves in the mirror going what happened today?
AW: yeah. So on one hand, though, I feel like there’s been a lot of pressure because as you said, we’re constantly role modeling and the kids are watching us and you know, yesterday, I vacuumed my entire house, top to bottom. every nook and cranny and I became grumpier and grumpier, as it was happening. I think there were two main things that were contributing to that.
One was I just kept thinking, I was in my head, right. I just kept thinking about what’s going on. And it was really bringing me down. And also, as I was vacuuming, I was seeing all the messes from the other four people in my house. And what they had left behind for their maid (IE me) to clean up and I was getting really grumpy. And I was, I was just really down on it, and on everyone in anything in my way, and then afterwards, to your point, I did apologize. And I told them, here’s why I was grumpy its these two things. And but I’m really sorry, and I should, I should be able to handle this better
KA: And good for you. How brave to take that moment to pause, reflect on your own actions, and then share them back, mirror them back to your children.
AW: I was pretty grumpy. I have to say.
KA: I think we’ve all been very grumpy and the only suggestion that that I might have here that is a pretty powerful learning piece for all of us as parents, when we go back to the book that many of us looked at, at the beginning of our parenting life, What to Expect When You’re Expecting or what to expect in the first year, I think that’s the only two books that could be titled with what to expect, because after that, it’s pretty tough to know what to expect.
AW: That is so true.
KA: This is really one of those times, but we can set boundaries right now for ourselves and know what they are as parents. And if the boundary is that at the end of the day, the counter needs to be cleaned so that we start our mornings fresh while we are all living together, then it’s fair to state that boundary. If the boundary is that all of our teenagers right now own three hours a day of their own learning, then let’s share that boundary and be clear with it and not waffle with it.
Our kids, well, most of the time, they’ll respect our boundaries. But they need to know what they are first. And that’s a great – looking at ourselves as parents, what are we comfortable with. And we have modeled values. Maybe I want to take the pressure off, because throughout our growth as families, we share values, but it’s not our job to insist our children accept all of those values.
I hope that I’ve modeled the values of charitable actions, a growth, mindset, kindness, self preservation and self care to my daughters. I can insist that they also accept those as their own values. I can model those. And when we get into this, insisting that the outcome has to be something, we not only set ourselves up for real challenges, particularly now inside of our homes, together.
AW: that is the scary thing that we were talking about at the very beginning, right? So you want to back off and let them learn and let them fall and not save them all the time. You know what, I’ve heard it so many times. And it’s it is very compelling, consistent message. So thank you for that. Now, I’m wondering if we can get into a little bit of the nitty gritty about online learning. And I know that you have had some experience over the years and right now you’re actually coaching some families and some teenagers and other younger students how to optimize their learning. And I’m wondering if you can share with the listeners what we can do to enable that when parenting.
KA: Certainly learn at home, I keep hearing learn at home, and it’s really not a new philosophy, except that we’ve attempted to move school inside of our homes. I’d like to call it virtual learning. And I think I want to also acknowledge to every parent that this is a necessary step. To support the moment we’re in in time, and that’s all. So we want to encourage our children to do the best they can inside of what virtual and online learning has to offer.
Knowing that this is not a forever style of learning. What I have had the pleasure of doing in the last couple of weeks is meeting with students of all ages and trying to bring a lightness to this learning. So the first step that I that I take with kids and teenagers is to talk to them about what they like. And some kids can rhyme off a list of 20 activities or items that they like others really pause to recognize what is it that I like?
And what I try to do is embed students in okay when you like something, how do you feel and find out the vocabulary sometimes too, for a 10 year old or a 12 year old or a 16 year old to, to explain how he or she feels about an experience is challenging. But if we can take those positive feelings with us and know what we feel like at the moment when we are the most proud, that’s another question that I’ve been asking. What did you feel at a time when you were the most proud of something that you had done?
We put kids into that moment, and we help them recognize what it feels like when we’re doing something we like. Then it takes the fear out of and the uncertainty and the lack of engagement and then just the discerning necessity of Oh, I have to learn this way. So it’s sort of disarms the resistance a little bit. Yeah. So that’s a positive approach. If we’re as parents complaining about the limitations of virtual learning. Well, believe me, our children will find more. Right?
And I’m not going to pretend it’s perfect. Like I said to you earlier, it’s the trunk. And it’s a little bit of the trunk right now. It’s probably the part that’s the winding or it has the, the outgrowth, the sort of the big word on the trunks of some reason, you see. So it has limitations. But this online world is something that our children are living in. Right, they’re comfortable there. And so that’s the thing that we can celebrate with them. This is theirs to own they know how to learn inside of technology.
AW: Yeah, yesterday, my eldest made a very sort of flippant comment to me about you know, this online learning is getting a little bit boring. But yesterday, our teacher mixed it up and he had us do some exercise and then come back in the second half of the class and talk about what we did and it was it was awesome. And I said to him, why don’t you just send your teacher a private note and tell them that because I think your teacher is probably struggling as much as you are with this. And the fact that he did something that you appreciated would mean a lot to him. And also, he might do it again or look for another way of bringing in some novelty.
KA: Wonderful. And, you know, we know that’s a great way of kind of getting what we would like more of right identify what we enjoyed in it. And we want to do that with our kids. Right. I saw you put the dishes away last night. Thank you. Yeah, right. I nag you every night about it. Now, I stopped nagging you but I saw you do it. I guarantee you that goes into our teenagers mind. So how validating for your son to send that to his teacher and for the teacher then to receive it. We’re all humans, we’re all looking for positive feedback at a time when none of us none of us have the script.
AW: Right. So And to your point earlier, he was talking about something that he likes right and Then reinforcing it with the person that basically enabled that positive opportunity. Can you just share a little bit more about what we do with the answers? So when our kids tell us what they like or when they’re most proud, are we then reverse engineering, the online experience to leverage those things somehow? Or what are we doing with their answers?
KA: So the next question that I asked is, I’ve been asking students to identify what their students strengths are. There are some students recognizing that they need they know many times students know what they need to learn. They sometimes don’t know how they learn, they sometimes don’t know how to get to the desired outcome. But most of them know their strengths. And so when we have our children pause and say, What am I good at? And often that idea can be facilitated through that question of what do I like? Students will tell you I love I’m good at shooting hoops.
For example, let’s just take something they like, well, what makes you good at it? Well, I go out in the laneway. And I do it all the time. Well, I know as a teacher, that’s practice. I use that metaphor in my classroom all the time, you don’t show up a few, a few Michael Jordans will show up and get three point shooters off the bat. But there’s an old example for you, that dates me, but most learners practice and so if we can get students to notice a strength, I have this practice and bring that willingness to practice this new form of learning.
Another strength that I’m really noticing the students I’ve worked with thus far on their approach to virtual learning are identifying that they thrive in a quiet space without distractions. So I’ve had some of them I have a snapchat bitmoji and a snapchat address that I share with my students as their coats. And they have to snap me a picture of their workplace. And then they have to snap me a picture the teenagers where they’re leaving their phone during their work time.
So here’s my workspace – is a very important one. And when we ask students to dig in a little bit to how they learn and start to own their learning, which is the ultimate goal, and this will look different at different ages, but when we hit when our when our children hit grades, 11 and 12, we want them to be able to identify and state I’ve learned the best when I’m doing these things.
AW: That’s really important, isn’t it?
KA: Yeah, it is. And I very much see in this opportunity to learn online and through virtual lessons, the opportunity to examine how we learn. If I notice as a 14 year old boy that I am sitting for 20 minutes and I start to get fidgety in my chair. Then I create a schedule where I work for 25 minutes and I take a five minute break. And I go shoot 10 threes in the laneway or I go run around the block or whatever it is I need to do. I come back and I work for another 25. And that will vary with ages. We talked about kids and how they mature, giving them some control, letting them create a workspace, letting them create a schedule
AW: and letting them feel like they’re customizing their own experience, right?
KA: Yes, I have one young man who wears his father’s tie when he’s a student. And he takes the tie off and he leaves it at his workstation when he’s not a student. And it’s a tiny little thing. Put on something you feel great about. If you’re a Leafs fan or a Raptors fan and you feel great in that in the shirt you wear when you go to one of their games, put it on when you’re a student, leave it at your computer at your workplace when you’re not.
AW: I love that. So physically using symbolism around you. It could be what you’re wearing. Yeah, I love your exercise about asking a snapshot photo of their workspace and where their phone is. I think that’s absolutely brilliant. I’m sure they respect you for that, too.
KA: They are loving it. And you know, it’s a fun little thing and I get to send off my own bitmoji but cheerleading or dancing or whatever.
AW: Oh, you like the bitmoji? I love it right?
KA: It’s a celebration, the more we can celebrate our children’s intentions, the more they celebrate themselves.
AW: Well, I love the positive inspiring message of celebrating and also you talked a lot about role modeling and taking the pressure off and, and I’m feeling much more optimistic right now, I think than I was before I started my conversation with you. But I, I have to ask you one other thing before we move on to the five rapid fire questions, just to keep in the back of my mind and hopefully this will help the listeners as well. When parenting, what are the biggest mistakes that people make in terms of encouraging a positive learning mindset in their tweens and teens?
KA: If we want to begin with a positive learning mindset as parents, I want to encourage all of us to not think about making mistakes. As soon as we think about ourselves making a mistake, then we set ourselves up maybe for failure, or maybe for not doing as much as we feel we should do. And there’s a great book The Journey of the Heroic Parent, by Brad Reedy. It’s an excellent and very supportive parent book. He suggests that there’s no way you’re going to avoid screwing up as a parent, you will make mistakes even at times big ones, and that’s okay.
We started this conversation with the idea of letting ourselves off the hook. And especially at this time, I want to encourage every parent to do that, to celebrate, to be a learner yourself ,to acknowledge when we’re wrong, because occasionally we are. And to validate that. Children are doing the best they can. When we observe their efforts, have a lightness. Life is about lightness, and what better time than to laugh a little bit together at the craziness of the world that we are in at this moment. A positive learning mindset is a willingness to learn. And our kids all have it. Look at this as an opportunity and celebrate.
AW: Very, very nicely put. Thank you. Okay, are you ready for the five rapid fire questions?
AW: First question. What are your pet peeves?
KA: I really don’t have a lot of things that bother me on a daily basis. But I will say when I’m walking to work, and a car passes me and splashes my shoes, that really is something that I can’t get past and it’s, it’s often for me, not forgivable.
AW: I don’t think that’s forgivable for anyone. Question number two. What type of learner are you?
KA: I am really an experiential learner, I can remember every activity that I have done where I have moved forward in my understanding of who I am, or I have learned something about the world around me. And as an adult now looking back and as a teacher, I know that I can identify my big learning moments with experiences, but I didn’t really learn that I would say until adulthood.
AW: Okay, question number three, introvert or extrovert.
KA: I am, despite the fact that I’m a teacher and I stand in front of students, and I have conversations with colleagues all day, I’m an introvert. And it took me a long time to be comfortable with that. I spent some time really learning about the characteristics of introvert versus extrovert and I want to say there’s nothing wrong with either of them. But I do read re energize being by myself.
AW: It’s really important self knowledge, isn’t it? to understand how you refuel. Okay, question number four communication preference for personal conversations.
KA: I don’t think this is old school because I use all of the technology. But I am certainly a face to face person. And my daughters both know that they know when we have a topic when plans have changed, we talk about it. It isn’t enough to just send a message saying something changed. I like to hear their voice if face to face isn’t possible. And then the other little thing I’ve added to all my communication with my children, as they’ve gotten older, is permission. I often ask permission to talk about something and they’ll tell if they’re busy, because I can say, Can I ask you about what happened yesterday? And then they’ll say not right now. Or can we talk about that later?
AW: I really like your second point too, though, about asking permission and I’ve been teaching my kids that when they call someone and they have something that they want or need to discuss that they should always say, do you have a moment to talk about whatever. But I think that should, to your point transcend across any media. If you want to talk to someone about something, it’s not necessarily convenient or optimal for them and you should check in first
KA: And that’s respectful. It’s teaching empathy. It’s showing compassion.
AW: Yeah, fantastic point. Okay, last question. Is there a podcast or a blog or an email newsletter that you find yourself recommending the most?
KA: The podcast that tremendously supported me a number of years ago and I have moved away from a little bit now only because i think i’ve i’ve saturated some of the messages is called The Life Coach School, and it’s Brooke Castillo. And if a parent is looking for a way to support their own learning as a way of reflecting on who they are, as human beings, she just breaks down the basics of asking ourselves questions, what does hope look like, how do we support overwhelm? So real basics, simple messages that you can pick up and take with you in a moment.
AW: Well, that’s a great recommendation. I’ll make sure I put links to that podcast in the show notes. Is there anything else you want to share with the listeners?
KA: Keep trusting yourself. And we’ve all got the ability in us to be the kind of parents we want to be. It’s no easy task, but it’s one of the most beautiful gifts that we can have as human beings to participate in the lives of our children.
AW: That is such a beautiful message. Thank you so much, Kim, for sharing your time and your expertise with us.
KA: Thank you for the opportunity. It’s been a pleasure.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Dr. ANDREA’s CONCLUSION
Well, I hope you too are now feeling better equipped for parenting. Thanks again to Kim for sharing her expertise, and particularly for her optimism and enthusiasm. She’s right, isn’t she? Participating in the lives of our children really is one of the most beautiful gifts that we can have as human beings.
As promised, I’m now going to summarize everything we covered in this episode. As I said you can access this printable summary in the shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website under the PODCAST tab.
- First and foremost, parents need to let themselves off the hook. Ultimately, our children’s education is their education. That’s a tough one to get our heads around. Well, speaking for myself. But the moment we let ourselves off the hook, we empower our children to own their own education and to own their own learning.
- Specifically, the moment we let go of owning it, or controlling it, then our children get to own it. Which is exactly what they need.
- Second, consider the TREE metaphor for your child’s education.
- Formal education provide the trunk of the tree – exposure to knowledge, support of learning skills, and stimulation of intellect, from pre-school to post-secondary education.
- Parents and guardians provide the nutrients in the soil, supporting their growth through love, validation, compassion, cheerleading, & role modelling.
- Parents (guardians) also help their children by exposing their kids to different life experiences – from riding a bike, walking in the park, taking a trip, exploring a museum, reading before bed,… each of these experiences grows another new branch in the metaphorical tree. Importantly, this does not require a specific lifestyle, it just requires creativity, curiosity, and intuition.
- So when it comes to the metaphorical tree, we can think of the formal education system helping the tree and its trunk growing up, and we as parents helping it branch out.
- Third, in terms of parenting philosophy, Kim talked about some of the stages that our kids go through as they mature
- When they’re young, children look for role models. They mimic the behaviors of those around them
- As kids grow, they start to demand autonomy. They seek independence, privacy, and secrecy in what they’re doing and with whom.
- Kim encourages us to consider it a privilege to be able to come along for the ride when our kids are teenagers. It helps to remember the end game. We want our children to step out into the world with enough confidence and resiliency to own their own personal experiences.
- 4th, in terms of parenting philosophies, Kim points out that as families, we share values. But it’s not our job to insist our children accept all of these values. We can discuss and model values, but in the end it’s up to the child to accept them.
- The last thing in terms of parenting philosophy that I want to highlight is Kim’s answer to my Q – do you remember when I asked her towards the end: What are the biggest mistakes that parents make? I loved her answer, Kim said that she discourages us from thinking about our mistakes Instead, consider the words of Brad Reedy, the author of The Journey of the Heroic Parent,. He says that there’s no way you’re going to avoid screwing up as a parent, you will make mistakes – even at times big ones, and that’s okay. Kim encourages us to celebrate and to be learners ourselves
PARENTING TACTICS TO TRY
- First, validation. Regardless of our child’s age, we should validate That means encouraging them, keeping it positive, celebrating with them. Importantly though, Validation is different than praise. Validation is about effort. Praise is about outcome.
- This point relates to intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards, DO you remember Kim’s story about the young hockey player whose mother offered her $5 for every goal she scored? Kim made a few interesting points about this. First, she commented that younger children may be less capable of understanding intrinsic motivations. In other words they can’t possibly comprehend the satisfaction of an intrinsic reward. That comes with experience. But at a certain point, we can encourage our children to focus on the intrinsic satisfaction associated with effort and practice. And we should focus there. Second, when kids are offered rewards for the goals they score in a hockey game or for the grades on their report cards, Kim encourages us to consider: who are those rewards really for? Great Q.
- OK – so the first tactic is to focus on validation (not praise) and intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards. What other tactics did Kim mention?
- Here’s a parenting tactic that sounds deceptively easy. Just hold space. Silence is uncomfortable, but it is a gift – specially to teenagers. Don’t feel obliged to fill the silence when you’re in the room with a teenager. Listen for what isn’t being said. Imagine you’re a fly on the wall!
- The next parenting tactic to listen to what your children tell you about their friends. And also to what their friends are saying. The implicit messages here can be golden.
- And speaking of friends, Kim encourages every parent to talk to their preteen and their teen about what’s happening to their brains as they go through adolescence. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior, but it is a physical, a biological reality.
- When parenting and you do want to have a conversation with your tween or teen, Kim encourages us to ask their permission. There’re many reasons why this is a good idea. First of all, if it’s an important enough topic, you probably don’t want to have the conversation when they’re busy with something or stressed-out about something. Right? And secondly, asking permission, saying, “Hey, can we talk about what happened last night?” implicitly communicates a level of respect that your child will appreciate – even in they don’t say so.
- The last parenting tactic to try is to admit when you’re wrong. Apologizing to your teen demonstrates respect for them and it also models vulnerability, which then gives our children license to be vulnerable. That’s all good, right?
VIRTUAL LEARNING & PARENTING
- First & foremost, Kim suggest that we keep it light. This is a unique learning experience for all of us. Probably your first pandemic, right? Haha. Instead of fearing what we might lose, we should look at opportunities. Opportunity to learn. To experience things that are completely new and unique. And to grow some new branches on that metaphorical tree of learning. Ask your child and ask yourself: what’s the story that you want to tell yourself about this Covid-19 experience after it is over?
- As parents, we can remind ourselves that kids learn everywhere, and learning at home isn’t really anything new. What’s new is the virtual or online focus of this learning. As parents, we want to encourage our children to do the best they can. No matter what, this is a great opportunity for kids to learn new skills. So generally, keep it positive. Bring a lightness to this learning.
- Here are some specific ideas that Kim encourages us to try:
- First ask the child to talk to them about what they like. Maybe a sport or some other hobby. Something that’s a positive experience for them and that gets thm in the mood for thinking positive.
- Then ask, what did you feel at a time when you were the most proud of something that you had done? Importantly how were you feeling?
- The next question is, What are your student strengths? This is something we want our older teenagers, the ones in grade 11 and 12 especially, to have a grasp of. We want them to be able to identify and state “I’ve learned the best when I’m doing these things.”
- Is it your practice? Like when you shoot hoops every day and your game improves? Or when you do a few math exercises every day you do well in tests?
- Is it working fast? That’s a great student strength. Then you have lots of time to double check your work. That’s amazing.
- Kim had a great idea of asking her virtual learning students to send her a photo of their workspace and also of where they keep their phone when they’re doing their online schooling. This is a fantastic idea because it encourages students to think about their work environment, their physical space, which definitely impacts the quality of their work.
- Another tactic related to this is customizing the learning environment. So there’s the workspace – which desk or table, which chair, on what device, in which room. But also other things – such as what are you wearing. I love Kim’s story about the young student who wears his Dad’s tie when he’s doing his online school, then takes it off when he’s done. How we dress definitely affects how we work. Kim suggested that we might encourage our kids to wear their favourite team’s sports jersey when they’re doing their online schooling. What a great idea for customizing and celebrating the experience. I love it!
- So yes, we need to celebrate, parenting also means setting boundaries right now for ourselves and knowing what they are. We might want to let go of the house tidying and cleaning just a bit, but boundaries are also good. Kim said that might mean that at the end of the day, the counters get cleared off and cleaned. We need to be clear and consistent. Then whatever the boundary is, most of the time, kids’ll respect our boundaries.
- Overall, during this unprecedented covid-19 experience, we as parents should seek to keep it light. Keep it positive. Children are doing the best they can. When we observe their efforts, validate them. Look at this as an opportunity – and celebrate.
Alright, that’s it.
The general parenting philosophies, some parenting tactics, and some helpful parenting advice for what we can do to help our tweens and teens during this time of physical distancing and virtual learning. I hope you learned a few pointers that you can try, and I really encourage you to check out the summary in the shownotes on the talkaboutalk.com website.
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