Brainstorming With Your Child

I inherited a form of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) from at least one of my grandparents—I can’t throw away a perfectly good box. Included with that is the inability to toss a magazine article that might someday prove helpful.

While sorting through papers—the paper monster was eating my desk alive—I stumbled across two small articles from a 1995 Family Circle magazine. In my never-to-be-humble opinion, the info in them is very good.

The examples are school related, but could be used in a number of settings. The first article is titled “Problem Solving” and the second, “Effective Praise”.

Print them out and reread them after each time you wish you’d remembered them first. Don’t worry, you can ask for a do-over. Kids are great that way. But be warned…lo and behold, someday you’ll remember them when the time is right.

PROBLEM SOLVING [September 1, 1995 Family Circle]

Listen to the child’s feelings or needs.
Parent: You seem very upset about failing your Spanish test.
Child:   I am! I only got 12 words right, and I studied for an hour last night! Maybe I’m not good at languages.

Summarize his point of view.
Parent: You sound pretty discouraged. Even through you tried to cram all those new words into your head, some of them just refused to stick.

Express your feelings or needs.
Parent: My concern is that if you don’t memorize the basic vocabulary, you’ll get further and further behind.

THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART
[Calmly] Invite the child to brainstorm with you in order to find a solution.
Parent: I wonder, if we put our heads together, could we come up with some more effective ways to study?

Write down all ideas — without evaluating. [Do not insert comments or criticism here]
Child: Drop Spanish.
Parent (writing): I’ve got that. What else?
Child: Maybe I could…

Decide which ideas you don’t like, which you do, and how you plan to put them into action.
Parent: What do you think of this idea: making flash cards and studying four new words each night instead of 20 at once?
Child:   That’s okay. But instead of flash cards, I like the idea of saying words into a tape recorder [this was printed in 1995. Insert your own technological device name here] and testing myself until I know them.

EFFECTIVE PRAISE [September 1, 1995 Family Circle]

Excited Child: Listen to my poem about a train. Tell me if it’s good.

Instead of just saying “Beautiful! You’re a really terrific poet.” try these techniques…

Describe what you see or hear:
“You caught the ‘chug-a-chug’ rhythm of a train, and you found a way to rhyme track with clickity   clack.”

Describe what you feel:
“It makes me feel as if I’m sitting in a railroad car speeding through the countryside.”

Avoid criticism:
“Look at these misspelled words—you can do better than that!”

INSTEAD
Point out what needs to be done:
“All this poem needs now is the correct spelling of ‘caboose’ and ‘freight’.”

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No, I don’t have a Master’s in Child Psychology—I got my degree at the school of hard knocks. Yes, these sound cheesy when you read them, but they might just work. What have you got to lose? Possibly another bad grade on a Spanish test or a missed opportunity to encourage a future poet laureate. 😉

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