Dear Parent,

Father Saying Goodbye To Children As They Leave For School

Change is hard. Period. Adults, especially, have a hard time breaking habits, accepting a new job or responsibility, and trusting new people or ways. We are creatures of habit. We don’t want to change. We like what we like and we are sometimes resistant to even good changes.

It’s the unknown that can feel scary or just uncomfortable. We don’t always want to put in the extra effort or work to get somewhere new. Kids also like routines and comfort but are more adaptable and flexible. (It’s no coincidence that I prefer to work with kids versus adults!). Unlike adults, kids aren’t as resistant. In fact, kids can amaze me with their resiliency, openness, and even excitement for change!

Take me for example. Last year, I was moved from working at a school I loved. This change was out of my control and not what I wanted, as well as being a surprise right after the school year ended and summer was starting. I was personally insulted and angered that my feelings were not taken into consideration. And, I spent many summer weeks mulling over this unwanted change, sulking and complaining. (I am not one to fake my feelings!).

By the time school started at my new school, I had chosen to embrace the change. Dwelling on things we can’t control is a WASTE OF TIME and ENERGY anyway. The new school and staff was great and very different than any school I had worked in. The Administration completely trusted and valued the role of the School Counselor (which is so amazing and uncommon!). And reflecting back, I think I made some positive changes in some children and maybe even added some to the school climate. The year wasn’t wasted and I think I may have even grown a little as a professional.

What does any of this have to do with children and accepting change? Well, the school year is about to start and many have already discovered who their child’s new teacher will be. You might have even figured out some of the kids who will be in their class too. I know that my children did not receive the news they were hoping to hear and there was some disappointment this week . Their class placement is a surprise to me just like it is any parent but I didn’t expect for them to be in class with all their best friends like they did.

I have a unique experience, working as the Counselor in the same school where my children attend. It doesn’t bring any special privileges or opportunities like some might imagine but it does offer me the benefit of having the inside scoop! It also lends to hearing and seeing both sides of an issue or situation, being friends with both teachers and parents, as well as knowing many kids on a more personal level. So, it’s great and very helpful even to me personally as a parent. I see inner-workings of the school while realizing what allows students to succeed. It’s at this time of the summer, before we about to embark on something new, that we, as parents, can help set the tone for the year. I hope this helps you, your child, and your child’s teacher build a relationship that’s symbiotic, positive, and productive this school year!



Your child was placed in their class with intention. There is a reason that not all of his/her friends are in there too. It will be o.k. Don’t complain and sulk along with your child. This is an opportunity to talk about forming new relationships. This is a chance to talk to your kid about how people change. Children are capable of changing and their behavior doesn’t define them so just because your child didn’t like them or their behavior lasts year doesn’t mean they won’t this year. Encourage your kid to give everyone a chance and explain that they may get to know and even like someone they never expected to like this year. Every school year is a chance to make new friends.

Don’t treat your child like they are better than or won’t have any friends this year just because your neighbors aren’t in their class. Don’t act like your child is a good kid from a good family just because you don’t know some of the other families. (We are all crazy behind our own front doors anyway!). Not only be open but tell your child it’s going to be exciting to make new friends and get to know people better no matter where they live, who they live with, or what they look like.

Stop judging a teacher before your child even steps in the door. Even at small schools, or especially at smaller schools, teachers are talked about and gain a reputation. Many times, it’s just rumors or based on isolated incidents. Sometimes, there is something to it but you never know how your child will fit with this teacher. Just because someone else didn’t like the teacher doesn’t mean your child won’t. Time and time again, you’ll be surprised with whom your child ends up clicking with if you don’t interfere.

Please go into the school year with an open mind. Don’t fuel the rumors if your child is disappointed and gossip about hearing this teacher yells all the time or is always mean. We don’t want to set up our children to have a perception formed before they’ve even had a chance to form their own opinion. It’s so surprising and also exciting to watch our children adapt to new teaching styles and personality types. Talk about setting them up for success in the future. If our kids can adapt and adjust to a completely new personality, think about what that could do for them in the future. We can’t always give them what we think will be the best fit because we just don’t know!

Embrace their teacher no matter what you’ve heard. Embrace their teacher even if you don’t like them. Yes, that’s right. If you think something negative, keep it to yourself because it will not help your child at all. Drop preconceived ideas and model going into the school year with an open mind. (You can’t trust gossip anyway!). And, trust your child’s teacher is teaching because they chose this profession. Unlike many jobs, they chose to work with children and there’s a reason.

Recognize that things aren’t going to always be perfect, and go into the year with a growth mindset. Just don’t be defensive. Your kid (and yes, my kid too) will be making some mistakes. They won’t get 100 on every test, and they may even get in trouble a time or two. Don’t overreact. Don’t sweat the small stuff! Expect that not only is their teacher not perfect but neither is your pride and joy. They will make some mistakes and they are in elementary school. What they make on one test will not matter. What they make on one report card will not stop them from getting into college. And, even sitting out one recess is not the end of the world!

Let the teachers handle it and take their lead. Be supportive of the decisions the teacher makes. And if you don’t agree, communicate with the teacher to understand privately. Don’t jump to also include your child and tell the teacher they are wrong. Follow up at home with your child. And, yes, there are consequences for actions (or lack of) but look at these mistakes as opportunities to change and grow. Adults need to take the blinders off this year and remind ourselves to look at the big picture.

Be forgiving! Sometimes, this takes a pause. Before we react, think about how important this is and whether it’s something you’ll remember or care about in a year.

Let go of little things. If they can’t sit by their best friend at lunch, that’s ok. If they are left out one day on the playground, it’s ok. If they don’t make student council, it’s ok. If your kids see you overreact, they grow entitled and start to believe there is something to be upset about. Let go if your child isn’t always first or the best. Help them move on from insignificant situations while accepting that we all are frustrated or disappointed sometimes.

Be there to listen. Make sure you take the time to ask the right questions and listen to how your kids are doing. Ask how they’re feeling and praise the good choices they make. Use affective statements (which Knox county is beginning to implement county-wide…yay! ūüôā ) to acknowledge how you feel about how your kids are doing and reinforce positive actions.

And, show up…..but not too much! Some teachers like volunteers and some don’t. Some teachers communicate regularly and some only do when necessary. What teachers do not appreciate is no involvement or buy-in and too much involvement, lack of respect,  and lack of trust. Don’t email them if your child gets a ‘B’. Don’t schedule a conference because your child had a fight with their best friend this week. Don’t show up for lunch because your child doesn’t have anyone to sit beside. Give your child and teacher the trust that they are capable. Be there but also allow for some space for your child to work through some things creating independence.

Thank you for being there as involved people who care! Thank you for showing up. And, thank you for understanding that working in a school is hard! Thank you for volunteering and supporting our teachers. And, thank you for noticing all the pieces that make a school work. Here’s to new, exciting beginnings!


Your School Counselor and Parent

Your child will adjust to this new school year but will you!? With a balance of support, accountability, trust, and love,  it’s going to be a great, imperfect new year!





Tweens are no bottle of wine!

We are approaching an ambiguous period of childhood where innocence is fleeting and attitude is sprouting right up. Many times when I blog, I reflect on the abundance of blessings my sweet, little children bring me. The good times do always outweigh the bad. But, as of July, I’m beginning to wonder if the body odor is also bringing more than just deodorant! Unlike wine, these tweens aren’t getting better with age!

Lately, we have been experiencing some tween-behaviors.

  • moodiness

  • whining, complaining, and overall discontentment

  • talking back

  • getting irritated by normal, daily expectations, from showering to do a grand total of 2 chores

  • some huffing and puffing

  • refusal to take a picture smiling, or even be in a photo

  • activities and outings they used to enjoy aren’t fun anymore if they aren’t with friends

  • and even,¬†“I have my first pimple”!

Is anyone else dealing with this? Life may have not been easier but it sure was simpler when I sent them to the bottom of the stairs for time-out and they hated being without us.

We are getting to a point that if friends aren’t in the picture, be it here at our house or even what I would deem a fun outing, they just aren’t going to have fun. Not yet, I’m thinking. I’m not ready for this….We are still fun and cool. Why can’t you be more appreciative? The influence of their peers on their moods is just annoying…. yet, I can recall doing the same thing. Just because it’s developmentally appropriate doesn’t make it easy.

*(Notice Brody’s face below: not happy and never wanted to do this in the first place! And, in the second photo, they are both walking back to the trail to go because “it’s too hot” and they won’t pose with the beautiful 17 acres of sunflowers! Urgh!)

It seems like we are just on the cusp of change. Middle school is right around the corner. And while I do want them to be independent, it would be nice if there was just more time. I knew I wanted to freeze them a couple years ago. I was aware that periods of ease and happiness couldn’t last. Yet, recently, I find myself readjusting as they also shift into an older type of kid, and I’m having growing pains too.

What are we to do? Well, we can commiserate. That seems to make our kids seem less annoying to know that there are others out there doing the same things! Then, we review family expectations. I recently reminded my lovely angels that following first request isn’t a wish; it’s an expectation. Sadly, we often move on to consequences (which means more chores, and/or loss of electronics in our house).

We also have to speak to our kids when they are happy and calm, asking them what’s going on and what we should do differently. Just yesterday morning, Brody left for soccer in a foul mood only to arrive back home 2 hours later in a great mood. I asked him what changed within the past 2 hours and he said he guessed he just needed time to wake up. (We will wake up earlier next time then!) Speaking of, we really have to make sure they are getting enough rest. Proper sleep and downtime makes a huge difference to Brody, especially. An oddly enough, I still have to make sure to feed my children regularly with decent foods or they crash. They are yet to regulate this on their own.

Lastly, and most importantly, I remind myself that we are constantly changing. They are growing and that means I too am changing as a parent. Just like when they were babies, we have good days and bad days. We have outstanding moments and times we’d just like to fast forward. But, for now, I’ll just pour a glass of wine and accept that these moods and friends aren’t going away anytime soon!


The 3 A’s

Another memorable school year has come to a close. I’m still pinching myself when I see how much my children have grown this year, not only in inches but in character. Thanks to some amazing teachers who have really gotten to know and value who they are, they have excelled. Anna and Brody seem really comfortable in their own skin. They have lots of close friends. And, their grades couldn’t be better. I celebrate these milestones.

But when I reflect back on the most success that they’ve had, I really think it’s their maturity and sense of responsibility that’s made me most proud this year. I’m not saying there’s not more room for growing :), but I have most impressed as a mother by¬†their acknowlegement of mistakes and gratitude for rewards.

Take, for example, Anna asking to bake another cake and promising to clean the kitchen. Six months ago that meant she threw all the stuff in the sink, ran some water, and left the batter and piles of measuring cups and bowls to soak. But most recently, the poor thing had a huge baking fail. Nothing worked, not even the cake mix. She spent an hour of time and resources working on this half-baked, tie dye cake only to spend even more even more time cleaning up the disaster of a mess. She wanted to do her old throw-in-the-sink-trick. But, I reminded her that wasn’t going to work. So, she proceeded to quietly cry while she unloaded, loaded, and cleaned the entire kitchen. She said she was “so disappointed”. There was no talking back or arguing. She did it and then moved on. (Success!!)

Then there’s Brody who thinks he’s never wrong; it’s always someone’s else’s fault! And being a 10, almost 11-year-old boy, he gets frustrated when he has to do something he doesn’t want to do too. But, I hold my kids to high but reasonable standards and will not accept disrespectful back-talk. Like in life, there are consequences for poor choices. But, he’s a good kid who is human.

So, when he most recently said something completely rude to Bo at dinner about “getting his soccer goal done already” when Bo had spent hours researching and building the thing, Bo was furious. Luckily, he contained his anger but told Brody how mad that made him when he was doing something nice for him. Instantly, Brody knew he shouldn’t have said it and looked ashamed.

He was sent upstairs to start the bedtime routine. When I went into his room to check on him, he was crying.¬†He said that he “regretted saying that”, and I know he did. I told him that we all say things we don’t mean. Then, I simply¬†said he needed to fix this and left. I didn’t tell him what to say or do next. I didn’t continue lecturing. He needed to feel bad and sort through things on his own.

After a few minutes, I overheard him go to Bo in our bedroom. He burst into tears and said he was sorry, and that he didn’t mean it. (Success.)

I really do not believe in making kids apologize if they are not sincerely sorry. But, I also really believe that feeling remorse for mistakes you’ve made and then fixing it is such a valuable life skill. It’s one that doesn’t come easily as our egos don’t want to lose. No one likes admitting that we are wrong.

What Anna and Brody are achieving this school year is humility and responsibility. Every time they have come to me within the past 6 months and told me that they are sorry on their own, I have felt proud. And, when they choose to tell me what they know they have done wrong, I know we are moving towards accepting our faults and becoming better people.

This year in my small group counseling sessions, I came up with 3 simple steps to resolve a problem.

Acknowledge– accept and acknowledge what you’ve done is wrong or hurtful. Say is out loud. Admit it!

Apologize– say you’re SORRY like you mean it. “I am sorry.”

Aim to please– then, decide what you can do to make that person happy. Stop making excuses and think about what will make it right! Take action; don’t just feel sorry. Do something to make it better.

These 3 A’s are just something many people don’t do. But if more people did,¬†think about how much more quickly we could move on and grow. It works. When my children have made mistakes or just been ungrateful and then they realized they shouldn’t have acted that way, they have begun to repair. They have been moving away from the me-world and into the we-world.

As a mother, I appreciate this so much! A heartfelt “I’m sorry” can go a long way. Steps to show you care about your actions make others like, trust, and forgive¬†you. Doing something that makes someone else happy builds closer relationships. We are not perfect and I know Brody and Anna will continue to test limits and make mistakes. But, I feel good about where they are heading, towards a healthy balance of personal wants and the needs and consideration¬†of others.

They get an A from me for being super kids!


What a week! If one thing is for certain, life will bring you surprises. Some will be good, and some you won’t like. This week, like others, has brought a bag of mixed feelings for many Americans. And, sometimes when¬†we first discover a surprise we don’t like, or something we wish were different, we are faced with some raw emotions. Life is about sorting through what to do with those emotions and where to channel this energy or reaction.

Typically, I steer away from political discussions, period. Even with my own husband, I have to acknowledge that many friends and even family have different views of how to vote, serve the world, and¬† even be a Christian. It’s very personal. It makes my heart beat faster and my blood pressure rise to accept that people I love do not believe the same things I believe. So, it is easier to keep on loving them and not dwell on our differences.

But, for some citizens to move forward towards acceptance, they must feel like their voices are heard. The outpouring of anger and action this week is because many feel like their voices weren’t heard. The majority of Americans believe we made the wrong decision electing our new leader so many citizens are speaking up. That’s their right, and it’s part of the healing. It’s not about being a sore loser; it’s about making sure voices are heard and channeling fear and anger into doing something. So, for anyone insulting or putting others down for expressing their feelings of distrust, fear, or unrest, they have to understand that doing nothing with those emotions isn’t going to help healing or lead to acceptance.

Should they do it peacefully? Yes! Should they do it without putting others down? Yes! Should they practice what they preach? Yes. Will it change the outcome? Maybe not. But, the protesting is really about standing up for values and morals. It may allow like-minded people to meet. And, it will provide a platform for average people to be leaders.

When I see ignorant social media posts about bring God back to school and we wouldn’t have these problems, and if we just said the pledge at school, all would be well, I want to say get out of your bubble. We do that every day at school! Pledge allegiance to the flag… nation under GOD…. Yes, schools are practicing and teaching citizenship. We encourage the right to free speech and live in a world of diversity. But, are the parents? Is America practicing kindness, respect, and living like Jesus?

No matter what side of the wall you’re on, are you personally leading by example? Are you showing respect to others, helping those in need, loving your neighbor,¬†practicing peace, and standing up for the oppressed? Are you putting others down or building them up? Are you the change you want to see in the world?

These are the things we teach in schools. But, children will go home and be most influenced by their families or the people putting a roof over their head. So, when people outside of public education make blanket statements about what we are doing wrong in schools and the if-only statements, they are making untrue statements.

In fact, I have seen a lot of “make America kind again” posts this week too. This also is inaccurate. There have been and continue to be plenty of kind people in this country. Over the past 10 years, my family has been showered with kindness. If you don’t have kind friends, you should look into making different friends. And, children are still good at heart. Ok, so it’s playing off of “make America great again”. But, America is great, was great, and many people are still kind.

Now, there are those groups and individuals that are filled with dysfunction, hate, or just plain craziness everywhere, across the world.¬†And, I assure you it’s not because they grew up feeling loved, wanted, and safe.¬†Insecurity comes from a lack of consistent unconditional love and basic needs being met. But, is this really new?

Being scared of someone based on their religion or making false assumptions is not kind, or smart! Telling your child that women cannot lead as well as a man is unfair. Spreading rumors or talking behind other’s back is rude. Excluding individuals or groups based on a characteristics they cannot control is bullying. Believing you are better than others because of money, skin color, sexual orientation, or religion is disrespectful, arrogant, and narcissistic. That is what we teach in school. And,¬†this is¬†what I teach in my home.


Maybe what we need to work on is really inside our own front door. Despite what others say or how unkind they may be, we have a choice on how to react. We choose what values we teach our children and how we express anger. We model problem-solving and conflict-resolution when we face adversity. Parents may choose kindness and truth, over hate and ignorance. We teach our children to listen, respect the rights and feelings of others, and to help and not hurt. This will make the biggest difference in our future generations. Regardless of your political beliefs, these values will yield progress and peace.

When we are filled with confusion, sadness, or even despair and depression (for whatever reason), we have many choices. Doing something positive and productive helps us overcome negative feelings and move forward. Like a wise woman once said:


We used to hear a lot about the left vs. right brain. And, it does seem accurate that many people with have a strength in math rather than language, and vice versa. It’s not that we can’t succeed in both but it’s almost like one comes more naturally, and it does. But, what I’m trying to emphasize in children the last couple years is that we have more than 2 ways in which we can be smart.

In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard,  developed multiple intelligence theories suggesting that we have more than 2 areas in which humans are gifted. There are way more than 2 areas of strengths in the brain.

However, in public elementary schools, there is always a push with language (ELA) and math. The majority of the day is centered around these subjects. And while these are very important life skills, we really need so much more to lead a successful balanced. There are a lot of subjects that will lead to amazing careers and life skills that we minimize in school. And, it’s really¬†painful and challenging for children who¬†struggle with math or reading but may be inclined towards nature and kinesthetic learning, for example.

Fortunately, our kids still have music, art, and PE. There’s a push (and law)¬†towards more movement in school. And, they do get some social studies and science sprinkled in there too. But, it’s still very unbalanced . And, I don’t expect that will change anytime soon. We need our kids to read and write. And, we need some basic math¬†skills¬†(although, computers can do most of that work for us)! However, when we look at the climate of this country, I would argue that we desperately¬†need more of these other areas in schools too.

Not only is it discouraging when children struggle with the 2 main subjects, but¬†school is also not fun. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard young children call themselves “dumb” because they don’t get math, or struggle to make C’s and D’s. What politicians¬†decide dictates what we are teaching children in school. The problem is often times, these people (mostly men)¬†come from business backgrounds and have never been educators. Shouldn’t the teachers, the people in the trenches who are in¬†touch with children, be trusted to differentiate and guide their students in many different areas, exposing children to many areas of intelligence and interests?

If they’re not or can’t, it’s up to us as parents to emphasize all the ways¬†our children¬†can be smart. We can encourage them to continue to strengthening this skills outside of school, while also practicing areas of weakness too. For example, the child who naturally gravitates towards experiencing nature and animals should pursue researching and experiencing their area of passion. There’s a small second grade boy in my daughter’s class who is obsessed with sharks. He’s already so much knowledgable than most adults¬†and enthusiastic about sharing this knowledge. This won’t be on the AimsWeb standardized assessment but who cares! He could do something amazing with his passion if he’s encouraged to continue learning about marine biology and the world of sharks. He can add and subtract different species of sharks. He can write essay on sharks. He can and should continue to shine in this area.

Another example is a 10-year-old girl who’s autistic and struggles socially. She is so sweet but¬†fitting in doesn’t comes naturally, despite wanting to. These social skills take some practice for her.¬†However, her ability to identify and verbalize her own feelings is outstanding. She has better intrapersonal skills than most adults as she knows what she likes and doesn’t like, and how she feels. That is an area of intelligence that can be taught and fostered but it doesn’t come easily for many. Think of how many adult friends you have who are depressed and working a job they don’t like. Many adults are still trying to figure out what they want and like, and this young lady already has some of that awareness. That’s intelligent!

Just like my daughter shines in having empathy and recognizing the feelings of others. She’s never been as school ‘smart’ as Brody , but she does well in school because of her work ethic. Math does NOT come naturally to her! But, her intrapersonal skills are impressive. She gets along easily with others and recognizes when someone is sad or left out. She just gets how personal actions impact the feelings of others, and she is kind. This is an area of strength that she’s both gifted in and we foster. Isn’t this skill set as important if not more than math and reading!? Look at our world, with all the hate and dysfunction. We need to value teaching empathy and intrapersonal skills. Research shows empathy and mindfulness can be taught and doesn’t come naturally for all.

It’s important to recognize and praise our children for their strengths. Our son, Brody, is smart, school smart, and he’s tried to point out to his little sister than he’s smarter than her. This is where , as a parent, I point out than Anna is also very responsible. She takes care of herself and others very conscientiously. That’s also super smart! That will allow her to live on her own successfully one day and not depend on others.

They are both smart but in different ways. Brody is that traditional ‘smart’ and I¬†am proud of his good grades. In fact, I admire his ability to memorize things so easily! But, I will also celebrate the ways that aren’t always graded in kids too because these intelligences are just as important!¬†Kids don’t always get a trophy or¬†grade in all the many ways they can be smart but we can recognize and celebrate them anyway.

Parents are the biggest influence on their children. We can humble our children by reminding them to continue growing and learning in areas that don’t come naturally, and also¬†continue pursuing areas that make them great and¬†above average. We all have those areas of strengths and weaknesses. Just because school or society doesn’t respect all these areas equally, we can explain why all these skills can lead to a well-balanced, rewarding,¬†and successful life.

We need to¬†remind children to feel grateful for those areas that don’t take a lot of work, while also encouraging them to not stop trying to grow in those areas that are challenging or just not as fun to them. That’s what I want and expect out of myself too. We are never too old or young to keep growing and changing!


Growing pains

Doesn’t it seem like the older you get, the more stressful life becomes? Then, I go to work and am reminded that there are also 5 year olds who are struggling, stressed, and resistant to growing.

Just yesterday, I checked in with a small kindergarten boy who’s only 5. He lives with Grandmother, dad is not in the picture, and mom sees him sporadically. He’s been in PAC several times already (in-school suspension) and is having a hard time adjusting the high expectations of kindergarten. So, grandmother came in yesterday for a meeting with teacher, assistant principal, PAC teacher, and myself to see what we can do to help him. She explained that he was born addicted to pain pills and spent 3 months in the hospital at birth! Now, being born drug dependent is going to be enough of a life-long challenge, but when you couple that with a dysfunctional family, it’s hard. He has an uphill battle that is absolutely not his fault. It’s the cards he’s been dealt.

Another boy this week, only nine and in the same grade as Brody, disclosed that he thinks about killing himself and sometimes hurts himself. His mother died when he was 14 months. And, he also lives with grandmother. He’s ADHD and thinks he’s stupid because he can’t focus. I’ve been told he’s made a lot of progress since he was in kindergarten and first grades but he’s struggling to feel like he’s “smart and a good kid” since he also was in PAC this week.

What are you going to do? We can’t expect them to be like other kids but we also can’t stop believing they can change and grow.

They are hurting. Many people are. Old and young, big and small. We hurt when things don’t go the way we hoped, when we wish we had different circumstances, or when we feel rejected. Life is challenging but isn’t also an opportunity to grow out of hard circumstances? Change takes work, and work is hard. Some of us live with misfortunes and unfair challenges. Many children do. But, we have a choice:

  • We can choose to grow ….. OR,
  • We can choose to stay stuck.

I’ve realized that growing and changing hurts. Whether it’s getting in shape and taking on a new physical challenge, like training for a marathon, or just getting out of bed and getting dressed, it’s not always something we want to do. It takes consistent practice.

When a child is acting out or extra emotional, we know they are struggling internally. Maybe they are truly having a growth spurt and are extra cranky or moody. Maybe they need extra food, sleep, and time alone. Or, maybe, they are acting out because they don’t understand how to get to the next stage of development. They¬†are resisting do the hard work it will take to be like others. Learning and growing takes work but being stuck doesn’t feel good either!


I’ve noticed some of the kids I’ve worked with over the years are acting out because they are stalled at place where a need stopped being met. They haven’t achieved that love and acceptance that they needed at an early age and they are emotionally stuck. And, they hurt because they want to be different, to feel different. Adults aren’t that different.

Growing is not without aches and pains. Self awareness and development is painful because we face some things we may not like. But, we can grow out of that. Personally, I’ve recently experienced this. I’ve realized that growth may take work, conscientious steps, patience, reminders, support and help from others. This stuff is not easy. Yet, we can resist and get stuck ,or fight through these pains and grow. Growing is what we are born to do, physically and spiritually.

The rewards are not instantaneous, and the work may be a pain and hurt. But, don’t resist the work and the chance to change. Believing in others and wanting them to change isn’t naive; it’s hopeful. With our children, our friends, spouses, or even strangers, we can remember that it’s normal to feel pain with this training regime. We can help each other not quit by encouraging and accepting that milestones will be reached at different times because each of us face different challenges. Physical and mental growth takes time, and that’s hard!

No path is universal.¬†No metamorphosis is the¬†same.¬†Just like the drug-dependent baby who grows into a¬†overstimulated and easily angered kindergartener, the challenges we face will all be different. Sometimes growth will come naturally, while other times the change will take a lot of effort and time. ¬†But, when we see a soul, young or old, in pain, we can believe and help them understand they are growing….changing….and moving towards a better place.

As adults, we can remind ourselves this too. Change is painful.¬†Growth is hard because it’s stretching out of our comfort zone. But, being stuck is worse.¬†If we keep practicing and continue to believe something better is ahead, we can end up in a better place than where we started…. and that’s worth the sweat!




“I feel like I belong!”

Isn’t so important to feel like we have a place and sense of purpose in this world? Isn’t it easier when you fit in and are accepted for who you are? Don’t we all want to be liked and appreciated? A sense of belonging is vital at all stages, yet many times is undervalued.

I know there are some teachers who believe school is a place to learn, “not play”. I’ve heard it before. And, of course, the pressure to learn couldn’t be higher. Achieve, grow, achieve! Yes, we do all want smart kids but we also need to value the social/emotional growth as much, if not more, than the academics. And, I’m afraid we are losing sight of common sense when we have blinders on the standards that must be taught and test scores that must be reached.

This week, I was reminded of this during a sweet lunch group. Since there’s no other time that a counselor can conduct a small group due to academic time, I hold my small groups for upper elementary students during lunch which is not uncommon. For many School Counselors, it’s get creative with your time or you won’t be having those groups. So, like others, I make it work.

At the beginning of the year, I like to offer small groups to new students. Yes, we are meeting School Counseling standards and have objectives each group.¬† We practice I-messages, conflict-resolution, goal-setting, and self-awareness skills while also cramming food down our throats. But, it’s also fun. It’s a break from the cafeteria and I have kids asking to come every week. The ultimate goal is to make them feel special, included, and important. And, this week, I was reminded of why I do this.

There are only a few girls that come with me on Tuesdays. They are all new and in different classes, and they are just so sweet. I have learned so much about them in the past 4 weeks. I’ve heard about their last school. I know what their uniforms looked like. I have learned about two girls’ adoption stories, and heard stories about their orphanage. And, then I give them an M&M or two at the end of the group! (It’s the little things….or are they so little?)

We set goals a couple meetings in. All of the girls wanted to make all A’s and B’s on their interim report card, not an easy task for 3rd grade, just having moved, and being new. But, they all did it! So, in return, they got to choose a ‘prize’ from my prize can. At the last minute, though, I remembered I had some old, unused school t-shirts that the former PTO president gave me stored in the cabinet. I gave the girls the t-shirts as an option too. When I explained that these are the old school t-shirts, two of them jumped at that idea!

One of the pretty little girls, who¬†looks like the perfect American school girl, was so excited that she immediately threw the t-shirt over her outfit to wear for the rest of the day. And, what she said next made me smile. When she got that blue t-shirt over her head and¬†proudly looked down, she said, “I¬†feel¬†like I¬†belong!” Wearing a shirt that her classmates had purchased the year before, a school shirt, made her day. She fit in. Kids want to fit in. She was a part of a bigger picture. The other girl followed suit and also pulled the shirt over her head.

The following day, I was at that school again. And, there she came, walking along with a bow in her bouncy ponytail and that new (old) blue t-shirt. She was proud. She fits in.

So, when I get push back from teachers for their students missing class time, which happens often, or¬†I feel like no one knows what I do or cares, I remember simple statements like that. Like most things, there should be balance. Yes, make the most of school time and expand those minds. But,¬†we also must remember the life skills that will get us those relationships and jobs.¬† In school, at our homes, in our neighborhoods, it’s kind to make people feel like they belong. It’s important. And, I guarantee she will remember that shirt this week a lot more than her math lesson.


Growth mindset: Why is this the ‘new’ buzz word?


As usual, there’s a new buzz word in town. The world of education and childrearing is all about developing ‘new’ ideologies and cult followings every couple years. While it wasn’t too long ago that “common core” was taking over the world, now¬†the newest term “growth mindset” is the hot topic these days. You’ll find teacher trainings, books studies, staff meetings, and child psychologists honing in on this ‘new’ term. So, what is it!?And, is it really¬†so new?

Taken from Mindset works :

“When students and educators have a growth mindset, they understand that intelligence can be developed. Students focus on improvement instead of worrying about how smart they are. They work hard to learn more and get smarter. Based on years of research by Stanford University‚Äôs Dr. Dweck, Lisa Blackwell Ph.D., and their colleagues, we know that students who learn this mindset show greater motivation in school, better grades, and higher test scores.”

This all sounds great, and I don’t disagree. The growth mindset is all about goal setting, motivation, perseverance, and hard work- all good values and a positive frame of mind but is this anything new? Hmmm‚Ķ.? Isn’t this what good teachers have always done? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize¬†that kids learn and grow more if they believe they are capable of growing. If we teach kids that their intelligence isn’t “fixed”, then yes, there’s a much better chance that they’ll grow and achieve. If a child believes they are ‘dumb’, they won’t believe they can achieve or be equal with their peers and motivate to change. As school counselors, we have always worked with improving one’s ‘self-esteem’, another outdated buzz word. This is not a new concept.

It’s¬†all the same thing: ‘self-esteem’/ ‘positive attitude’/’growth mindset’. What we believe, we become. If one’s outlook is positive, their future will be more positive. But, there will always be kids who are smarter than others. And, more importantly, there will always be lazy kids in this country. But, are kids getting lazier?

What’s interesting to me is that we have to teach kids in America to have a ‘growth mindset’. Is it that they just have things too easy? Is there such thing as too much technology, kids are addicted, and have too much to do? Is school just so boring that we have to remind them to keep trying? Are parents not teaching the value to hard work?¬†What’s missing? I think all of the above could be the case. We want things too easily¬†in this country because we do have so many things easier than 99% of the world.

I wonder if kids who grow up in third world countries who actually have to work to survive know about the ‘growth mindset’?! It seems like having so much can sometimes lead to wanting things to be too easy. It’s sad to me that we must convince kids that they can and should grow. Kids in America are lazy; mine certainly are. They just have it too easy so now we have fancy terms that teach kids to feel motivated. We have groups to teach teachers to convince kids that they can do it when parents should be coaching their kids.

Not that we should stop persisting but I would like to see more self-motivated kids who have the intrinsic motivation and desire to succeed because they understand they need to, ¬†because their actions will impact their future. If we did our jobs as parents to instill the value of hard work, of sweat and challenges, of exploring true interests and talents, and experiencing more natural consequences, then we may not need to spend time and money teaching teachers and kids to believe they can become smarter.¬†The ‘growth mindset’ wouldn’t be taking over the world of education because kids may just choose to want to try harder and work to change¬†because it makes sense or because they are truly motivated and/or inspired.

While this ‘growth mind’ isn’t the worst theory ever, I just have to wonder what got us here in the first place. And, what can we do to fix our lazy kids?

  • Stop telling kids they’re awesome at everything.
  • Let them fail, and even feel bad sometimes.
  • Praise a good effort.
  • Do not give them everything they want!
  • Point out their strengths. Talk about your own strengths and weaknesses and how you are able to overcome your weaknesses.
  • Encourage them to work hard without expecting them to be perfect. (Remind yourself that every child looks different).
  • Teach them that we don’t have to have fun all the time.
  • Expect good habits at home including limits on technology, reading time each day, practicing weaker skills, and especially time to explore personal hobbies- not your personal hobbies.

As a parent and School Counselor, I won’t stop my goal-planning and encouragement. But, then again, this has always been a habit; this isn’t something new for any caring educator. This ‘growth mindset’ concept isn’t really something new at all. After all, the story of the Little Engine That Could has been around! It actually dates back to first being published in an article in 1906 Story of the Engine That Thought It Could¬†based on a sermon.

“Grit” is another hot topic, but similar concept, ¬†but¬†I look forward to more groundbreaking theories that hold more weight. At least, ‘grit’ is a more substantial concept and holds more value because it focuses on working hard instead of a belief system. Grit carries over to many faucets of life from sports to academics and personal goal-setting. But from ‘growth mindset’, to ‘grit’, ¬†to having a ‘positive attitude’, it’s all nothing new. Here’s to working hard this year and getting the job done whether you like it or not, kids, because we all have hurdles to jump!



Do you let them get burned?


It’s a balancing act. How much freedom do you give little people when you know there’s a risk they’ll get hurt?

It starts very young and I was a helicopter parent when they were babies. I don’t regret the attachment style parenting I chose rather naturally. I know I was watching them almost constantly, making sure they didn’t eat a rock at the park or fall down the stairs. I kept them safe for the most part with only a couple minor bumps and bruises. No serious injuries so Mama bear was successful in her bubble-wrapping.

Then, fortunately, they go to school and you can’t be there to shield them all the time. You’re forced to slowly but surely release the reins and trust others with¬†the care of your precious angels. ¬†You become more aware of how you want to handle potentially dangerous or risky moves as they grow more independent and give them some space to fall. It’s a healthy but uncomfortable step¬†as they slip out into the big, bad world on their own a little.

Letting them play at friend’s houses or even just outside without you becomes the norm. And, while you never want your child to hurt, protecting them too long and too much may really damage them more in the long run. We don’t want them to be fearful or distrusting so we take calculated risks. Some they do on their own, and sometimes they need some coaxing.

My kids have always been stubborn and cautious, and maybe I’m part of that. Maybe it’s genes? As I’ve grown the realize, though, sometimes it’s just them being separate little beings. Luckily, my kids have never been daredevils who like danger. Still, one thing I do know is you simply cannot protect them from all the hurts in the world.

Thinking back to Brody’s brain tumor diagnosis, what life lessons I learned as a parent! First, talk about perspective and learning what is really worth worrying about. I realized that you can do all the right things and still things can go wrong. Life isn’t always fair. Focusing only on what you can control makes life a bit simpler. And, then, realizing you’ll never be able to control everything anyway helps relieve some of the parental pressure. Try as you might, kids can and will get hurt!

So, do you let them take calculated risks? Most recently, Anna has a burning desire to begin doing some¬†household chores such as ironing and cooking on the stove. She doesn’t want or need my help, of course! Is this really safe at age seven? Do I let her risk being burned or do it myself and explain she could get hurt? Well, we have compromised and she has tried it several times lately with my watchful eye. She loves ironing and cooking, tasks that most adults loath! She’s a little adult, for sure, and although I know she’ll eventually get a little burn, that’s how she’ll learn.

ironing 001

I began thinking about this in the scope of her life. With our kids,¬†do we let them get burned?¬†Sometimes, we can foresee the outcome or consequence. Do we let them learn first-hand or do we warn and protect them, telling them it’s too risky? That you’ll just do it for them‚Ķ.No, I don’t just mean with the edge of the pan or the singe of an hot iron. There comes a time when you decide if you let them get ‘burned’ and learn from natural consequences, or you save them from hurt.

  • Do you drop them off at the school doors crying and turn to go?
  • Do you let them have that friend who inevitably will turn on them?
  • Do you let them quit or make them push through miserably?
  • Do you let them get a bad grade on their test by not making them study?
  • Do you let them have that boyfriend that will break her heart?
  • Do you let them suffer at school when they forget their assignment?
  • Do you let them suffer the natural consequences!?

It’s so hard! The list could go on and on. The list does go on and on for us. Think about how often you have to deal with disappointment, health scares, anger, let-downs, and hurt. The scary, hurty stuff can and will happen. And, what I’m realizing is that they may get¬†a little scraped up, and maybe even burned from time to time but it’s an opportunity to grow stronger and braver. It may not be fun for everyone involved but we can choose to look at ¬†life’s challenges as opportunities to grow.

We can’t do all the work for them. And, sadly, we cannot protect them from getting burned. They have to figure some of it out themselves. Keeping a watchful eye, spying, and ¬†encouraging calculated risks is my new plan. It’s an uncomfortable, nervous, and new feeling. (Gah, just wait until they start driving! Talk about risk!) We take baby-steps towards independence every day, ironing, cooking, or suffering. Like it or not, we have to accept there will be some burns! We just pray they are strong enough to recover.

Iron on, baby girl! Go wild! Let it go, and let them grow!


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