kitchen table math, the sequel: cranberry on advisories in private schools (& building good habits)

Friday, March 20, 2009

cranberry on advisories in private schools (& building good habits)

In my other child's private school, the advisor is a great system. It's one of your child's teachers. If you think your child is developing a social or academic problem, you raise the issue with your child's advisor. This is marvelous, because it provides a listener for the parent, who may very well have a legitimate complaint about the other teacher. Let's say, a child feels that the homework is assigned, but not collected, by a new teacher. The child's advisor can speak with the new teacher, encouraging him to collect the homework. The parent is not left in the position of having to complain either to the teacher, or to the principal, neither good options. As a parent, I don't want to make a stink about a small problem. In the public school, though, I've seen small problems balloon into huge problems, because there are no avenues for parents to provide rational feedback on their child's academic experience.

Hogwarts has "mentor group," which is similar -- although they don't seem to invite parents to talk to mentors, particularly.

C's mentor keeps track of the kids' grades and intervenes if grades start to slip. She also is a bear (that's a good thing) on the issue of kids using their planners. She checks their planners every day to see if they've written down their assignments; if they haven't, she has them do so.

She is building a habit. She isn't just haranguing the kids on the importance of being organized (which is what public schools do & what I've often done myself), she is teaching them how to be organized, and she is giving them practice each and every day until using the planner becomes automatic.

We have only recently realized our job as parents isn't just to produce a "good kid" and a good student, our job is also to build good habits. In the past couple of years, as C. has gotten older and more responsible, Ed and I have both taken to scolding him about his messy ways. We find his stuff all over the house, we get mad, we remonstrate.

That's not the way to do it.

We need to set a time each and every day when we have him do a quick clean-up of his room and his desk, and we need to keep doing this until it becomes second nature for C. to do a quick clean-up of his room and his desk.

Speaking of building habits, a commenter recommended Glenn Latham's The Power of Positive Parenting awhile back. I've only dipped into it, and don't know what he has to say on the subject of teaching kids to clean up their rooms and use their planners, but it is a fantastic book.


middle school advisory


Allison said...

--We have only recently realized our job as parents isn't just to produce a "good kid" and a good student, our job is also to build good habits.

I find this jaw dropping. You're the premier parent when it comes to behaviorism, and your autism experiences demonstrate this in spades, and yet even you didn't realize this? Fascinating!

I would argue that your job as parent is primarily --almost ENTIRELY--about good habits--and that the "good kid" and "good student" are habits too. Why? Because politeness is a habit that develops into respect, eventually. Because kindness is a habit that develops into empathy and sympathy, eventually. Because cheerfulness is a habit that leads to good nature, optimism, and hope. Because cleaning up after yourself is a habit that leads you to care for your things, etc. Hard work is a habit. Discipline is a habit. Enjoying hard work is a habit, too. Every virtue we humans have only exists if we do the hard work to create the habits toward that virtue.

Allison said...

I've read Latham's book, and I really see it as a shining light brightening the behaviorism in Don't Shoot the Dog. Remember how a man who plays tennis as a hobby improves simply by saying to HIMSELF "attaboy" when he did well, and saying nothing critical when he didn't?

Positive parenting is as simple as that, and as profound. you magnify the good, and minimize the bad in a specific way with positive parenting. The rewarding and praise you give your child for their good behavior makes them and you instinctively seek it out.

It helps to start when they are a toddler, because your toddler will say EXACTLY what you say to them, and in the same tone--whether you realized that was your tone or not. So if you're a yeller, or you're hostile, your child will just mimic that behavior toward you, toward their siblings, toward their toys and in their make believe. But if you do positive parenting, they do too.

And I think a very very important side effect of positive parenting is that you become a positive spouse, too. If you can really be mindful enough to stop sounding exasperated at your children, to stop your own whining, eye rolling, etc. and constant negative responses to them, you are then mindful enough to stop doing it a) to your spouse, and b) to your spouse when they aren't there. Either way, you've improved your marriage too. And it really means you've become more patient with yourself AS a parent, which is also important.