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5 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Child’s School Year

Timothy Diehl | August 12, 2019

When I first picked up a golf club, I had been playing baseball for years. Simply out of habit, because I’d only ever held a baseball bat, I began holding the golf club like a bat. No matter how hard I swung or how I adjusted my stance, I couldn’t get the golf ball to go the direction I wanted it to until someone taught me how to grip the club correctly. Little did I know that my grip had been sabotaging my swing. In the same way, there are things we sometimes do as parents that can lead to a child failing school.

All of us want our kids to have a great school year, but sometimes we inadvertently set them up for difficulty. Here are 5 ways you’ll sabotage your child’s school year unless you adjust your grip.

1. Make sure they are in charge of their bedtime.

Somewhere along the line, every child became convinced that sleep is the enemy of all that is good and holy. No children are ever convinced they need sleep—unless you want them to get up early to do work. I once took my teen to see the pediatrician because we were afraid she had thyroid problems. It runs in my family and the symptoms all seemed to line up: sluggishness, depression, trouble concentrating, etc. However, her tests all came back negative. The doctor then asked how much sleep she gets each night. My daughter is really bright and studies a lot. She’s often up late doing homework.

“About 5 to 6 hours a night,” she replied.

“Oh,” the doctor said. “You’re sleep-deprived.”

Needless to say, we instituted a bedtime that night. We had to adjust our grip. Make sure your kids get adequate sleep. Don’t let them tell you when they should go to bed. They are novices. They need you to coach them.

2. Assume they’ll let you know if they need anything.

Sometimes they will, if you’re lucky. But more often, they won’t. Unfortunately, we as parents get so busy that we assume no news is good news. If they aren’t obviously struggling, all must be well. You need to adjust your grip.

I know you have so much to give your attention to, but none more critical than your kids. I know you have so much to give your attention to, but none more critical than your kids. Ask questions. Be interested in them and their lives. Make them put down their phones and have a five-minute conversation with you. You need to take initiative or your child will be left to fend for him or herself.

3. Pass off responsibility for their education to the school.

Of course teachers and counselors are on the front lines of educating your children and we need to let them do their jobs. But don’t assume that means you have no responsibility in the matter. Unfortunately, many of us think our job in our kids’ education is making sure they show up each day. The education portion—well that’s why we pay taxes! You need to adjust your grip.

Students thrive when their parents are engaged. And by engaged I don’t mean riding them about getting A’s. I mean asking them about what they are learning, helping them process whether they should be taking honors or academic courses, working with them to discern whether tutoring would be helpful, challenging them to take risks and try new things. You know your children better than anyone. Take an active role in their education.

4. Allow ‘busy’ to be the excuse you use for lack of family rhythms.

Most parents feel overwhelmed with life. There’s far too much going on. We’re too busy. If I kindly can suggest, if you are too busy to invest in your kids’ development, you are too busy. You need to adjust your grip.

You get one go at investing in your kids, teaching them to love reading, helping them navigate the challenging teen years, developing them into the kind of people who live well in the world. To simply shrug your shoulders and say I’m too busy is simply lazy. Make time to have regular family rhythms like meals together, evening prayers, movie nights. It doesn’t have to be over the top. Be reasonable. Fifteen minutes a day can work wonders, but be as consistent as possible.

5. Focus on grades over education.

You are not sending your child to school to get grades. You’re sending him or her to get an education. Grades tell you something, but they don’t tell you everything. If the only question you know to ask your child is what’s your grade in ____, you are not setting him or her up well. Adjust your grip.

Help your child focus on improving. Like a long-distance runner, he or she is competing against themselves, not the field. What you really want to see from your child is not a certain GPA, but growth.

Sound off: What are the ways that you as a parent have learned to adjust your grip?

The post 5 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Child’s School Year appeared first on All Pro Dad.

3 Things Parents Need to Talk to Children about Before the School Year Starts

Timothy Diehl | August 01, 2019

Recently, one of our children had the opportunity to be a part of a selective leadership conference. She’d been chosen from among her peers and we were very proud. She was terrified. While she’s quite social, she’s also an introvert and the idea of a weekend away surrounded by people she doesn’t know felt exhausting. Still, we pressed her, “Take some risks. Put yourself out there.” She rolled her eyes, but she did it. And she walked away from that weekend with a growing sense of confidence in what she has to offer the world.

With the school year rapidly approaching, there are many lessons our kids will be learning. However, some of the most important ones won’t come from their academics, but from choices they make in their daily interactions. Here are 3 critical conversations parents need to have with their children as they begin this new year.

1. Tell the truth.

As our kids enter their teenage years, they quickly develop a penchant for lying. I don’t only mean that they intentionally say things that are untrue in order to get what they want. I mean that they learn to lie about what they think, adopting the prevailing ideas of their friends. They lie about who they are, instead of taking on the persona that most ingratiates them to others. They lie about how they feel, instead choosing to take on the façade of being ‘ok’. Or they lie about how they look, filtering their image through impossible and artificial standards of beauty/attractiveness.

In a myriad of ways, our teens learn to lie—to themselves, to others, and to us. Talk with your child about the importance of saying what is true about themselves and the world as they see it, even as they maintain humility, recognizing that they don’t know everything. We need to teach our kids that they are a gift to the world, but only if they are themselves. And they can only be fully themselves if they learn to tell the truth.

2. Try something new.

Every new year is a new opportunity—new teachers, new classes, new activities. But many of our kids are creatures of habit (as are we). This isn’t inherently bad. Habits are important and necessary features of being human. However, for our kids, as they are learning about themselves and the world, it’s important for them to push through their comfort zones. Talk to your children about taking risks and trying new things. Encourage them to join a new club or try out for a sport. They could take a class that’s interesting but not necessary, join the debate club, write for the newspaper, or learn an instrument.

When my son was in seventh grade, he tried out for the cross-country team. Until then, he’d tried several different sports and liked them well enough, but never really excelled in any of them. He wasn’t a particularly disciplined child either, so I was pretty convinced this little experiment would last all of about half a race. Boy was I wrong.

Five years, one state championship, multiple district and county championships, and several individual awards later, my son can’t imagine his life without running. He’s currently preparing to go to college in the fall and will run for his school’s cross-country team. This never could’ve happened had he been unwilling to try something new. Not all new things will take off (he also tried pole vaulting, for about a minute), but who knows what your child is capable of unless he or she takes a risk to try something new?

3. Do to others what you would have them do to you.

It’s popular to tell our kids to ‘be kind’. Being kind is great, but it’s far too generic. Is it kind to simply avoid saying something bad? Certainly. But is that the extent of the kindness we would hope that our children show? Certainly not. It’s far better to talk with your child about the Golden Rule: Do to others what you would have them do to you.

Talk to your child about doing better than kind. Do to others as you would have them do to you.If someone was picking on you, you’d long for a brave soul to step in and tell that bully to knock it off. If you were the new kid at the school, you’d dream of the courageous person who would take a seat next to you at the lunch table or invite you to sit with her and her friends. Talk to your child about doing better than kind. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Sound off: What other conversations are critical to have with your child before school begins?

The post 3 Things Parents Need to Talk to Children about Before the School Year Starts appeared first on All Pro Dad.

7 Questions to Ask Your Kids This Week

Andrew Linder | July 29, 2019

“Why are you doing that? How does this work? What is that for?” Kids are known for asking questions. And usually, the younger they are, the more questions they have. Why? Because kids learn through questioning. But they aren’t the only ones who should be using questions to learn. A wise parent regularly will leverage the power of questions to see deeper into their child’s heart and understand them better.

A wise parent will regularly leverage the power of questions to see deeper into their children’s hearts and understand them better.Here are some great questions you might ask as you sit around the dinner table, or even in the vehicle while you’re on the run. The goal is to use them as springboards for discussion by connecting each other’s hearts through real conversation. We’ve used them in our family, and they are as fun as you make them. So, go ahead, try one of them each day this week, or maybe come up with some of your own. You might be surprised by what you learn.

1. “What is your favorite day of the week and why?”

2. “If you had to write a list of things you love about our family, what would be at the very top?”

3. “How many times a day would you like me to tell you I love you?” (or hug you, compliment you, etc.)

4. “If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?” (and what would you choose to use it for?)

5. “If you were given a $100 bill right now, what would you do with it?”

6. “Imagine if you didn’t have to sleep at night. What would you do with all your extra time?”

7. “If you could have the best friend in the world, what qualities would he or she have?” (follow up with… are you that kind of friend yourself?)

Challenge: Take a couple of minutes and write down a few of your own fun and engaging questions to ask your kids.

Sound off: How can you use questions to get to know your kids better?

The post 7 Questions to Ask Your Kids This Week appeared first on All Pro Dad.

3 Difficult Seasons You Will Go Through as a Dad

Timothy Diehl | July 15, 2019

“What’s he doing?” I asked my wife. I squinted against the sunlight glaring off the crystal blue water of the community pool. My 14-year-old son was sitting on the far side beside a girl. The next thing I knew he had his arm around her. I stood up and locked eyes with him, shocked at what was transpiring. My son didn’t like girls, right? I mean, he’s into Star Wars and Legos and video games, but not girls. When he saw me, he immediately pulled his arm back to his side and looked straight at the water. I had embarrassed him.


In my defense, though, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. This was my first time with a teenager, after all; and I lost my operating manual a long time ago. I’m not sure there’s anything that can prepare us for the seasons of change our children go through. Sure we know they are coming – of course, they won’t stay in diapers forever – but we’re never quite ready when the change happens. However, much like the seasons of the year, we can prepare so that when the change inevitably comes we can do our best to both navigate it well and enjoy it for the gift that it is. Here are 3 of the most difficult seasons you’ll go through as a dad, and 3 suggestions for how to engage each one well.

1. The Beginning

Prior to becoming parents, a man and woman typically focus their attention on each other. Late nights are generally about social opportunities or cuddling and watching movies together. Sex tends to be relatively frequent. Money is also largely about the two of you. Any extra money goes to paying down debt, buying big-kid toys (car, furniture, a grill), buying a house, etc. Weekend getaways or impromptu date nights are relatively easy to pull off.

Enter the child.

Suddenly, the primary focal point – of both parents, but particularly the wife – shifts to the child. Late nights are often about caring for a baby who won’t stop crying. Social opportunities are much less frequent for a variety of reasons. Sex happens far less frequently. Extra money now goes to college savings, diapers, and toys for the child. Impromptu anything becomes very difficult. In short, life changes. So, what do you do?

3 Suggestions:

1) Talk: with your wife about expectations, with older men who have been there done that. Don’t assume you know what you’re doing. You don’t.
2) Read: whatever you can get your hands on. There are tons of great resources out there. Take advantage of them (this website is a great place to start.
3) Prioritize: While you need to be realistic, self-care and cultivating a relationship with your wife are essential to being the best dad you can be. Date nights, regular exercise, and having fun are important, even if they can’t happen with the frequency they once did.

2. Teen Years

Just when you thought you had parenting figured out, suddenly adorable children who love to cuddle become awkward little people who roll their eyes and push you away. They start to smell and grow hair in weird places. They’re emotional. They are convinced you’re a horrible despot bent on global domination. They’re too cool for you. They demand smartphones.

Parenting strategies that you worked hard to perfect are now utterly useless. The more control you try to take, the more things seem to spiral out of control. Not to mention, these are often some of the busiest years with increased responsibilities parents are taking on at work, extracurricular & school activities for the kids, etc. Money is spent on kids clothes, food (wow can they eat!) and entertainment. Oh yeah, and they may want to go to college one day. FYI, that costs money.

And who’s that other person who keeps bumping into me in the kitchen? Oh yeah, “hi honey”. Time with your wife becomes increasingly like a 76ers championship. All the pieces exist for it to happen in theory, but it never quite materializes.

Make time for things that matter. 3 Suggestions:

1) Be a Learner: Don’t pretend you know what you’re doing. Talk to other parents or, better yet, grandparents. What wisdom can they pass along to you (it’ll probably be something like, ‘Relax. No one knows what to do with teens.’ But ask anyway.). Read widely.
2) Get to know your teen: Don’t assume you know who this person is just because you raised him or her. Be curious. Ask questions. Discover what she or he enjoys and do it with them. You might be surprised by what you learn.
3) Prioritize: Make time for things that matter. Time with your wife is chief among those, as is time for personal care and development.

3. Young Adult

Suddenly the young person you’ve invested so deeply in is now moving out into the world. Whether that’s college or employment, you have less control, less influence, and often less contact. Did you do enough? Will they ever call? Will they be ok? Letting go can be painful…but also immensely gratifying.

3 Suggestions:

1) Trust your child: Were you ready when you left home? Me neither. Remember those challenges you faced and what you learned? Yep, you were pretty resilient. Your kid will be too. Trust them.
2) Shift gears: Parenting adults is a whole new ballgame. The good news is that the longer they live the smarter you’ll become. Be generous with your time when they ask for it, but not pushy when they don’t.
3) Don’t live through them: Remember your life doesn’t begin and end with your kids. I know it can feel that way sometimes. Re-engage with hobbies you once loved or find a new one. Take a class. Get involved in your community. Your identity is not your role as ‘dad’. Don’t forget that.

Sound off: What would you say is the most difficult season of being a dad? Why?

The post 3 Difficult Seasons You Will Go Through as a Dad appeared first on All Pro Dad.

Great Questions to Ask Your Kids Every Week

Tony Dungy | July 12, 2019

Sometimes having conversations with your kids is the hardest thing in the world. It seems like they just don’t want to communicate at all. You ask questions only to get back a yes/no answer or a one-word answer that leaves you feeling unsatisfied and disconnected from your child. There are a couple of approaches and questions that I ask my kids every week that get them talking.

Here are a few.

“What’s going on in your life?”

I always try and find out what’s happening in their lives. I’ll ask them questions like:

“What made you happy this week?”

“Was there a problem this week that you had to work through?”

“Was there something that made you sad?”

“How are you having fun?”

“Is there anything you think I need to know?”

I always want my kids to know that I am available if they need my help. I always want to give them an opportunity to share with the areas where they are struggling.

These are the questions that I usually ask that stimulate a back and forth conversation with my kids.

Sound off: What are your favorite questions to ask your kids each week? 

The post Great Questions to Ask Your Kids Every Week appeared first on All Pro Dad.

10 Ways to Keep Students Engaged in School

Derek Maul | July 02, 2019

Seven-year-old May is curious, intelligent, and generous. She is full of life and gets along well with her friends. Kindergarten was a breeze, first grade could not have gone better. Then, around the first week of second grade, she started to wake up with a stomachache. “I don’t like school,” she said, “and I don’t want to go anymore.”

Jake is a 7th grader who often stays up too late playing video games and then moves so slowly in the morning he misses the bus. “I don’t like school!” he told his dad. “It’s like going to prison!”

Rafael is on the verge of dropping out of high school. “I’m bored, and it feels like a huge waste of time,” he said. “Nothing they teach has anything to do with my life and besides, I need to start earning money to help my family.”

Students in every age group struggle with disliking school and it’s not just one thing. [Tweet This] Check out the following 10 common reasons kids dislike school and plug in with student engagement interventions that can help:

1. Create opportunities to connect with peers.

There is a lot we can do to equip our children for relationships. “Kid-pool” with other dads and moms, coach a team, sponsor class activities, get to know the other parents and encourage alliances to avoid isolation. When children feel isolated school is neither nurturing nor safe.

2. Make sleep a priority.

A recent National Health study in the United Kingdom labeled lack of sleep “A hidden health crisis.” Staying up late with unsupervised screen time affects attendance, concentration, performance, and behavior. Kids who get enough sleep tend to like school more.

3. Provide reading support.

Reading impacts everything. Once a child falls behind in reading, grades and confidence suffer. Tutoring, encouragement, and practice at home are critical from the early grades.

4. Engaged children feel less restricted.

Most students feel “hemmed in” at some time or other. “Joyful learning,” Peter Gray argues in Psychology Today, “requires freedom.” Children crave freedom, they are kids and they don’t like to be restricted, hedged in, and told what to do. In the short-term get involved in PTA as a volunteer, encourage your child’s teacher to be imaginative, and be a positive part of the solution. In the long-term, invest yourself in the ongoing conversation around what education may possibly look like going forward.

5. School doesn’t have to be boring.

Your child may need to be challenged and motivated. As parents, it is important that we understand our child’s capacity to learn and take responsibility for engaging that potential – both at school and at home.

6. Increased engagement makes school more relevant.

Teens need to feel a connection between school and the next step of college or career. As parents, we need to make sure not only that our kids remain engaged, but also that schools meet our child’s individual needs in terms of preparation for what comes next.

7. Support for family challenges

When home life is unsettled children often lose focus at school. When a student loses focus it is hard to enjoy learning. Your child may well struggle at school because of something that is happening at home. Rather than allow home challenges to interfere with school, focus on helping your child stay engaged.

8. Improved self-image

Every child is unique. But life can be difficult when a child stands out for any reason. With the rise in childhood obesity, many young people feel rejected, out of place, or isolated by their peers. A positive school experience can help here by promoting a healthy lifestyle. School can be a place where children are taught confidence.

9. School staff

Teachers and other school staff often provide encouragement support, motivation, counsel, coaching and other critically important interventions. Young people can access these support systems to their potential only when they are engaged in an active learning community.

10. Learning Focus and Tenacity

School takes all day long and lasts all week, and then there is homework. Make it clear you understand how your kids feel. At the same time remind them that a little investment in homework today translates into better grades, clearer comprehension, and a portfolio more likely to open doors of opportunity down the road.

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