Developing self-esteem in kids

Back in my early counseling days we called it developing self-esteem in children.

While developing self-esteem is certainly important, turns out we might have gone about it the wrong way.

We told kids that they were special… everyone is.  We told them they were smart–geniuses really and so talented.  We told kids they were doing a good job and set up the environment so that failure was unlikely.  When failure and difficulties loomed on the horizon, we quickly intervened.  We gave everyone a trophy and a ribbon, just for showing up. We retrieved forgotten homework and lunch boxes, making the necessary extra trips. Unfortunately, we created such a rosy effortless world that kids grew up expecting life to be easy and problem free.  Who knew that making life too easy for our kids was actually creating a fixed mindset that would create problems as an adult?

I’m not pointing any fingers here. Every generation does the best it can with the information that it has.  I believe educators and parents alike truly try to create the best world for their kids. So how can we  learn from the past and apply the message of the growth mindset( found in Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: the New Psychology of Success) to our current work with kids?

What can we learn from the self esteem predicament of the past?

  • Self-esteem develops best from effort and achievement–We don’t feel good about ourselves just because someone tells us that we are special or that we are smart.  We feel good about ourselves  because we learn to achieve goals, to measure our progress and overcome obstacles.  It’s hard work.  Certainly the environment helps. Certainly having caring, encouraging adults in our lives helps. Role models point the way. I’m not discounting these things.  But self-esteem develops from a lot of factors and it takes effort on the part of the child.
  • Achievement is the end result of taking risks and putting forth effort– We all have different abilities and strengths but achievement comes from accepting challenges, working through failure and looking for the opportunity for growth in all we do.  Achievement often involves taking risks and not knowing the outcome ahead of time.
  • Feelings, both good and bad are part of life–Trying to make everyone happy all the time results in kids who don’t know what to do when things go wrong.  We’d do better to teach kids how to navigate through feelings rather than how to ignore them and stuff them.  Not to mention it’s not working.  The percentage of kids who report being depressed and/or anxious much of the time has skyrocketed.

What can we do today to help kids develop self-esteem?

  • Praise effort not ability–When we say, “Look how smart you are-you made an A!”  we set kids up to think they don’t have to work for the good grade.  We also set them up to think they must be dumb if they don’t make an A on the next test.  Instead, recognize the effort they put into the  result. When we say, “You studied hard for that grade.  I’m proud of you.”  we help them understand what is working and how to continue being successful.
  • Encourage kids to be kids and make mistakes–Childhood is the time to learn and we learn by making mistakes.  Certainly we don’t want kids to make dangerous mistakes but learning by falling down is how we learned to walk.  Sometimes mistakes hurt; physically, mentally and emotionally.  But that’s the point.  We not only learn from the mistake itself but from how to handle the consequences.  Take the opportunity presented to teach but not to preach.
  • Teach kids how to handle emotions— Stay with the feeling.  Think about the mindset that created it.  Talk through them.  Listen.  Listen some more.  Share your experience.  Model healthy ways to cope with feelings.  Sad and unhappy feelings don’t require a new toy or a piece of candy to cheer them up and make them go away (it doesn’t anyway).   By the same token, every win doesn’t have to be celebrated with cake and a party.  Just having someone to share a feeling, good or bad, can be enough.

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Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others? Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

Some other great books to develop the growth mindset

What do you do with an idea?  Kobi Yamada

Truly a fabulous book that you could create a zillion lessons from.  Besides creativity, it could also fall in the category of peer pressure or comparison, confidence, problem solving and growth mindset.  It is inspirational for kids and adults.  When the main character comes up with a unique idea, he at first doesn’t know what to do with it and tries to leave it behind.  But the idea follows him.  Once he begins to feed and nurture it, he begins to worry what others will think about the idea.  Will they make fun of it?  Some do but he persists in carrying the idea around until it finally not only changes his world but the world around him as well.

 

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

This book could come under the category of creativity, problem solving, failure and teamwork.  The main character is determined to create a most magnificent thing and tries lots of different options.  Frustrated she eventually explodes (not her finest hour) and takes a walk to calm down.  While walking she reviews what she has already created and not only gains new insight but other people discover her failures to be useful for them.  Lots to discuss here…

Motivation: Helping children find their why

He has the potential to do so much more…

She daydreams all the time and never focuses on the lesson.

He doesn’t care and it shows in his work.

How do you motivate an unmotivated child?

In truth, every child is motivated toward something.  It just doesn’t always line up with what the adults in their life want them to be motivated toward.  How can that be turned around?

I believe that the key to motivating a child is to help them find their why.

It’s hard to be excited about learning to read if you don’t see the advantage of it. But what if you know that being able to read means you will open a world of stories and fantasy? What if you learn it will challenge your imagination and creativity? What if you learn it will expand your world and take you places you may never be able to visit otherwise?

It’s hard to get excited about learning math if you don’t see the point of it.  But what if you learn to see it as a puzzle to be solved?  What if you see it as exercise for the brain?  What if you learn that it will help you make money, count money, budget money and buy things?

I don’t know what the why is that will hook your particular child with any given activity. But I think we need to at least help children see the reason behind learning and develop their why.  We need to present learning as exciting, challenging, mind opening and life changing.  Instead it is often presented it as something a student just has to get through to pass a test and make it to the next grade so they can eventually graduate and do what they really want to do.  That doesn’t motivate me… does it you?

What is your why?

Maybe we ultimately need to ask ourselves what the why is behind the work that we do.  If our why is to share the thrill of learning and becoming the best that we can be every day, then we need to ask ourselves if we are translating that enthusiasm and excitement into the lessons that we teach and the life that we model. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Listen to what Marva Collins, renowned teacher who is quoted in the book Mindset said to an unmotivated second grader in her class on the first day of school, “Come on, peach,” she said to him, cupping his face in her hands, “we have work to do.  You can’t just sit in a seat and grow smart… I promise, you are going to do, and you are going to produce.  I am not going to let you fail.”

There are lots of strategies that can be put into place to motivate a child.  We can use stickers and candy and treasure boxes of toys.  But in the long run these things lose appeal and research actually shows that they have an adverse effect on the desire to learn and grow.  Instead what if it is possible to nurture a growth mindset that will encourage kids to become life long learners ?  What if the answer is to truly see students as successful, enthusiastic learners and hold that space for them as they grow into it?

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 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

 

 

DISCover Your Personality Style

Good counselors and educators do things well.

Great counselors teach and inspire others to do things well.

This month I was at the Kentucky School Counselor Conference in Lexington, Kentucky (shout out to all the GREAT counselors that I met there), where I taught a session on understanding personality style and working in your strengths. One of the advantages of training counselors in DISC personality is the enthusiasm that they bring to the session.  DISC training adds an innovative and creative tool to the counselor toolbox.

Not familiar with DISC personality training?  Here are the basics:

The Four Basic Personality Styles

According to the DISC personality program, there are four basic personality styles.  We are all blends of these.  Here are the characteristics of each.:

D:  dominant, determined, decisive

I:  interactive, inspiring, influential

S:  stable, sweet, supportive

C:  competent, cautious, conscientious

Why DISC works

There are several reasons why the DISC is a good fit for anyone working with children.  Here are some of the reasons that as a certified DISC trainer, I love sharing this with counselors, educators and parents.

  • DISC is a great tool because it is easy to understand.  This means that counselors can quickly learn the basic four personality styles and share them with parents, students and educators on their team.  Unlike some personality assessments that take the equivalent of a college degree to understand, DISC can be taught in a quick one time session.
  • DISC is a great tool because it is practical and immediately applicable.  Most participants in my sessions not only quickly understand how it works but they begin sharing insights about themselves and other participants while we are still in the session.  They also gain insight into interactions with coworkers, family members and friends.
  • DISC is a great tool because it transforms relationships.  When you learn the personality styles, you don’t just understand yourself better, you also begin to understand and celebrate all the other personality styles around you.  It helps you encourage leadership traits (which show up differently for the different styles) and you learn how to motivate each different style by working in their unique strengths and interests.

If you aren’t familiar with DISC personality assessment, I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity.  Similar to the growth mindset work that Carol Dweck has done, DISC encourages an openness to learning from failure as well as success.  It celebrates our differences and encourages us to focus on and develop our strengths.

Interested in learning more about your personality style?  You can take an online assessment on this website.  I’ll even do an interpretation for you to help you make sense of the information.  Check out the sidebar on wyatthewonderdog.com for more information.

Want to learn how understanding personality can transform your perspective and relationships?  Check out these additional articles on DISC and children:

Personality Style and Motivation

Celebrate Your Child’s Unique Voice

Parenting and Teaching the High Energy Child

 

Parenting with Heart: Understanding your Child’s Personality Style

Do you sometimes feel that your children are speaking a different language?  Do you wonder how to motivate and inspire them?  In this ebook you will D-I-S-Cover your own personality style and how to speak the language of other personality styles to create a winning  environment in all the seasons of your family’s life. parentingheart Click on the link below to purchase the ebook: Parenting with Heart: Understanding Personality Style

Teaching with Heart:  Understanding Personality Style

Do you sometimes feel that students at your school are speaking a different language?  Do you wonder how to motivate and inspire them?  In this ebook you will D-I-S-Cover your own personality style and learn to work in the strengths of each personality by recognizing the secret fuel and environmental needs for each.  Understanding the personality styles of students can revolutionize how you interact and lead in the classroom! teachingdiscover

 Click on the link below to purchase the ebook:

Teaching with Heart: Understanding Personality Styles

 

Interested in having a DISC training come to your school?  Get more information here:
http://www.dreamachievercoach.com/dream-academy-educator-training/

 

How to Create a Plan for Better Behavior

I once was counseling the parents of a child who didn’t want to come to school.  After investigating the situation and making sure there wasn’t a bully at school who was intimidating him or a problem with academics that was discouraging him, we talked about setting up a reinforcement program where he could earn something for attending school without morning complaints and tantrums.  The parents were eager and cooperative. They wanted to get Johnny back in the school routine as quickly as possible. The next day I met with Johnny and asked about his new program.  He informed me that if he came to school as planned for the next few weeks, he would earn a vacation on a cruise ship over spring break with his parents.  Obviously, I had failed to clearly explain a reinforcement program and how to choose a reasonable and sensible reward…

In today’s affluent and savvy world of parenting, we are creating what Tim Elmore calls in a post the ‘encore problem’.  As parents we want to create better and better experiences for our children.  We want each year to be better than the next.  We want to wow them. Even when we are impacting a behavior with a behavior plan, we feel the need to create the ultimate reward. The problem?  We are setting the stage to continually up the anti and soon kids start expecting more and more.  If the reinforcement program that Johnny’s parents had designed had worked (and it didn’t-I’ll explain why in a moment), what were they going to do as an incentive for the weeks after spring break?  A trip to Europe? Spaceship to the moon?

Here’s what a behavior reinforcement program is designed to do and how to set up a successful one:

  • A behavior plan helps to clearly identify the behavior(s) that  is a problem and holds the child responsible. It does this by recognizing that the behaviors are a choice and the child is making a choice to cry, whine, not follow directions,  throw a tantrum etc. This seems basic but often behaviors are seen as almost involuntary by both the parent and the child if they have become an established routine.
  • A behavior plan clearly identifies the proper and expected behavior.  For example, in the school avoidance problem described above, we clearly identified how Johnny was expected to act in the morning by describing the best case scenario or a good morning routine.  Making a checklist or writing down the expectations is recommended so everyone is on the same page.
  • A behavior plan sets clear consequences for both expected and unexpected behavior.  The plan should be discussed and written down.  A positive reinforcement or reward should be reasonable and as close time-wise to the positive behavior as possible.  I often recommend earning extra time in the afternoon after school to do something the child enjoys. Improve the reward by involving the parent in the activity.  For example, parent and child could spend extra time outside playing basketball, they could enjoy a movie or video game together, read a book, cook together… really the possibilities are endless. Set a reasonable time limit for the activity of 30 minutes or so .  Make sure the reward is not something you do routinely anyway and then make sure you follow up. Notice that you don’t have to spend money or create an elaborate plan as a positive reinforcement.
  • What if the expected behavior doesn’t occur?  Again there should be a consequence as close to the behavior as possible.  In the school avoidance case mentioned above, it could be no video games or tv for the evening.  It could be no play time outside.  It could be extra time spent studying.  It could be an earlier bedtime.  The consequence should be delivered without lecturing.  There should however be a thorough review of the plan for the next day with an expectation that learning will have occurred through the mistakes made today.  Set the stage for and expect a positive experience in the future.
  • What can go wrong?
    • No follow through and lack of consistency–you have to adhere to the plan long enough for it to work.  How long is long enough?  Until it works. Seriously. That doesn’t mean you don’t review and revise it as needed.  But it also means that you don’t throw up your hands after the first few days if there isn’t a dramatic change in behavior.  It takes time to change behavior.  Think about the last time you tried to change your behavior and do something differently…
    • Creating an impossible or complicated plan— Offering a cruise for good behavior falls into this category.  If the behavior doesn’t occur are you going to cancel the family vacation?  Offering to spend all afternoon shopping with your child for toys if their behavior improves also falls into this category.  Create a plan that is easy to deliver, won’t break the bank and is going to enhance the relationship on many levels.
    • Depending on extrinsic rewards exclusively rather than fostering intrinsic rewards. A reinforcement program is not meant to last forever.  Ultimately the goal is to establish better behavior as a routine.  That is why rewards that encourage better behavior while also developing a closer relationship are ideal.  Continue to process the experience and encourage a learning and growth mindset.

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Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

It’s time to catch the school bus and Wyatt can’t find anything.  Where is his backpack?  his lunch money? Wyatt is about to learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being organized and the benefits of planning ahead.  This adorable story offers simple helpful ideas that kids and parents can use to make life less stressful and more fun.

Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Front_Covr-Organized[1]
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Being Organized

Leadership Lessons for Kids Based on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Successful People

 

Taking the drama out of conflict

“He’s not following the rules!  He’s a cheater!”

“She is being mean to me and my friends. She won’t include us in her club.”

“She took my markers and lost them.  Now I don’t have any.”

Some days it feels like all we do as educators and parents is solve conflicts between kids. Maybe you even feel  like you’ve tried everything and you are at the end of your  rope. “Why can’t kids just get along?” we wonder.  It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting.

Here are a few ideas but get ready… most of them mean changing your mindset as well as your strategies.

  • Re-frame conflict as opportunity instead of a battle of the wills- As a parent, I used to actually thank my children when they were having a disagreement.  Sounds crazy I know, (and they’d look at me like I had lost my mind) but I’d explain that life is full of conflict and it’s good that you can learn to solve conflicts as kids.  It’s true of course;  learning to solve conflicts is a necessary life skill.
  • Create conflict rules-For example: no blaming, no name calling and no threatening. Help children define what the rules mean.  Calling someone a cheater is name calling.  Refusing to be someone’s friend if you don’t get your way is threatening.  Saying it is all your fault is blaming.  Post the rules and refer to them when needed.
  • Take the drama out of the  situation-You can of course sympathize a bit with hurt feelings but don’t let it rule the day.  Begin by establishing the facts.  What happened first?  What happened next? Teach children to clearly identify the problem. It helps to have them state the problem without any feelings attached.  Teach the difference between the facts and the feelings.  And while we are talking about feelings…
  • Teach children to be responsible for their own feelings-Most of us think that others have the power to make us mad, or sad or to hurt our feelings. Disagreements provide a great opportunity to teach that others don’t have that power.  We control our own feelings by what we tell ourselves about the situation.
  • Teach a variety of ways to problem solve and resolve conflicts-Does one child want to play with a toy and the other not want to share?  Ask them to list all the possible solutions to the problem.  Then rather than you as the parent or teacher making the executive decision have them work together to decide which choice is best.
  • Recognize your own feelings surrounding conflict and interpersonal differences.  Just as  children come with their own personalities, we as parents and educators have our own temperament and our own history with conflict as well.  Were you the youngest child in your family who felt continually picked on by the oldest?  Were you the middle child who felt you had to create conflict to get noticed?  Our own history may flavor how we react to conflict in our children.  Make sure that you are operating out of a calm space and teaching good skills rather than taking sides or replaying your own history.

As parents and educators, we aren’t just solving kids’ problems today, we are teaching them how to solve much bigger conflicts later in life.  Does this take more time than simply telling kids to stop fighting and get along?  Yes!  But in the long run you are teaching important skills as well as saving time because children are learning strategies to solve their own problems rather than rely on you to solve problems for them.

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Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend. Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners

On Teachers Pay Teachers:

Free Product Situation Cards for Lessons on Conflict

 

 

 

 

 

Five effective ways to teach kids in the digital age

I often hear experienced teachers complain about how students have changed over the years.  Children who will spend hours locked into a video game can hardly pay attention for ten minutes to a classroom lesson.  It seems that children of the digital age expect to be entertained in the classroom rather than taught.  One teacher told me she felt she was becoming less and less of a teacher and more of a manager of electronic devices.

At the same time children are becoming more and more dependent on social media to be… well- social.  We are raising a generation that does not know basic social skills; how to talk rather than text, how to read and respond to body language and how to engage in productive and rewarding relationships.

It seems to me that we can either throw up our hands and admit that electronics win or we can work with the system and help children realize the benefits of both electronics and real world communication.

Five ways to use the features of electronics to engage kids in the classroom:

  1. Build in excitement and challenge–Part of the draw of video games is the excitement and challenge of accomplishment. Gamers want to accumulate points and unlock treasures.  They want to reach higher and higher levels of play. Challenges and threats of losing lurk around every corner. As educators we need to look for creative ways to infuse the same excitement and challenge in any classroom lesson.  Building in creative thinking skills  and identifying personal goals for achievement can help. Teach children to challenge themselves to be their personal best.
  2. Provide opportunities to learn and develop social skills–In this way you are providing something that children miss out on with technology.  First teach team building and cooperation skills.  How do you handle conflicts and differences of opinion? What habits and attitudes does an effective team practice?  Then set up teams, groups or partnerships where children solve problems.  After each experience process difficulties and how they could handle them differently next time.   Grade children not just on solving a problem successfully but also on how they solved the problem as a team.  Their future employer will be forever grateful.
  3. Create opportunities for mentoring–This could be with adults that you bring into the classroom to share their expertise on career day, science day or a historical  occasion.  It could involve partnering with an older or younger classroom as reading buddies or to practice math facts. This also opens the door to creating relationships across differing age groups.  Just as technology often opens the door to other world views and environments, the classroom can also be a chance to experience differing perspectives.
  4. Be a role model for passion and enthusiasm–As a teacher you have great influence on young minds.  Share your interests and excitement for the world.  One teacher I know starts every morning out with a current pop song and has everyone in the room begin the day dancing and singing (and no she wasn’t the music teacher–she just loves to dance.)  No matter what lays ahead in the day, it always starts off with a blast of energy.  Another teacher is passionate about saving endangered species and she teaches kids how to make a difference in the world’s environment.   You don’t have to convert kids to your passion, but instead teach them to find their own and follow their heart.  The digital world explodes with color and energy, but our own passions can provide the same impact.
  5. Make learning experiential–Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”  Whenever possible make learning experiential.  The digital world creates passive experiences that seem real but in the classroom you have the opportunity to create active real life experiences.  For instance, you could create an environment similar to a historical time.  Have a colonial day and dress up, act out or make items similar to what you are learning about.  You can make this as elaborate or as simple as you want. It’s not about making a big show, it’s about making it memorable.  One teacher, I know had students act out typical student behaviors from a time period that they were studying.  Imagine classroom visitors’ surprise when all the students stood up and in unison said welcome as soon as guests entered the room.  Do you think the kids ever forgot that experience?

The greatest way teachers can help kids of the digital age become life long learners is to infuse the classroom with many of the characteristics found in the digital world while pairing them with meaningful relationships.

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 Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max want to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)

Lesson Package for Wyatt Learns about Cooperation on Teachers Pay Teachers