A New Beginning

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 “I may not be perfect, but parts of me are excellent.”

–Ashleigh Brilliant

 This school year can be the best one ever for you and your children—and it may have little to do with getting straight As.

Let’s face it—as parents, we want our kids to succeed in every possible way.  And yet, in our hearts we know that’s unrealistic.  Our society puts a tremendous amount of pressure on students to excel at everything in school: writing, math, science, problem solving, social skills, athletics, and more.   And yet as adults, none of us can do everything equally well. Unfortunately, we didn’t  get to specialize much until we became adults.

Not being able to do everything well doesn’t work as an excuse for failure.  There has to be a balance when you’re figuring out someone’s strengths and weaknesses.  No one gets to indulge in only doing what they want to do, so it’s important to help our children learn how to deal with situations and circumstances that are difficult or uncomfortable.

So as I enter the blogosphere, I propose we start with the topic of helping our kids succeed in school—but with a less traditional approach.  For 25 years I’ve had a favorite phrase I pound into everyone who will listen to me:

What’s The Point?

You’ll often see that theme recurring in this blog.  You’ll find out how much I love the idea of What’s the Point Education.  We’ll talk about ways to hold on to bottom-line accountability and high academic standards while still focusing on learning strengths and methods that actually work.

We’ll look at practical and immediately useful ways to identify strengths and figure out ways to overcome even the most daunting challenges.  Best of all, we’ll focus on the positive aspects of our children and delight in designing strategies that bring out the best in them.

We’ll take it in bite-sized pieces, and we’ll share resources—books, web sites, articles, and other media.  I’ll be encouraging you to work on one issue at a time, and to look for ways to help your children become confident learners who take charge of their own success.

Thanks for stopping by—I look forward to spending time with you!


Entice Them Away From Texting and Video Games This Holiday Season!

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The family is home for the holidays!  Would you like to find ways to engage your children in activities during their vacation from school that could entice them away from constant texting and video games?  Download The Kids Are Home for the Holidays!  Practical Strategies for Keeping the Peace.  You may be surprised to find that you will all enjoy spending more time together when you use your unique strengths to make the holidays happier for others!  ( Home for the Holidays)


Potty Training a Strong-Willed Child

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How do you potty train a Strong-Willed Child?  That question could get about a thousand different answers from seasoned parents and child development experts, but I can tell you from personal experience that you might discover it will sometimes seem like nothing works.

It’s one of the biggest milestones in childhood, and most parents expect to get their toddler out of diapers and onto the big toilet somewhere between 18 months and two years of age.  I know I did.  But I didn’t know that many children aren’t interested in the process until after age 3, and my twin boys didn’t seem to be in a hurry at all.

I had plans for them—preschool, swimming lessons, and other exciting things that just wouldn’t work if they were still in diapers.  I wanted to get this show on the road!  My strong will kicked into gear, but I ran full speed into two small but determined strong-willed obstacles who insisted on deciding for themselves when they were ready.

I must have tried a hundred ideas as I listened to very diverse suggestions from well-meaning parents who had already weathered this phase (and more than a few of those parents boasted that they had succeeded with their child at a much earlier age than my boys were).  But after trying everything from Cheerios floating in the toilet as targets to bribing them with anything they wanted at Toys-R-Us, I was facing daily frustration and defeat.

I finally took the boys to our pediatrician to make sure there was nothing physically wrong with them.  After an examination, the doctor smiled at me as she said, “There’s nothing wrong with either boy—they’re perfectly normal.  I think maybe this whole process is a little too important to you.”  What?  Of course it’s important!  She nodded, but reminded me of something I should have already known.  “This is one area your child can control—and you can’t force a child to be potty trained.  Try to relax and back off a little.  They won’t go to college in diapers, you know.  Enjoy them while they’re experiencing childhood.”

I thought about that and decided I really was a little too anxious to simply get this whole stage over with.  Maybe I should just smile at them more, and figure out some way I could share control with them without letting them think they were the ones in charge.

My mom provided daycare for me at the time, and she came up with a great idea.  Both boys were wearing a pull-up style of diapers, so we told the boys that from now on we were going to teach them how to change their own pants when they needed to.  We patiently demonstrated how to dispose of the pull-up and where to find the new one, and we did this every time a change was necessary.  Our voices stayed calm and cheerful, and at first the boys looked a little confused about what was happening.  When a boy would ask how soon until Daddy got home (figuring he might be a softer touch), he usually found out it would be several hours, so he eventually gave in and changed his own pants.  It took less than two weeks for both boys to be in big-boy pants.

This is just one of those hundreds of good suggestions for how to potty train your child, but I can tell you there are at least three very basic tips that will almost always work with a Strong-Willed Child:

  1. Recognize you can’t force your child to be potty trained.  Back off—smile more; threaten and bribe less.
  2. Look for ways to share control of the situation.  Try to figure out how you can let your child help steer this process.   (Try asking more questions, e.g., “Are you ready to change your pants?”  “Would you like to feel dry instead of wet?”)
  3. Keep your voice calm, firm and respectful.

Remember—this too will pass, and college comes sooner than you think!

An Emergency With A Purpose

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I noticed her as she boarded our plane this past Monday. We were coming home to Seattle from speaking at a conference in Honolulu. In her mid to late seventies, this lady was bent over and walked slowly as she took her seat. She had a kind face and was wearing a soft lavender sweater, and as we exchanged a smile I briefly thought about how difficult it would be to have a body that could no longer keep up with my mind and heart. Shortly after takeoff, she painstakingly made her way down the aisle to the bathroom, then slowly back to her aisle seat just two rows in front of me. I might have imagined it, but from behind she seemed to have an air of resignation and sadness about her.

We’d been in the air about two and a half hours when there was a commotion several rows behind us. A flight attendant came to the exit row where I was sitting and took an oxygen tank out of the overhead bin. There was a flurry of activity and a request came over the loudspeaker: Was there someone on the plane with medical qualifications or experience? As I thought about being over the vast Pacific Ocean, a good 3 hours from any land, I listened intently for someone to volunteer their professional medical assistance. I was wishing I had something to offer, but unless they needed someone with law enforcement background to tackle a criminal or provide some crowd control, I knew I probably wouldn’t be much help.

The silence was deafening and uncomfortable. Passengers were craning their necks to see what was going on and looking around to see if there might be a doctor on board. After a minute or two, the request was repeated as the flight attendants scanned the crowded seats. Another minute went by before one lonely light appeared and a small “ding” indicated there was a volunteer.

It was the older lady wearing the lavender sweater. One of the flight attendants rushed over and bent down to talk to her, then said to another attendant, “She’s an M.D.” Helping the lady to her feet, she pointed toward the back of the plane where the patient was sitting. As the older lady passed my seat, I noticed she wasn’t walking slowly anymore—and she was standing straighter. Her eyes were bright and alert and her whole presence seemed alive with purpose. “I’ll need a stethoscope,” she told the flight attendant, who quickly ran to get one.

Everything turned out all right—the patient was stabilized and made comfortable with oxygen and the lady in lavender returned to her seat and was thanked profusely by the flight crew. We flew on to Seattle without incident or delay, and the rest of the flight was uneventful.

I couldn’t help thinking what a difference it makes when a person has a distinct and much-needed purpose. Here was a retired M.D. who was bent with pain and age and maybe even feeling like her useful days were behind her. And then the call went out for help with something she was uniquely qualified to do—and suddenly she mattered again. Years melted away, pain receded into the background, and she was striding down that aisle with a purpose only she could fulfill.

Isn’t that the way it is with all of us? We’re at our best when we have a grasp of what we’re called to do, and when our strengths are being used in the best possible way. I just wonder – when we feel depressed, disappointed, or even useless – if it could make a huge difference if we would just find ways to deliberately use the strengths we possess. In fact, maybe we could encourage others we love by pointing out what they do well, and helping them find ways to use those strengths to give them purpose and a reason to celebrate life.

Someone you know needs this reminder–who can you reach out to today?