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Students are more than just a letter grade

In a time when we are seeing an all time high in rates of anxiety and depression among adolescents and teens, what can you do to help make the school year less stressful? It’s important to recognize that there is more to a well adjusted student than just high marks and achievements. Yet in a system that seems to be focused on high test scores, celebrates publicly students who make the honor roll and social media splashing “perfect” promposals, how do you let your child know that they matter too?

Don’t get me wrong. Academic achievement is great and those students who earn all A’s absolutely deserve recognition. But it’s important that your children know they are more than just a letter grade and your grade point average does not determine your value as a human being. Focusing on the following 4 tips can help you do just that.

Teach your students to have a Positive & Growth mindset                                                                                          Studies have shown that it’s not just your IQ that affect your cognitive performance. Believing you are capable and that you can do it will actually set the stage for you to do your best. So when your kids are saying things like “I am so nervous for my test tomorrow” or “it’s so hard, I just can’t do it” encourage them to change that inner critic. Teach them instead to tell themselves “I’ve got this” and “I have prepared as best I can and whatever grade I get, it is good enough. You can also foster a growth mindset by watching how you praise your children. Instead of saying “you’re so smart” when they bring home test and homework scores, say things like “look how your hard work paid off. I am so proud of your efforts”. This teaches your children that if the take the time to study and problem solve, they can feel good about themselves regardless of the grade.

Focus on Strengths not Weaknesses For some reason we as humans tend to easily latch on to the things that are more negative in our lives than the positive. If someone pays us a compliment we smile and say thank you and the moment is over. But if someone criticizes us, we ruminate about it for days! Likewise, if your students is struggling with a subject or an assignment, it is not uncommon to hear things like “I am terrible at this, I can’t do anything right”! Help them to recognize this generalized catastrophe thinking and point out that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and by focusing on our strengths we can foster better self esteem. You can let them know that there are those few people who learn things very easily and seem to excel in every subject, but they are the exception and not the norm. Everyone has different styles of learning and most students have one or two subjects where they really excel. Have them recognize their strengths in those areas and encourage them to explore how they might consider ways they could build a career around those skills. After all, if we pursue a career in something we are passionate about and that plays to our strengths, we are far more likely to be fulfilled and satisfied adults. Just like there’s more to students than grades, there is more to life than just a high salary. Start setting the pattern now for your children to focus on what they enjoy, what their strengths are and give them permission to recognize that ALL kinds of skills are valuable skills!

Avoid Comparison Comparing ourselves to other people is a trap we all fall into from time to time, and it is a game where you will never be the winner. In our minds, there will ALWAYS be somebody smarter, richer, prettier than us, the list goes on and on. Here’s the thing, there is NO NEED for us to compare. There is enough room in this wide vast world of ours for us all to flourish! And often times when students are comparing themselves to their classmates, they tend to be looking at their (perceived) weaker areas or flaws and holding them up at someone else’s (perceived) “best self”. Help your children recognize that they are living their own life, not the life of their friend or classmate and that THEY have special gifts and talents that are just theirs. It’s important too that your student knows WHATEVER those gifts are, they are valuable! The student who gets straight A’s is not necessarily smarter and their skills are definitely not more important. The world is full of all kinds of learners; dancers, engineers, authors, plumbers, and ALL of those skills are needed by society. So help your child to figure out what they are good at and encourage them to take pride in who they are as individuals.

Let students know that Failure is Normal and Acceptable I think we do an extreme disservice to our children by placing such an emphasis on getting the A, being the best, and pacifying them when something doesn’t go their way. And this is not a shaming session! I was a huge offender of this! But failure and mistakes are NORMAL parts of life and if we don’t create the space for it to happen we are grooming perfectionists who will struggle with anxiety in their adult lives and won’t have skills for dealing with disappointment. In addition, students who are afraid to fail will not learn to take risks, and taking risks is necessary for growth and innovation. So next time your student brings bombs a project, struggles with an assignment, or isn’t voted on to homecoming court, instead of doing everything you can to instantly make them feel better, help them identify their feelings and let them know that even though they are sad and disappointed right now, it will pass and they will be OK. This teaches our children that ALL emotions are normal and healthy and it teaches resilience! Raising a resilient, emotionally intelligent child is a huge gift! And that my friends is far more important and will carry them further in life than ANY letter grade!

From Crisis to Discovery

 

 

I am on a mission! A mission to redefine what I believe to be an old and outdated phrase with a new, more positive one that reflects what I think is really going on. Have you ever wondered why it’s called a mid-life crisis? When I hear that phrase I picture an older man leaving his wife, buying a red corvette and picking up a 22 year old blonde bombshell as his new companion. But in real-life, how many people do you know that have actually done that? Now, I am not claiming there aren’t any. I’m sure that does happen, and with the roles reversed too, older woman leaving spouse for younger man. But I think  more often than not, what is actually happening when a lot of us hit our later 40’s and early 50’s is this: The kids have finally left the house, which means life has naturally slowed down a bit, and we are left wondering, “what the heck now?” Read on to learn why I believe we can throw mid-life crisis out the window and embrace the mid-life discovery!

The Early Days: You know, that time when you are in your 20’s, still dreaming and planning your future, and some of us already working hard to make it happen. At this point in your life you have endless energy, very few responsibilities other than to yourself, and although I am not suggesting there are no struggles or hardships, it’s really a time of possibility, vision, and often times, a lot of fun. Life hasn’t become so routine just yet, and your enthusiasm and curiosity are at their peak!

Young-ish: You’ve been at this gig for a while now. Routine is routine. Your life likely looks something like this. Monday-Friday, wake up, get kids dressed, ready, and off to school, or if you don’t have kids, skip straight to this next part. Work 8-5,maybe 6, then head home for any of the following scenarios: Soccer practice, homework,dinner, cleanup, fall into bed exhausted. Or, workout, shower, dinner, more work, maybe some TV (or truthfully you’re both scrolling through your phones), fall into bed exhausted. On the weekends, it’s clean-up, catch-up, and maybe dinner and drinks with friends. Is this fun? Sure. Is it fabulous? Truth be told, you don’t even know any different. Life gets so busy and you just keep going, just keep doing, until 15-20 years go by and one day you have time to breathe.

Mid-Life Discovery: Notice I did not say crisis here! Here’s the thing, I think it can “feel” like a crisis. You’re a little older, hopefully a little wiser, and you start to find yourself thinking “there has to be more than this”. At this point, I think people start to panic. They feel lost. They realize that they have been so busy being spouse/parent/employee that they don’t even really know who they even are anymore. They realize that their not exactly feeling happy, and that’s scary! Does that mean your marriage is a mess or your job is awful? Not necessarily (although for some people they may find this is the case). Take a deep breath though before you decide to toss it all aside and go buy yourself a sports car! This is just a new opportunity. A new phase of your life. A time when you can REALLY step into who you are and what REALLY matters to you! And if you don’t know? Well what a fun adventure! You are at a point in your life when you don’t have to answer to your parents, if you have children, they are well on their way, and it’s finally YOU TIME! So avert the crisis and deep dive into discovering you! The next few decades are out there waiting!

-next week I will share some tips on how to get started on that deep dive

 

 

The Most Beautiful Gift is Knowing you Have Touched Someone’s Life

This post is a bit lengthy, but if you have a teenager, please read on. I recently received this paper that a teenage client of mine submitted for her personal statement assignment. I cried when I read it. Not just because I was so touched by her words, but also because I am so happy and proud of her for all of the progress she has made. Being of service fills my soul. Coaching is my passion. And she gave me permission to share her story in the hopes that it might help other teenagers that are struggling just like she used to. (I have removed her name for privacy.)

“It’s the effin’ process” bursts out of her mouth every single time I get frustrated. It is her go to line. First and foremost, she is my personal coach, which is very similar to a therapist. However, she is also my role model, and I push myself to be more like her every day. She is spunky, carefree, and incredibly successful. Not only does she encompass all those wonderful characteristics, but she is also creative, helpful, and honest. Her life experiences and coaching abilities can alter people’s lives forever, and I know this from first-hand experience. She changed my life for the better, and I will always be incredibly grateful for our relationship. She is remarkable, and her name is Becky Barror.

I remember the day we met like it was yesterday. My mom and I walked into this “stranger’s” house to have an initial consultation. My hands sweat as I shook her hand and took a seat on her brown, velour couch. She casually told me about her life and how she became a personal coach. Then, she let me talk and talk and talk more as tears dripped down my face as I shared some of the hardships I had faced in the past and present. Now that I look back, it puts the most pure smile on my face. When I started this journey of self-love and personal growth, I was the epitome and definition of broken. Becky saved me from myself, and a simple “thank you” just does not seem like it is enough. I started out keeping all of my emotions and thoughts buried deep inside, and I never would speak my truth. I was horrendous at communicating, but Becky changed that by encouraging me speak my own truth. On top of that, I was also a hypocrite as I thought my way was the right way. I was so set in my ways. I made life impossible and cut the best individuals out of my life. I remember as clear as day that I was constantly worried, and all I wanted was to be safe. However, safe for me meant I was unable to live my life to its fullest potential. To add to being safe, fear consumed me in all aspects of life because I was so afraid of getting hurt.

There came a point in the fall of 2018 when my mom decided she did not care what financial burden might result. She knew I needed someone to guide me through some difficult times. Becky was referred to my mom by her long-time friend. She knew many people who had worked with Becky through different hurdles in life that were thrown their way including changes in jobs, divorce, death, and general well-being. When I had my first official session, she was just too much for me. She was so positive and could rationalize through anything. Over time, she started to grow on me. However, at the time, I did not believe in her strategies. I doubted her. Becky helped me uncover some of my faults. First, I was very judgmental to the point that I hated most people, which makes me sound like a monster. Once Becky started to talk me through this, I began to judge less. She pointed out and helped me realize I needed to work on trust. I have major trust issues that stem back to middle school. It was the faith I lacked, which Freire explained was needed to communicate effectively (Freire, 1968). I came to Becky close-minded but also determined to work, especially since my parents were willing to pay for me to seek the help I desperately needed. I was so stubborn, so it took a special person to help me change. With her ways, she’s changed me to be open-minded about everything and anything. Last summer I had no drive to take action, but with Becky’s guidance, I now act on what I say. I started out silent and non-existent, which is long gone.

As time went on, I was stuck as an individual. I cried every time I had a session with her, and I thought that defined me as weak. However, Becky made me realize the opposite; it was just emotions. While working through my struggle, she made me reflect on the truths I believe. When putting action and reflection together, like Paulo Freire said to do in the “Pedagogy Of The Oppressed,” I started to view things differently, and it changed my outlooks on certain ideas. Continuous reflection has changed how I see the world as a whole (Freire, 1968). I took and still take advice from Becky like it is the rule book of life. She has pointed out all of the lies I have made up about myself, others, and situations. She made me realize lies I did not even know I was telling myself. Then, I slowly started to accept myself and others once I started affirmations, journaling, and working out. Together, Becky and I have built mutual trust, but that is one of very few relationships that I have faith in. I am not going to lie, during this period there were times I despised Becky because deep down I knew she was right. However, the things she was telling me I did not like to hear. To explain myself a little bit, I am the definition of humble, but in a bad way. I always would put others first, neglecting myself. Now, Becky has made me see myself as a priority but not that I am better than anyone. This ties to Freire’s thinking on the “true elements of dialogue” under the idea of humility. She made me realize everyone is unique in their own way. During this time, I was single-minded and did not take anyone’s opinion as plausible. I changed my reality. I was a “naive thinker” because I did what people thought I should do. Now, I do what I want to do.

I met with Becky on a regular basis and worked extremely hard to find what was missing in my life. I found my purpose and self-worth. Before, I had no feeling or meaning in my life. Now, I have faith in other people. I try to understand people’s beliefs and values before shooting them down. Because I was closed off, this impacted my relationships. My friends and family would not share their ideas because I did not try to understand them. At one point, I got cut off from my best friend because she was afraid of my judgement. Becky made me step into other people’s shoes, and I realized none of us are “perfect.” I am a perfectionist or should I say was? Becky taught me through proof that no one can be perfect as it is impossible.

Over time, I have become more accepting and less judgmental since I started this relationship. I started out shy and unwilling to be heard. I have not lost myself in this relationship, but I have bettered myself to be who I want to be. My favorite part of my relationship with Becky is the deep conversations we have. While working on my communication, I have become more positive and I see things from different viewpoints. Becky told me that when I love myself, things will fall into place. Boy was she right! I want to believe and trust people, but it frightens me a bit. Therefore, I continue to work on it. Our communication is like no one else’s because of truth and honesty. We now text all the time, and she has opened my eyes to new things like yoga. I have so much trust in Becky, and I can tell her everything because I know she will not judge. I trust her enough to tell her the good, bad, and embarrassing. When Freire explained profound love, he emphasized the need to be open-minded because you cannot communicate if there is fear (Freire, 1968). Also, I have done more critical thinking with Becky than anyone else. We do it constantly, and I truly believe it is what pulled me out of my rut. Happiness is now abundant in my life, and I truly believe like Waldinger said that effective communication does make a person more happy and fulfilled (Waldinger, 2015).

Today, the “effin’ process” continues, and every day, I make the slightest bit of progress. If this process were a math problem and I added up all of the little bits of growth from the first time I met Becky, the outcome would be staggering. Our relationship has been life changing for me. She has become like a best friend and a second mom to me. When I need her, she will always be there to coach me. I trust her, and I love her. I know my future holds great things for not only me, but also for our relationship.