How do you encourage kids to be champions?

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Junior Olympics third-place relay team.

The third time is the charm. The book Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Carol. S. Dweck, Ph.D. Stanford University, was recommended to me three times. First, by a long-time coach, Tim Hill. Second, I heard about it in a webinar by David Benzel from Growing Champions for Life. Third, my son’s employer gave him the book on his first day at work and he said I had to read it. So, I finally did. I highly recommend that you read it, too.

Mindset is packed full of studies, research and entertaining stories about students, parents, teachers—and well-known musicians, coaches and athletes. In one chapter called, “Sports: The Mindset of a Champion,” I learned about the growth mindsets of tremendous athletes such as Michael Jordan and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. In another chapter called “Parents, Teachers and Coaches: Where do Mindsets Come From?” it described the differences in mindsets of two college basketball coaches—John Wooden and Bob Knight.

Dweck explained fixed versus growth mindsets: “In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.

“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. And nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the world of sports. You can just watch people stretch and grow.”

Although people are usually a mixture of both mindsets, since mindsets are beliefs, they can be changed. We should encourage our kids to have growth mindsets because they will thrive in the long run by learning how to work harder and smarter. They won’t be afraid of a challenge and they will persevere.

If we constantly tell our kids how smart or how athletically gifted they are, we are giving them a fixed mindset. That means they will believe in their innate talent, and that hard work will label them as NOT talented. When things get harder, they will not rise to the challenge. They will lose interest or go back to finding something easier for them, so they can still be recognized as being a “genius” or “gifted athlete.”

What we should do is recognize our kids’ hard work. We need to tie in the process they go through to achievement. If we notice our children are working hard, but not achieving the success they desire, maybe they aren’t using the right strategies. We can help them try a new method.

The best teachers and coaches are ones with growth mindsets. They haven’t predetermined a child’s success. They treat all their students and athletes as important and they figure out a way to help each individual grow and thrive.

What is the mindset of a champion?

“It goes by different names, but it’s the same thing. It’s what makes you practice, and it’s what allows you to dig down and pull it out when you most need it,” Dweck wrote.

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Sectionals a few years later.

In what areas do you have a fixed or growth mindset? 

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Why Palm Springs High and All Kids Need Latin

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My son wearing his Latin laurel wreath on graduation night.

The reason I’m reminiscing about how much my kids loved Latin and Mrs. Lazarova is that the administrators are threatening to shut down the Latin program. There is a meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday, June 12) at the Palm Springs Unified School District meeting at 6 p.m. with many people attending in support of the PSHS Latin program. I’ve heard that Mrs. Lazarova was not given a single Latin class to teach next school year. Here’s a link to the Facebook Page that was started by former students of Mrs. Lazarova (Save Latin at Palm Springs Highschool). 

One of the best things about Palm Springs High School, if not the best thing, is the Latin program. Both of my children took four years of Latin from Svetlana Lazarova, who is an outstanding teacher because of her passion. She cares about each student and teaches them not only Latin, but history, grammar, Western Civilization and the importance of being good people throughout their lives.

I was amazed when my son asked us to attend Latin Night at the end of his freshman year. I had no idea what to expect, but after the first year, I looked forward to the evening as a highlight and culmination of all their hard work. Not only were the National Latin Exam awards handed out, but each class made presentations from short plays to reciting Cicero. The senior class always put together a tribute to Mrs. Lazarova and it would be side-splitting funny or so emotional I would wipe tears from my eyes. At the end, before cake, Mrs. Lazarova gave each senior a laurel wreath and a hug. The Latin seniors would proudly wear their laurel wreaths at graduation night.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to cut such a valuable program. Latin is sometimes called a dead language, but the study of Latin offers so much more than language. Latin is critical to the root words of our English. If your kids want to be doctors, attorneys or earn a degree in any science, they’ll need Latin.  If you Google “why should my child take Latin” you’ll find countless articles like this one posted by Thought Co:

The Benefits of Learning Latin

I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.
— From the National Review.

Latin Helps With English Grammar
While neither the language nor grammar of English derives from Latin, many of our grammatical rules do. For instance, since you CAN’T have a dangling preposition in Latin, certain purists consider it bad form in English (see Latin Grammar: Comparisons Between English and Latin).

Latin Makes You More Careful in English
In Latin, you have more to worry about than whether a plural pronoun refers to a singular noun (as in the politically correct – grammatically incorrect: each student has their own workbook).

In Latin, there are 7 cases with which not only pronouns but adjectives — not to mention verbs — must agree. Learning such rules makes the student careful in English.

But more important is the fact that traditional study of Latin starts out with a grammatical framework… As American students begin Latin, they become acquainted with the “Latin grammar” system, which they can indirectly transfer to their work in English. What it gives them is a standardized set of terms in which to describe words in relations to other words in sentences, and it is this grammatical awareness which makes their English writing good.
–William Harris

Latin Helps You Maximize SAT scores
This sells Latin programs. Through Latin, test takers can guess at the meanings of new words because they already know the roots and prefixes. But it’s not just enhanced vocabulary. Math scores also increase.

Latin Increases Accuracy
This may be due to the increased accuracy Professor Emeritus William Harris notes:​

“From another point of view, the study of Latin does foster precision in the use of words. Since one reads Latin closely and carefully, often word by word, this focuses the student’s mind on individual words and their usage. It has been noticed that people who have studied Latin in school usually write quite good English prose. There may be a certain amount of stylistic imitation involved, but more important is the habit of reading closely and following important texts with accuracy.”

I asked my children what they learned while taking Latin and they both said it helped them with their SATs, vocabulary, understanding literature, grammar, mythology and learning about the beginning of Western Civilization. Mrs. Lazarova taught them about the culture and included art and food in her program. My kids are smarter and more intelligent because of their years with Mrs. Lazarova. They are also better people, because of Mrs. Lazarova’s emphasis on character and being a caring member of society. It’s so competitive to get into colleges these days, why wouldn’t you want your kids to study Latin, increase their SAT scores and show on their transcripts that they studied Latin for four years?

One study I read states that only 18 percent of public schools offer Latin while more than 80 percent of private schools do. So, is it the point of our Palm Springs school district to restrict the ability of our public school children to compete with those in private schools? What is the purpose of canceling the Latin program? If our children continue with Latin, why wouldn’t want the best teacher there?

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My son and friend at high school graduation.

What do you see as the major benefit of studying Latin?

Warning: No Cartwheels Allowed!

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My son getting ready to jump on a mini trampoline.

When I was a kid, we cartwheeled all over the place. At my children’s elementary school, girls were cartwheeling around the playground daily. Their second-grade teacher cartwheeled in the classroom much to the amazement of her students. Yes, we all wore shorts under our skirts, so there was nothing unseemly about it. I find it fascinating that all the cartwheeling was being done by girls. I wonder why boys don’t find it as much fun? I used to try to string a bunch of cartwheels together and keep in a straight line across the grass. Recently, I tried to cartwheel on the beach, but alas, it’s a skill I no longer have–and it hurts!

Now, I read that a principal in a Canadian school has outlawed the cartwheel. That’s right, cartwheels are not allowed on the school grounds. The main reason? Because they are fearful of lawsuits if a cartwheeler were to get injured or injure someone else. Not that there has ever been a single report of a broken bone or sprain due to cartwheels.

Here are some excerpts from articles about the new cartwheel ban:

From CBC news:

‘Let them cartwheel’: northern Ontario mom speaks up about proposed ban

A mom in Callander, south of North Bay, Ont., says she is outraged that her daughter’s school is considering banning cartwheels on school property.

Stephanie Balen says M. T. Davidson Public School has the rule listed in its draft-form student handbooks. That document will be voted on by the student advisory council in early October.

Balen’s nine-year-old daughter Grace goes to the school and wants to be able to do cartwheels on the school grounds during recess.

Balen says it’s important to stop the ripple effect before it gets out of hand.

“What if they try to do something else? What if they say you know, you’re not allowed to run, you’re not allowed to breathe, you’re not allowed to laugh,” she said.

Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles wrote for The Nugget:

Cartwheels banned from school playground

Cartwheels have been banned at M.T. Davidson Public School in Callander.

Cartwheels are not permitted on school property in the playground rules section of the school’s draft handbook for 2017-18. The rule came into effect this school year even though injuries have not been reported, principal Todd Gribbon admitted.

“The activity can cause concussions, and neck and wrist injuries,” he said.

Gribbon said the school handbook is in draft form and the safe school advisory committee will meet Oct. 2. to review the document.

However, the 14-page document doesn’t offer an opportunity for feedback. But parents and students are required to sign the code of conduct sheet and return it to the school.

The Nugget checked a few other North Bay schools’ code of conduct and didn’t find cartwheels banned elsewhere. They are, however, not permitted at some schools in Britain and Australia.

A Toronto school made news recently when it banned all balls from its premises after a parent who was hit by a ball suffered a concussion. A few schools in the U.S. have banned footballs, soccer balls, baseballs and lacrosse balls.

imagesLenore Skenazy of free-range parenting fame wrote on Reason.com:

Canadian School Bans Cartwheeling, Because We Can’t Be Too Careful

Risks? What about the risk of never taking a risk?

True—any activity, including a cartwheel, can cause injury. Walking down the stairs can cause falls resulting in concussions, neck, and wrist injuries. Walking outside can get you hit by a car. Swimmers can drown. Bakers can catch their hair on fire. Those brave enough to consume solid food can choke. Students sitting still too long can get embolisms.

The precautionary principle—why do something that could cause harm?—seems prudent until you realize it often doesn’t distinguish between a calculated risk and what if something terrible happens? Recall that just the other day, a New York Times reporter said it was a bad idea for a kid to mow a lawn, even if it’s the White House lawn, because there could be an accident. Really, we are idiots when it comes to risk. We think that there’s risk vs. no risk—so why would any ever choose the former?

In the real world, it’s always risk vs. other risk. The risk of walking to school seems too great to many people, who forget there’s a risk in being driven. There’s a risk in doing cartwheels that is offset by the risk of not doing cartwheels. Kids playing, loving the outside, running around, being active, learning balance—all aspects of cartwheeling—may heighten their risk of wrist injuries while lowering their risk of obesity, heart disease, and school-hating-syndrome. The risk of learning to take a risk decreases the crippling fear of risks. The crippling fear of risks (also known as “insurance brain”) leads to faulty risk assessments.

Which leads to no cartwheels.

In “Time to remove the bubble wrap” by Brynna Leslie of Ottawa West News:

“The activity can cause concussions, and neck and wrist injuries,” principal Todd Gibbon told media outlets. He confirmed, however, the rules were not being implemented in response to an actual event. In other words, no one had ever been harmed during a cartwheel on the schoolyard.

It’s the latest in a slew of ridiculous rules imposed by organizations to prevent kids from taking risks of any kind.

Dr. Mark Tremblay, director of healthy active living and obesity research at CHEO, says he was disappointed but not surprised when he read the news about the cartwheel ban.

“This fear of litigation and the sterilization of play that has permeated our society, I’m not sure anything would surprise me anymore,” says Tremblay.

He notes, however, that despite best intentions from school authorities, community organizations and parents around “keeping kids safe,” we are doing more harm than good by restricting children’s access to free, outdoor play.

“In any other aspect of our lives — take finances for example — we would do a cost-benefit analysis before making any decisions,” says Tremblay. “But when it comes to something like banning cartwheels, we only look at one side of the equation, which is the potential risk, without balancing the positive.

“What good might come out of kids doing cartwheels?  Maybe they’ll have fun, maybe they’ll have an opportunity to develop better motor skills, maybe they’ll get stronger.”

Tremblay notes that in our efforts to keep kids safe by keeping them indoors, we are inadvertently having a negative impact on their physical, social and emotional health.

“The physical health impact is extraordinary,” he says. “First, and intuitive to most people, if kids aren’t moving as much, their hearts, muscles and bones aren’t as strong.”

Tremblay notes that while organized sport has emerged to take the place of free play, far more injuries occur within structured activities, yet without the holistic health benefits of free outdoor play.

By keeping kids indoors, always structured, often on screens, we are conditioning them to be risk-averse or paranoid of the basic things in life, he notes. As screen time displaces social time, we’re also severely limiting interactions with other humans. By restricting kids’ opportunities to find and solve challenges, we are raising generations of adults who have difficulty managing emotions, are prone to anxiety and other mental disorders and are often incapable of problem-solving.

“The more we restrict and confine what people can do in the outdoors, the more we restrict the possible learning that can be done, the experiences children can have, the tools they can add to the tool box to be creative, problem-solving adults,” says Tremblay.

 

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An old-fashioned merry-go-round.

The question I need to ask is have we gone too far with this cartwheel ban? I think so! I remember when my kids were really little and we had all this fun, but “dangerous” equipment at the park. There was a stagecoach that I climbed in with my kids to pretend we were getting away from the bad guys. There was an old-fashioned merry-go-round made out of metal and a tall scary slide, that made me more than nervous when my three-year-old son climbed to the top–out of my reach. The city replaced all the equipment with the new modern plastic stuff on a spongy surface–and my kids lost interest in the playground once and for all.

As for cartwheels, my girlfriends and I practiced them for hours–along with the impossible flip. I never could master that one. And you know what? None of us got hurt one tiny bit.

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My daughter at age two with her first swim instructor jumping off the diving board.

What do you think about banning cartwheels and what does it have to say about our society today?

 

 

Should we help with our children’s homework?

 

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Those were the days! My kids had piano practice in addition to homework.

The school year has begun and for many parents, that means evenings spent with the onerous task of getting their kids to do their homework. Plus, parents are transporting their kids to sports, dance, music or other whatever activities their kids may be enrolled in. With busy, hectic schedules, we may want to help out with homework to make life easier.

 

I have only one memory of my parents helping me with my homework—it was a map for a geography class. Other than that, I was on my own. My mom had a rule that we had to get our work done before we played—so I was pretty good at getting things done so I’d have free time.

These days, many schools want parents to get involved and have a “parental portal” so they exactly what is expected for homework. My kids’ elementary school had a “homework hotline” and every afternoon we’d listen to it together. Is all this helping and communicating with mom and dad helpful or hurting our kids?

One parent was feeling “between a rock and hard place” with the instructions from their children’s school. In a parenting advice column in the Fort Wayne, IN News Sentinel a parent asked:

“…In addition, the “Parent Portal,” as it’s called, also lets us know what we are expected to help with at home. In effect, we are being made responsible for what, in our estimation, is a teacher’s responsibility. We are expected to know the material, monitor homework, and see to it that every assignment is not only done, but done properly.”

Here’s part of the answer written by a family psychologist John Rosemond in his parenting column called “Parent portal source of angst for parents:”

“…A very good friend of mine with three school-age children says, ‘These parent portals bring a whole new level of crazy to parental over-involvement.’ From the get-go, my friend let her children know that they were wholly responsible for their homework assignments and that their job was to make sure she and their father never had to get involved.

“These parent homework portals take advantage of ubiquitous parent anxiety — borne largely by mothers who seem to think that their children’s grades reflect the quality of their parenting — regarding school achievement and successfully turn many parents/moms into micromanaging enablers. In so doing, teachers transfer a significant amount of responsibility for academic instruction to the home.

“It is a fact without exceptions that enabling weakens. In this case, it weakens a child’s sense of personal responsibility and is, therefore, self-fulfilling. The more the parent enables, the more enabling the child in question seems to need. “I can’t!” becomes a frequent complaint.”

You may question why the schools are doing this? Why are they making crazy parents lives even crazier? One reason according to Rosemond is the standardized testing. Schools want to see good test scores and getting parents involved ensures better results.

My question is this, why do schools care more about test scores than the development of our children?

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Swim practice six days a week and meets kept them busy!

Three Tips for Studying for Finals

images-1My daughter, who is a freshman in college, is facing a lot of stress. It’s finals week coming up, plus she’s getting ready to move out of her dorm into a house with new roommates. Add to these stressors the fact that she’s gotten sick with a sinus infection and is struggling physically. That’s a lot to handle in one short week.

I offered to visit and be there for her. I don’t know what I would do for her, but somehow my presence might make some of this go away? She said she can handle it on her own.

imgresMy advice to her was to focus on her school work. Get lots of rest. Don’t get caught up in anxiety and drama.

Part of her stress is facing four finals to study for at once. It seems overwhelming. I gave her the following three tips to break it down and make it easier—after all, “how do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.images

1. Block out time. Make a calendar, mark off the time for classes, meals, and swimming. Then you’ll get a clear picture of your available study time.

2. Take frequent breaks. Schedule your study time in half-hour to hour blocks. Drink plenty of water during your breaks.imgres-1

3. Write by hand. Don’t type up notes. I found through my years of studying there is a direct connection between handwriting to the brain. This is anecdotal, but I could always remember things better when I wrote notes as opposed to staring at and reading, or typing them. I would take out a notebook, or note cards, and hand write everything I needed to know. It sticks in your brain.images-2

I hope my tips help her, and that she makes it through the finals week in one piece. 

What tips do you have for finals week?