Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How to combine fiction with character education

You may be wondering why Entelechy Education, LLC chose fiction rather than nonfiction to advance children’s knowledge of STEM topics, character education lessons, and literacy learning.  Initially, it was because we thought it would be more fun for young readers.  Now we see that strong research backs this decision!
Here is the abstract from a PLOS ONE research project conducted by P. Matthijs Bal and Martijn Veltkamp, published January 30, 2013: The current study investigated whether fiction experiences change empathy of the reader. Based on transportation theory, it was predicted that when people read fiction, and they are emotionally transported into the story, they become more empathic. Two experiments showed that empathy was influenced over a period of one week for people who read a fictional story, but only when they were emotionally transported into the story. No transportation led to lower empathy in both studies, while study 1 showed that high transportation led to higher empathy among fiction readers. These effects were not found for people in the control condition where people read non-fiction. The study showed that fiction influences empathy of the reader, but only under the condition of low or high emotional transportation into the story.
What are the implications for young readers? 
  1. We see that empathy is a key personality trait that leads to a caring and peaceful personality at home and in the classroom.  When children can empathize with others’ problems, they are better able to understand and accept differences. 
  2. When children empathize with fictional characters, they feel a connection to the content of the book, whether that content advances intellectual, moral, or literacy lessons.
  3. When children read about fictional characters and events in an imaginary setting, they tend to become transported into the story.  When that happens, they learn to change their own personalities as a result of becoming one with the story.
  4. Children learn through building on prior knowledge.  Fiction usually presents a world in which children feel comfortable – there are houses, trees, and other natural phenomena that are familiar to them.  By using the emotional connection to a familiar platform to introduce unfamiliar lessons, children will assimilate the knowledge more easily. 
Think about this in your own life.  The last time you read a fiction book, you felt a connection with the characters.  You probably wanted to join them in the plot, showing them where their logic might have been flawed.  When you had finished that book, you wanted the story to continue.  It is that continuation logic that makes fiction so much more educational for young readers.  It will carry over into their everyday lives.
Now think about a nonfiction book you might read, let’s say it was a biography of Alexander Graham Bell.  You learned about his life.  You identified with his need to help his hearing-impaired wife.  But you probably did not empathize with his plight.  Why?  Because nonfiction does not elicit the feelings of empathy that fiction creates.  It merely presents the facts.
The lesson learned here is that the EnteleTrons ™ characters help children learn because they are part of a fiction-based series that presents STEM topics, character education, and literacy learning in each book.  Order your individual and classroom sets now!
Reference: Bal, P. Matthijs and Martijn Veltkamp. “How Does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy? An Experimental Investigation on the Role of Emotional Transportation.” January 30, 2013:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

4-Step guide to purchasing books and materials for your classroom

It’s that time of year again.  The budget is due; grades are due; miscellaneous reports are due.  You are overwhelmed and underappreciated.  You see a mountain of need but a molehill of funds. When it comes to purchasing books and materials for next year’s classes with an ever-shrinking budget, here is a 4-Step guide to help you make intelligent  decisions for a minimum of money to get the most from your district’s allocation.

Step 1 – List the topics you cover in your curriculum on a spreadsheet.  This may seem unnecessary, but it will give you a graphic representation of your entire year. 

Step 2 – When you inventory your supplies, put them into columns associated with your curriculum so you can easily see what you need.

Step 3 – Prioritize your needs.  If you see that you need more books, supplies, and teaching aids to present your unit on the growth cycle, then you would rank that higher than a topic where you had plenty of supplies.

Step 4 – Look for ways to consolidate your needs. See if you can overlap books that cover several topics.  Or maybe a video can be the review for one unit and the introduction for another unit. 

Yes, this process takes even more time from your busy day.  But at the end of the process, you will have a very good idea of what you have, what you need, and how you can most efficiently fill the gaps in the books and resources for your curriculum. Plus, you can use this chart year after year, deleting lost or broken items and adding new resources.

Let’s look at the 4-Step guide in action.  This might be a sample portion of a first grade teacher’s chart:

Curriculum topic
Teaching aids
Other resources
  1. Weather
  1. Tornados
  1. Video on hurricanes
  2. Prism
  1. Cloud paper
  1. Presidents
  1. Kennedy
  2. White House dogs
  1. Computer program
  2. Pictures of presidents
  1. Pattern for Lincoln hat
  2. Washington costume
  1. Cooperation
  1. Three partners
  1. Cooperation poster
  1. Discussion table

From this chart, the teacher sees that she needs more books on weather and cooperation.  She has prioritized them as number one and two.  She investigates individual book titles.  Then she finds the EnteleTrons .  They teach about rainbows and cooperation in the same resource, Where’s Green?.  At the Entelechy Education, LLC website, the teacher finds the FREE EnteleKey Learning Guides that use free and inexpensive materials. 

Use this 4-Step Guide to efficiently use your district's budget and get more resources than if you had purchased individual resources.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Helping children survive in a complex world

According to Danielle Allen, profession of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, “We need all those classes in the STEM fields… and as a nation we must do a better job of preparing our young people in these fields.  But we don’t need to become a nation of technocrats.”*  

At Entelechy Education, LLC, we couldn’t agree more!  Our line of books incorporates STEM education with character education and literacy lessons to create the complete package for lower elementary children.  STEM topics prepare children to succeed in a technological, scientific 21st century.  Character education prepares them to be responsible citizens.  And literacy lessons prepare them to read and write so their intentions are clearly communicated to others. 

The world is a complex place, filled with human relationships and technology advances, in addition to a myriad of written and spoken messages.   The EnteleTrons™ combine this complexity into a fun, easily-understood platform where the characters interact with respect while solving a STEM mystery.  The adventures that the EnteleTrons™ discover help children to see that work can be fun, rather than seeing fun as an escape from work. 

By creating a strong foundation of STEM intelligence meshed with character education and literacy, we see children competing for 21st century occupations in a technically strong, cooperative manner.  We envision them using the skills they learned in the lower elementary grades as they mature into responsible citizens.  And we see those same children having fun, enjoying their path to success. 

It’s time to revise STEM, STEAM (including art), and STREAM (including art and wRiting) to include the STEM-C promoted by Entelechy Education, LLC where character education joins academic education to produce a child capable of surviving both academically and emotionally in that very complex world.
* Allen, Danielle. "The humanities are just as important as STEM classes." The Washington Post opinions, February 14, 2013.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Engage Children in the 5E Learning Cycle with the EnteleTrons™

The 5E Learning Cycle Explained

The 5E Learning Cycle, as presented by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, identifies the five stages of learning a STEM topic: Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Extension, and Evaluation.
Each stage serves a specific purpose in the integration of learning. Each helps the child to develop an understanding of the curriculum focus. Each has merit, but none more than the first – the engagement of the student as motivation to learn. Without engagement, the other four fall into the black hole of apathetic education.

The EnteleTrons™ engage students

Entelechy Education, LLC offers a unique series of EnteleTrons™ books to inspire young readers to investigate the STEM topics through the other four stages of the 5E Learning Cycle. The EnteleTrons™ books present STEM topics in a fictionalized story that will motivate even the most reluctant readers.
Furthermore, the EnteleTrons™ books incorporate valuable character education into every book while developing strong literacy lessons with their accompanying EnteleKey™ Learning Guides. The K-5 student receives an holistic educational approach to science, technology, engineering, math, character education, and literacy.

5E in a K-1 classroom

A sample 5E Learning Cycle on the topic of light refraction to create rainbows in the K-1 classroom might look something like this:
Engagement – Read Where’s Green? and discuss prior knowledge of rainbows.
Exploration – Students use the discovery table to explore different styles of prisms and rainbow-themed crafts.
Explanation – Show a grade-appropriate video that explains the science of light refraction through water and prisms.
Extension – Students develop a way to capture a rainbow in the classroom using an empty jar, available water, white paper, and a sunny window.
Evaluation – Given a paper with only a prism image, students will draw the sunlight filtering through the prism, refracting the light into the seven rainbow colors in proper order.
The other books in the EnteleTrons™ series will present other STEM topics, character education, and literacy lessons in a similar manner for engagement of the young learner in the curriculum. To see the future topics that the three EnteleTrons™, Ellie, Ning, and Priti will tackle in their adventures, go to the K-5 STEM-C™ Literacy Guide.
Order the first title, Where’s Green? by RenĂ©e Heiss and Gary A. Stewart, illustrated by Fay Cofranceso now for your March rainbow-themed activities.
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Resource: Bybee, R., Taylor, J. A., Gardner, A., Van Scotter, P., Carlson, J., Westbrook, A., Landes, N. (2006). The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Origins and Effectiveness. Colorado Springs, CO: BSCS.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Top Five Ways Teachers Can Save Money for Classroom Resources

You are already familiar with requesting freebees from local companies that are happy to help the schools.  And you probably save a variety of items from egg cartons to L’eggs containers for craft projects.  But in today’s economy, it becomes even more important to find other ways to save money so you can have more resources for your classroom.  Here is the Letterman-style countdown…

5.  Design group projects.  This is a teacher's favorite way to save time and materials while encouraging students to cooperate and arrange an order of values.  With a group of three working together, you use 1/3 the materials and take 1/3 the time to grade their projects. (Note: Never use a group of four because in that situation, inevitably one student sits back and watches the project unfold.) 

4. Find retired or retiring teachers.  Many retirees want to downsize or clean their supply cabinets before they leave.  Approach the retiree with the thought that their materials will live on through the next generation of students.  I’m sure that teacher will be very glad to share what she has stockpiled over twenty or thirty years.  (After he or she has retired, feel free to discard unusable materials and save what you need!)

3. Post a teacher’s wish list on your website.  You do have a website, right?  Where you post assignments and extra credit offerings?  If not, start one.  Then let parents know that the homework assignments will be there for their review every night. (Make sure you update it every night.) You’ll be more likely to get finished homework the next day.  Part of your website should be a wish list with a deadline if you have one.  Suppose you need 40 toilet paper rolls by February 4.  Post that request on January 20 and watch the donations come in.  Remember to post a thank you when you reach your quota.  Don’t be afraid to ask for things that cost money.  Maybe you need two dozen black sharpies and three packs of construction paper for a map project.  Let your parents know what you need, how many, the deadline, and what the materials will be used for.  Remember to post pictures of the finished products.

2. Write a grant. Grant money is out there for targeted projects.  Look at this government site as only one example: .  Then click on Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program.  This program deadline for 2012 has passed, but is available every year.  You might apply for classroom sets of books for use in your classroom because they fill the need to provide hi-lo reading material for your reluctant readers.  Grantmakers love this stuff!  See how many creative grants you can write to gain materials for your classroom.

1. And the number one way for teachers to save money is: Combine curricula.  You could get a book on rainbows to use during the science block, another one on cooperation because you find a number of your students lack this quality, and a third on alliteration for your literacy corner.  Or, you can buy one book that satisfies all those qualifications.  Go to Entelechy Education, LLC for examples of books in a new series that combine STEM topics with character education, in a literacy curriculum.

When you use these five suggestions and your own creative ingenuity, watch your resources multiply with a minimum of expense and effort.  With the money you saved, you can get some storage bins to hold it all neatly!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Children learn life lessons from many places

Steven Jobs learned about creating computers from an unlikely source.  The founder of Apple attended a calligraphy class in college.  Later, in a commencement address at Stanford, he noted that the course taught him about beauty, history, and artistry.  How does that apply to computers?  Jobs further explained that without that class, he might never have realized that computer users might need a variety of proportionally-spaced fonts. 

Children also learn lessons from many different places - TV, laptops, tablets, music, and books. What life lessons might children learn by watching reruns of Andy Griffith’s series set in Mayberry?  That everyone has a motive that may not agree with our own.  That children are people, too.  That even the most bumbling character can become a hero.  That people are capable of more than you realize.  The list could go on and on.  Can you say the same thing for a modern TV series?  That’s why we need to sneak character education wherever we can so that children are barraged with good behavior whenever they turn on the TV, open a book, or listen to their music. 

What life lessons do children learn from advertisements?  That it’s okay to steal someone’s bag of chips or box of crackers?  That you can hit someone if you have a good reason?  Sometimes children learn that hard work results in realization of a goal, even if you are a Clydesdale!  Or that the best part of drinking a beverage is the person who is with you when you brew it.  Children learn life lessons from advertisements as much as they learn from the programming.

Finally, what life lessons do children learn from EnteleTrons™ books?  That sometimes you need to step away from a problem to gain perspective (Where’s Green?).  That when you work together, the job becomes easier (Oxygen Finds Friends).  And that change is inevitable, so we need to be flexible (What’s the Matter?) Each book in the EnteleTrons™ series develops a valuable life lesson.
Join the movement to create a caring, considerate next generation that is ready to tackle tough academic problems and can also appreciate individual differences.  Start your children on The EnteleTrons™ series today for a better tomorrow.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A child's literary bill of rights

Your child, at home and in the classroom, has these unalienable literary rights...

  1. A child should have a wide variety of books available at school. A classroom that uses only textbooks limits a child’s reading to only what the teacher (or the established curriculum) has chosen for the class. A classroom library should be organized by topic so a child can become immersed in a topic of interest. Use plastic storage bins labeled by topic and add books as you acquire them. This way you know which topics need additions.
  2. A child should have a wide variety of books available at home. Naturally, your home does not need to look like the children’s section of your local library. However, you should have a rotating rack of books for your child’s selection at all times. Rotating? How does that happen? Easy – trade books with friends, go to a local book exchange, set up a book exchange in your child’s school.
  3. A child should be encouraged to read at least half an hour each day. How do you do that? The best way is by role modeling. If families set aside a Family Reading Time after dinner or before bedtime, the children will begin to expect this activity and plan for the next book they want to read. Teachers don’t have this same luxury because they are bound by a strict schedule and curriculum. They can, however, provide guidelines for implementing the Family Reading Time at home (see the end of this article).
  4. A child should be encouraged to share the knowledge gained from reading a book. You don’t have to have a classroom or family weekly book club discussion, although that might not be a bad idea if you can find the time! Instead, you could have a family book bulletin board where family members post the title of book they just finished with a brief summary or a drawn picture. Divide the bulletin board by age range. Decorate it seasonally – make it attractive to encourage participation!
  5. A child should enjoy reading. This is the single most important item in a Child’s Bill of Literary Rights. If a child enjoys reading, he or she will develop a mature vocabulary that will help him to lead a successful life in school and beyond into adulthood. Consider these statistics and then restructure your family time to include a time to help children enjoy books of all kinds – both fiction and nonfiction:

· Children learn an average of 4,000 to 12,000 new words each year as a result of reading books. (Scholastic: Understanding How Classroom & Libraries Work: Research Results -

· Between grades 1 and 3, it is estimated that economically disadvantaged students' vocabularies increase by about 3,000 words per year and middle-class students' vocabularies increase by about 5,000 words per year. (University of Oregon: Big Ideas in Beginning Reading -

· Research has shown that children who read even ten minutes a day outside of school experience substantially higher rates of vocabulary growth between second and fifth grade than children who do little or no reading. (Robert C. Anderson, 1992, Center for the Study of Reading)

How to schedule a Family Reading Time

The concept of a Family Reading Time may be foreign to some families who are bound by busy sports schedules, an overload of assigned homework, and general housekeeping duties. Here are some ideas for starting and maintaining a Family Reading Time.

  1. Set aside even a half hour every day for reading. This will benefit your children enormously. Be a strong role model by having your own book (either paper or electronic) handy. If you use an electronic book, don’t cheat and read emails while your children read Harry Potter.
  2. By the time children reach school age, their reading habits have already been established. Even infants benefit from the cadence of a parent reading Dr. Seuss to them. Reading aloud while others read silently can be very distracting. Tell the older children that you will be having a special Family Reading Time with the non-readers.
  3. If you read to them only before bedtime, they will come to view reading as something to cause sleepiness. Schedule a Family Reading Time before prime time TV to avoid conflict with preferred programming for the children and the adults in the house. After dinner is a good time for most families.
  4. Sometimes it is difficult to schedule a common Family Reading Time. Ask your children for their input and see if you can establish a common time when they can all agree to read their favorite books. You may only be able to establish a Family Reading Time once or twice a week, rather than once a day. That’s okay! Reading every Sunday night is better than not reading at all.
  5. Remember that the Family Reading Time is for extra reading. Assigned reading for school or work belongs outside of the FUN Family Reading Time. Magazines don’t count, either. People tend to look at the pictures rather than read the stories and articles they contain.
  6. Schedule a monthly trip to the library. Most libraries have four-week intervals for their circulation. Know how many books your child will read in a month and only get that many. If you overload a child with ten books when he or she may only read two in that time period, your child will become overwhelmed and may jump between books without finishing any of them. Be prepared to renew a book for two more weeks if your child doesn’t finish in time.
  7. Take a break from the Family Reading Time occasionally to have a Family Book Event. That might be the creating of book marks (put out poster board, markers, crayons, etc.) and then laminate them. Or you might simply have a discussion about books in general. See what everybody likes about the books they have read. Keep the discussion positive. Don’t allow negative comments. You might even decide to all read the same book and then watch the accompanying or related movie. However, everyone, even the adults, needs to agree to read this book! If only one person does not want to read the book, this event won’t go well. Consider using this time to write letters to grandparents, telling them about the book that their grandchildren just read. What fun!
  8. Set up a reward system for reading the books. I don’t mean you should offer candy for each book read. I mean that you should verbally recognize the reading your child has done by discussing the story. Tell about your book, as well, so he understands that reading isn’t just for kids! Consider creating a Family Reading Time bulletin board where you post titles of books currently being read, or that your family has finished. You might even have a thermometer poster where the red goes up as the number of books read increases. When the red reaches a certain level, go out for ice cream, pizza, or a movie. Get creative with your reward system and customize it to your family’s interests.

Note from Entelechy Ed: The EnteleTrons books are a perfect addition to a teacher’s bookshelf and Family Reading Time. Why? Because our books deliver educational topics in a fun manner. Children learn intellectual STEM topics and moral lessons while they increase their literacy and love of learning through reading about the adventures of the EnteleTronsTM. Enjoy our books as part of a larger unit on those STEM topics or character education. They might just jump start your children to a lifetime of learning through books!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Put the FUN in FUNdamental education

For many generations, people have assumed that children learn only when they are quiet and serious. In some schools, teachers are chastised for an uproarious classroom, filled with activity and laughter. They might even be warned by their fellow teachers that they are disrupting the hallway with their joyous noises. Some parents might argue that allowing children to enjoy their education does not prepare them for the “real world” which rewards serious, thoughtful effort. What a pity we all can’t enjoy ourselves while earning money to support the family! When did fun suddenly become the bad player in an office? In the classroom? On the playing field? Even at home?

Let’s look at the research. In chapter 3 of Judy Willis’s book, Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher (ASCD 2006), she notes that emotional well-being positively influences learning. Willis writes, the truth is that when the joy and comfort are scrubbed from the classroom and replaced with homogeneity, and when spontaneity is replaced with conformity, students’ brains are distanced from effective information processing and long-term memory storage. In other words, when children are happy and spontaneous, they learn more quickly. Conversely, when children fear the outcome of their behavior or grades, they learn less quickly, perhaps not at all. When did educational framework stray from fun to dull, from play to work, and from active to quiet? Or did it really ever stray? Maybe today’s teachers need to learn how to invent the joyful classroom to facilitate learning.
Eric Jensen wrote Teaching with the Brain in Mind (ASCD 2005). He links engagement in learning with a release of dopamine from the brain. Dopamine is responsible for reward-driven learning. Therefore, if you increase the dopamine rushing through children’s bodies, by stressing intrinsic rewards, children not only learn more easily, but they also feel better about themselves as individuals. According to Jensen, the task has to be behaviorally relevant to the learner, which is why the brain will not adapt to senseless tasks. Senseless tasks: worksheets, rote, and sleep-inducing videos. Behaviorally relevant tasks: Games, activities, projects, and group interaction. Intrinsic reward: Performing for the sheer fun of engagement!
In Kinetic Classroom: Activities that Move Students to Learn, Entelechy Education co-founder Renee Heiss presents many ways teachers can incorporate fun and active learning into any regular curriculum content. Turn math facts into a race. Turn geography lessons into a treasure hunt. And turn book reports into a mini-wax museum. Get those children moving and you get the oxygen flowing through their brains. Engage their interest because they find the activity fun and you release dopamine into their bloodstreams. When those two events occur simultaneously – increased oxygen and flow of dopamine – teachers may find fewer discipline problems and higher test scores. And isn’t that the FUNdamental goal of education? To prepare our children for a world filled with new experiences that they are not afraid to investigate.
The Entelechy Education, LLC program provides elementary teachers an holistic approach to increasing that oxygen and dopamine in children. Without character education, children fall short in their ability to learn technical topics. For example, without courage, the child would be unable to take the leap to investigate a new topic. Without cooperation, the child would be unable to work with other students toward a common goal. Without independence, the child would be unable to form unique ideas. And certainly, without creativity, no child would be able to conceptualize innovations The EnteleTrons series of books to begin a FUNdamental investigation into STEM topics while exploring character education issues in the language arts curriculum. Wow! Three or more lessons in one plan based on Core Content Standards!
So what are you waiting for? Get those kids moving! Engage them in meaningful education! Bring The EnteleTrons series of books into your classroom, electrify student learning using the tips in The Kinetic Classroom, and watch your classroom come alive with learning. And then try to convince your administration that your children are actually learning more in your classroom than the one next door where the students are lined up in quiet rows of desks. You’ll need a strong dose of creativity and determination to accomplish that task! Help the administrators in your district to understand the power of engaging student learners in the FUN of their FUNdamental Education.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Do you entertain or engage your young readers?

When you lead a child’s education, do you entertain or engage that child? Entertainment is a passive form of education. You might use funny voices, walk around the room, or show a fancy PowerPoint program. Throughout that “performance,” the children passively watch and sometimes listen to the lesson.

Entelechy Education, LLC believes that actively engaging children in their education develops valuable problem-solving skills and creativity. In engagement, children become active participants in their education. In entertainment, they sit back and observe other people’s (usually parents or teachers) ability to solve problems and be creative.

Here are some tips for engaging children in their education using three traditionally passive, yet somewhat entertaining methods:


· Instead of creating simple programs that use outline-style sentences in each slide, add motion paths, sounds, and emphasis animation.

· Intersperse those slides with interactive slides where students need to answer questions, find a treasure (perhaps hidden in the room), or interact with each other in a group experience.

· Ask different students to use a pointer to show sections of the program to their friends. (Peers are powerful instructors!)


· In prekindergarten and lower elementary grades, teachers and parents generally read the book to the children because they are too young to read. While this certainly develops language skills, passively sitting and listening to the story does not engage the child in the story. Stop periodically to discuss the story, ask anticipatory questions, or help the child relate the story to his or her life.

· In higher elementary grades, where book reports become important, consider creative ways for the students to present their summaries. Instead of standing in front of the room, describing the plot, characters, theme, and setting, ask your students to develop a unique method of presentation:
- A game based on the story that they can play in their groups
- A reader’s theater where everyone in the room has a part in the play that summarizes the story
- A song based on the story where the rest of the class sings the refrain
In other words, encourage involvement with the entire class and use all those “intelligences!”

Blackboard or whiteboard
If you are fortunate enough to have a Smartboard, skip this section because you should be using all the engaging features that product offers. However, if you are still using a whiteboard with the erasable markers or (gasp!) a blackboard that is actually green, then these tips are for you.

· During math, instead of simply writing an equation on the board (3 + 2 = 5), ask five students to come up and demonstrate the equation under the written numbers.

· Are you still giving your students notes to copy from the board? (Really?) If you can’t seem to get out of that habit, then at least leave out a word from each sentence and ask students to develop a list of possible words that will complete the sentence. Go over the correct answer, and send the kids home with their study guide.

· Experiments aren’t just for science class. In Language arts, write the hypothesis on the board (more students prefer similes to metaphors, for example) and then ask your students to develop a method for testing this hypothesis.

By now, you should get the idea that actively engaging students in their education is much preferable to entertaining them throughout the day. It’s also less work for you because the kids do all the work!

Entelechy Education, LLC presents the EnteleKey™ Learning Guides to help engage your students in the STEM, character education, and literacy topics contained in each EnteleTrons™ book.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Helping children achieve mature independence

Children constantly strive for independence, but parents continually stifle that quest for freedom. How? By telling their children what they should do, how they should do it, and where that should happen. You’ve probably been there with your child whose homework wasn’t turned in on time. You tell your child he needs to finish homework before play. You tell your child that she should do homework without the TV playing in the background. You tell him that he needs to do his homework in the kitchen so you can watch as he finishes. Translate that into your own work world. One day you’re late for work because of an accident on the expressway. Your boss tells you that you should leave earlier to plan for accidents. She tells you that you need to plan an alternative route before the accident happens so you’re prepared. Or your boss might actually tell you get one of those new APPs for your phone that warns you when you need to leave to avoid the accident. Say what? Who is she to tell me you to live your life? How do you feel about such an overbearing, demanding boss? Your children feel the same way when you constantly tell them what to do.

So, what can you do when you know your child is running astray, but you don’t want to seem like that overbearing boss? Here are some ideas:

  • Encourage independence gradually as your children mature. For example, when you read stories to your two-year-old, allow her to turn the pages, rather than turning them for her. Some children like to study the picture on the page before having a parent turn the page for them. When she grows older, she’s more likely to make wise decisions if she was allowed to make little decisions when she was young.
  • With parenting, less is sometimes more. In other words, the less you do for your children, the more they'll do for themselves. When my girls were ten, I began "allowing" them to do their own laundry! After a while, they began to see these little chores as rites of passage to maturity.
  • Teach your children skills that will help them cope with emergencies rather than overprotecting them. For years, I had a plaque on my desk that read: Prepare your child for the road rather than preparing the road for the child. Help your child to understand that life’s road is seldom smooth and sometimes very bumpy. When you ride in your car, present hypothetical scenarios and discuss how your teen will react. You might even work together one rainy day to develop scenario cards that you can keep in the car. Studies have proven that the forward motion of the car actually facilitates conversation with teenagers who are reluctant to share their thoughts.
  • Show your child how to effectively manage his time so he can independently choose to do homework before playing. In other words, practice what you preach. If you have a deadline looming, explain that you can play ball after you finish the report. Give your child a realistic time to consider – an hour? Two hours? That way, he won’t come in every fifteen minutes to disturb your concentration, which will further delay your time with him.
  • Offer guided choices. If I had to list the number one way to get kids to cooperate and listen, it would be this suggestion. Guided choices provide alternatives that you can both live with. They are not ultimatums. For example, you might say to your six-year-old, “It’s bed time. Do you want a story first or do you want to brush your teeth first?” Either way, you get what you want – a child in bed by 8:00, but the child gets independence through your guided choices. Guided choices require two things: A given circumstance (it’s bed time) and creativity with the choices (book or teeth first?). Now here’s an example of an ultimatum: “Do you want to go to bed immediately or forget about going to the movies tomorrow? You choose.” Where’s the choice? There is none. The child wants to go to the movies so he begrudgingly complies with the demand. See the difference?

The job description that comes with being a child includes testing parents. Expect that the above suggestions will work most of the time. However, there will be times when absolutely nothing works. That’s when you need to put on your prison guard helmet and be firm about what needs to happen, without choices, and without fun. However, that should occur only 5% of your time with your children. The other 95% should involve a happy relationship as they mature into strong adults. Use our EnteleTrons™ books to help your students realize their emotional potential.