Does One Size Fit All When It Comes To Class Sizes?

“There are too many kids in my child’s class. How does the teacher give each child the attention they need?”

“I know my child would perform better if there were fewer kids in his/her class.”

These are common statements made by many parents of school aged children. Whether the child is in kindergarten or 12th grade, the same sentiment rings true- most parents want smaller class sizes. Budget restrictions, qualified staffing restrictions, and over capacity restrictions all contribute to how an administration determines class sizes. And while most, if not all, states have regulations on maximum class sizes that have to be met by districts, parents would like to see the class sizes well below the mandated maximum.

Writer Sara Mosle has written an opinion piece title “Does Class Size Count?”, published in The New York Times, that touches on a pilot program challenging the common belief that smaller class sizes are better. Perhaps not every class needs to be the same size as another in order to be effective, which could mean huge benefits in alleviating budget and staffing pressures, not to mention revolutionizing the way our children are taught.

“Does Class Size Count?” by Sara Mosle The New York Times

Don’t Underestimate the Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Recently, The New York Times and The Huffington Post published articles about the effects of sleep deprivation. The New York Times article describes how the symptoms of chronic sleep deficit can sometimes disguise itself as symptoms of A.D.H.D.  It is an eye opening article worthy of a mandate for change in sleep habits for adults and children alike. Certainly, not all children and adults diagnosed with A.D.H.D are chronically sleep deprived. However, the relationship between the increase in A.D.H.D diagnoses and the increase in sleep deficit cannot be ignored.

The Huffington Post article discusses results from a survey of 1,000 people (18 + older), conducted by an internal research team. The survey included questions about stress triggers and how stressful moments are managed.  Although this survey may not necessarily be clinically or scientifically robust, the results are sound. The most common stress trigger is getting too little sleep.

Some people process sleep deprivation by being more lethargic and unmotivated and others may become hyper and unfocused. No matter how you process sleep deprivation, it is having a profound negative affect on how we function.  For better or worse, there are a lot of factors that compete with sleep. Furthermore, sleep is complicated. Kids need delta sleep, which is the deep sleep they have needed since birth for growth and development.  Delta sleep is also important in adulthood for rejuvenation. Research shows we are getting less sleep than we used to. Not everyone can afford to get more sleep at night. However, making better lifestyle choices during the day, including: limiting screen time, practicing mindfulness, eating healthy and getting exercise can help families move forward in the battle against sleep deprivation.

The New York Times- “Diagnosing the Wrong Deficit” by Vatsal G. Thakkar

The Huffington Post- “HuffPost Survey Reveals Lack Of Sleep As A Major Cause Of Stress Among Americans” by Lisa Belkin”Tracking A Rise In ADHD Diagnosis” Talk of the Nation


All Praise Is Not Created Equal: Personal Praise vs. Effort-Based Praise

We all want our children to grow up as confident human beings with  a solid foundation of positive self-esteem.  Sometimes, when we see a child struggle with self-esteem or confidence, we look for opportunities to praise them, in an effort to build them up. Of course, these intentions are nothing but honorable and well guided. However, new research indicates that the type of praise you shower on children may affect already delicate self-esteem and could undermine your good intentions. For example, highlighting a child’s personal qualities (you are a great swimmer!) may not be as fortifying as highlighting their efforts (I can really tell that you have been working so hard on your backstroke!).  In addition, research shows that children with low self-esteem receive more personal praise than those with higher self-esteem. And as such, their expectations for themselves become higher, as they always achieve to be the best or the superstar, which is an unrealistic expectation, leading to disappointment. Praising children for their efforts,  rather than focusing on the outcome, will help them boost their self-confidence and encourage them to continue pressing forward with their efforts.

Read more about this topic and research at   “Children & Praise: Why Certain Types of Praise May Backfire”, by Debbie Glasser, Ph.D

Why Can Some Kids Handle More Pressure Than Others?

Have you ever wondered why some kids “test” better than others? How some kids seem to juggle school, activities, jobs, and a social life while others can barely hold on to schoolwork? Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, authors of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, wrote an article published in the NY Times Magazine that explains some of these mysteries. Read their in-depth and enlightening article here.



Rewards vs. Bribes: Are You Corrupting Your Child?

Does rewarding your child equate to bribery? Have you struggled with the thought of compensating your child for doing something you think they should do without compensation? Have you worried that you’ll be corrupting your child if you do reward them for just meeting expectations?

These are all questions that many parents wonder as they are in the grocery store, wishing their kids wouldn’t fight while they shop for dinner. Or, when you really need them to finish their homework so you can get them to practice. You just want them to comply. Without struggle. Without drama. Without a lot of discussion.

You can reward your child without it being a bribe. However, rewards can be bribes as well. What’s the difference? It is a bribe when you are under duress. You had no intention of offering a reward, your child is in control of the particular situation, and you need control back. For example, it’s Monday morning, your children are all melting down and refusing to get out of bed and get ready for school. It’s 20 minutes before the bus arrives. You give in and tell them they can have a candy bar for breakfast if they would just get out of bed and get ready in time. That’s a bribe, and the next time, they may demand a candy bar just to get out bed. On the other hand, it’s Monday morning, and your children know that if they get up and get themselves ready without hassle and make the bus on time, there will be an ice cream sundae snack after school. This is a deal you made with them when the school year started. Sometimes, you have to remind them of the ice cream sundae deal, but for the most part, every Monday, they get up and get ready without much fanfare. That’s a reward.

In our home, we have a coveted prize box that is filled with items that I know my kids will enjoy. Most items cost less than a dollar and I have fun finding things to add to the box.There are certain situations that my kids know will earn a trip to the prize box. They remind each other to do the right thing so that we can “do” prize box. It definitely doesn’t work every time. That would be too easy. But I have noticed that the stress level in our home has decreased. I feel like it helps me engage in more positive parenting. There’s less yelling and frustration. And the kids know what my expectations are and most of the time, they agree when we can’t “do” prize box because the expectations weren’t met. .

If you know there are certain days, events, or activities that illicit stress in your home, put a reward system in place. Make sure the reward is appropriate for your child, it should motivate them to do the right thing without diluting the situation. Be clear and consistent about the reward and what your child needs to do to acheive it. There will be times when you do need to use a bribe, it happens. But it should be an exception, else your children will be on to you and may manipulate situations in order to receive bribes. Rewarding children by celebrating appropriate behavior is effective in teaching the benefits of responsibility

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