Category Archives: For Parents

Are You Teaching Your Teen to be a Victim?

What is a victim? A victim is powerless. Tim and his mother met with me because he was struggling in his classes. A gifted fifteen-year-old with great potential, Tim leaned comfortably against his mother as she ruffled his hair with her fingers. His father traveled extensively on business and was seldom home. Tim sunk against his mom as she spoke about his many limitations and disabilities. I turned to him to ask his opinion about what was going on in school, and his mother answered for him as if he was unable to communicate. He seemed relieved that she was answering as we tried to problem-solve. I’d never seen a mother and son sit so close to each other; she was almost propping him up – and he was shrinking before my very eyes.

As I watched this dance, I wanted to grab Tim by the shoulders and sit him up straight in his own chair away from his mother. My heart started beating faster as I heard the litany of problems – physical and emotional – that his mother listed as he mutely listened to her, but he appeared to be smiling ever so slightly. He seemed almost pleased that the conference was going this way, and I don’t think this was the first time. How many times had Tim heard his mother list his supposed shortcomings? How many times had he smiled as he listened to her? I felt sickened that she was keeping him from his great potential and independence.

Your Challenge as a Parent:

  1. Help him feel what success feels like. Let him achieve success on his own.
  2. Have realistic expectations and support both the expectations and your teen.
  3. Don’t set your own expectations so high that you set him up for failure.
  4. Talk with your teen about his passions outside of school and perhaps volunteering.
  5. Involve your teen in a self-esteem character building activity where he experiences a sense of accomplishment along with the joy of recognition.
  6. Parent involvement is very important in reinforcing and supporting your teen’s dedication.

A Wise Mom’s Valuable Advice

TIP SHEET #13:   A Wise Mom’s Valuable Advice

  1. Don’t let your children believe that your love and approval depends on their grades, athletic ability, or success.
  • They need to be successful in their own right, not because you need to validate yourself.
  • Be their biggest cheerleader, staunchest advocate and strongest support system.
  1. Love them unconditionally for who they are, not for what they accomplish.
  • Kids know the difference.
  • Make time for them to download their day to you. Having time to connect with them every day involves you in their lives and helps prevent unexpected bumps in the road.
  1. Give your kids as much trust as you can – and lead by example.
  • Be trustworthy yourself.
  • Teach your kids that everything in life doesn’t come to you naturally.
  • Inspire a sense of values, work ethic and motivation – despite the obstacles.
  1. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • If they come to believe that you trust them, they’re more likely to live up to your belief in them.
  • Set limits on their use of technology: the vast majority of homework doesn’t need a computer.
  • Create a quiet space for them to do their homework away from the TV and other distractions.
  1. We are what people think we are.
  • The child who is convinced that trustworthiness is a positive value is likely to be trustworthy.
  • Put them with kids who are headed for achievement, then back away a little.
  • Create time for your child to be successful without burning her out. Keep it simple, and don’t push.

Click here to read/print a PDF file version of this post.

What Can You Do When Your Kids are Young to Help Them Like School?

TIP SHEET #12:   What Can You Do When Your Kids are Young to Help Them Like School?

  1. Read to your kids at bedtime.
  • Read aloud to them even after they learn to read so they can hear the vocabulary of the book
  • “Partner read” – take turns reading aloud.
  1. Check and supervise homework in elementary school.
  • If you don’t check homework, if your child is struggling in an area, you aren’t in touch
  • You are signaling to your child that school is important enough to take your time in the evening to see what she has done.
  1. Good study habits are formed in elementary and middle school.
  • Try to keep organized
  • Stress occurs when you can’t find what you need or know where you’re supposed to go.
  1. Be involved in classroom activities, even though you might work full-time.
  • As an occasional room helper, you see a special view of your own child’s life
  • You observe other children: their learning and potential friends of your child.
  1. Keep homework simple and routine.
  • Give time to unwind when they get home
  • Do homework before play.
  1. Invite kids to your house to study when you are home.
  • This “normalizes” studying and makes it social
  • This demonstrates that school is important.
  1. Let her pick out her own study materials and accessories.
  • She will take more “ownership” if she chooses supplies
  • Help her arrange her study area, removing distractions.

Click here to read/print a PDF file version of this post.

Bad Teacher: Here’s Your Road Map for Dealing with Difficult Teachers

Dealing with Difficult Teachers

Dealing with Difficult Teachers

Bad Teacher: Here’s Your Road Map for Dealing with Difficult Teachers

July 21 – 2015   2:25 PM
Contributing writer
OC Family

[Click here to read/print a PDF file version of this article.]

This is not a story about teachers who are sex offenders, or selling drugs or hitting children. This is a story about teachers who walk a complicated line. They may speak to their students in a harsh tone, or read grades aloud to shame the underachievers, or play favorites in a way that’s difficult to pin down. They are not breaking the law or even school rules, but they are making your child miserable.

Most teachers are good people. They are hard working, compassionate men and women who care deeply about learning and about the children they teach. But there are a few bad apples, and most parents will have to deal with a problematic teacher during their child’s school career. When your kid lands in the classroom of a bad teacher, how should you handle it?

What should a parent do if her child comes home complaining that a teacher doesn’t like him, or if she suddenly stops wanting to attend school? How can you unravel whether it’s the teacher, your kid or something else that’s the problem? And what should you do about the situation?

Stay Calm and Investigate

“Collect information,” advises Karyn Rashoff, a counselor at El Toro High School in Lake Forest for more than 20 years and now an author. “Most teachers have websites. Read them to learn classroom expectations and whether your child has missed any assignments.”

Speak with your child about his or her concerns, and try to get specific details.

If you’re worried that a teacher used degrading or inappropriate language, “Get the quote,” says Rashoff. “Ask, ‘Exactly, what did he say?’ ”

Keep questions somewhat casual, so your child doesn’t exaggerate or clam up. A kindergartner might say a teacher is “mean” because she makes him stay in his seat or do his work, so it might simply be a case of explaining to your child the normal expectations at school. If you do start to hear things that concern you, try to keep your emotions in check as you decide what to do next. That’s not always easy for parents.

If you do think there is a problem, let your child know that you want to work with the teacher to make sure school is a positive experience.

“If the parent is not happy with what he or she perceives is going on with the school, I would always encourage parents to say something,” says Leslie Coghlan, director of Pupil Services for the Anaheim City School District.

“We know that children who are happy to be going to school have higher success rates,” adds Yesenia Navarro, Curriculum Specialist for parent involvement for the Anaheim City School District.

Go to the Teacher

“One thing you never want to do is blindside a teacher,” says Maureen Christensen, president of the Fourth District Parent Teacher Association, which represents all of the PTA councils in Orange County.

Until you talk with the teacher, you do not have the full picture of what is happening in the classroom, just your child’s perception of it. So don’t request a meeting with the school principal or school board without talking to the teacher first. If you feel an issue needs to be raised, make an appointment with the teacher.

Try to be diplomatic, and use non-blaming language. Say something like, “I’m wondering if you could help me understand what’s going on with Steve,” rather than, “Steve says you are mean.” Go into the meeting assuming the best of the teacher and your child, but be prepared to hear your child may have done something to annoy the teacher. Contrary to many parents’ assumptions, our little angels aren’t always perfect.

“Maybe it’s a case where your child hasn’t turned in four assignments. If you     don’t do your work, you’re not going to be as respected as a kid who does his or her work,” Rashoff says. Ideally, the teacher will shed light on the situation and become your ally to make sure your child is in the best learning environment. If that’s not the case — or if the teacher becomes defensive — try to keep your calm and reiterate that you are just trying to learn as much as you can about the situation. 

One practical tip from school experts: To schedule a meeting with a teacher, email is better than the phone, and it is reasonable to expect an answer within about 24 hours.

One more reminder: “It is best to establish connections with your children’s teachers before any problems arise”, says Marisol Cordova, a community liaison at Edison Elementary in Anaheim, who works daily as a link between parents and school officials. Many schools — especially ones with large populations of English-language learners — have community liaisons like Cordova, and they can be a valuable ally to help parents best advocate for their children.

“Make yourself present. Even if you work, email the teacher at the beginning of the year to introduce yourself and offer support. Stop by back-to-school night so they know who you are,” Cordova says. Christensen adds: “If you are in constant communication, then there shouldn’t be any surprises.”

Now, Reassess

Maybe your meeting with the teacher cleared up a little misunderstanding. Maybe you learned that your child’s teacher is a little grumpy or serious, which means you can help your child understand that just because someone doesn’t smile all the time, it doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t like him.

“It’s important for kids to learn how to deal with different personality types because they have to deal with them in the real world,” says Rashoff. But if you have raised concerns with the teacher on more than one occasion, and don’t feel you have gotten a good resolution, it’s time for a decision. Do you help your child make the best of the current situation — or go over the teacher’s head to complain to the principal?

Christensen says her son had a dour kindergarten teacher that he didn’t really like during his school career. She dealt with the problem by volunteering to help more in the classroom and reinforcing to her son that he was still learning in school even though his teacher didn’t seem like the warmest person.

“While principals want students to be in an environment where they can succeed, there is no ‘constitutional right’ to have the teacher you choose,” Rashoff says.     “In middle and high schools in particular, sometimes a particular teacher is the only one who teaches a certain subject, so students have to adjust to different teaching styles.”

In that case, it is important to work with your teenager to make sure they don’t sabotage themselves. Rashoff recalls that her son didn’t like his AP European History teacher, so he stopped doing the work and his grade suffered for it.

“He was really punishing himself,” Rashoff says.

In the rare case a principal cannot resolve the issue, only then should parents consider contacting the district office to complain. The takeaway for parents is that they should really consider themselves a partner with their child’s teacher. That’s all the more true now that the new Local Control Funding Formula for schools specifically names parental involvement as one of eight priorities for districts, says Coughlan of the Anaheim City School District.

“Parent input is always valued and appreciated, and teachers want to know when they feel their child is being challenged too much, or not enough,” says Coughlan. “They know their child best.”

How to Make a ‘Plan’ Together

TIP SHEET #10: How to Make a ‘Plan’ Together

Plan a time to brainstorm ideas about school. Don’t just spring this plan idea on your teen but make a date to talk when you’re both relaxed. Ask your teen the questions below and write down her answers together. Sit at the kitchen or dining room table where you’re both comfortable and can have a business-like conversation. Try to keep emotion out of it, and look for behaviors to start up or eliminate in order to make high school more successful.

  • What do you think are reasonable grades to earn at the quarter? At the semester?
  • What time of day or evening is your best and most productive time?
  • What time do you want to be finished with everything at night?
  • Do you have all the school supplies that you need?
  • What can I do to support you in school, as your mom/dad?
  • Do you (the student) need to talk with the teacher? If so, do it tomorrow and bring back suggestions for improvement to me tomorrow afternoon so we can work on it together.

Click here to read/print a PDF file version of this post.

Dr. Phil and Parents in Highschooland

Karyn Rashoff’s book “Parents in Highschooland” has been likened to Dr. Phil’s books.

Dr. PhilDr. Phil and parents McGraw, perhaps the most well-known mental health professional in the world, uses the power of television to tell compelling stories about real people with a wide range of emotional and behavioral problems, stripping away the shame and embarrassment that often keep people from seeking help.

Many viewers, for the first time in their lives, develop an understanding of problems experienced by their families and themselves and, in the comfort of their homes, experience the hope and possibility of change. His unique dedication to families and children is legend to the millions of people around the world who watch his show and read his books.

Dr. Phil and Parents:
If you like Parents in Highschooland, you might like some of Dr. Phil’s books –

  • Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family
  • Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters
  • Life Code: The New Rules for Winning in the Real World

Visit Dr. Phil’s website to learn more.

What PARENTS Need to Do for Math Success

TIP SHEET #9: What Parents Need to Do for Math Success

It’s a team effort: math homework is math practice.

  • Read the material from the teacher of each class your teen is in. At the start of each school year, a ton of information comes home in binders and backpacks. Say: “What did you bring home that I should read?” Read it carefully, even though your teen may not offer it to you.
  • Parents are instrumental for success in math – without even tackling the subject matter. Poor performance in a math class is usually not related to not understanding math. Not practicing with homework assignments or not correctly practicing for tests is more likely the problem.
  • Ask to see their work every night. If you make it policy in your house for the math book and work to come home every night, you get a good grip on the amount and quality of math work. You won’t have to deal with: “We don’t have any homework tonight,” or “I forgot my book.”
  • Don’t try to teach your teen the way you did it in school. Math teachers today are very picky about the process, the steps, and doing it their own way. Teens get frustrated and want to quit if you impose your old-school math learning on them.
  • Consider a grade book at home to keep track of grades and points. Let your teen be in charge of this, and don’t hover. Match your log with the online grades from the teacher. This is a visual tool you can both see, and a sense of accomplishment grows as grades come in.
  • If you have questions about how things are coming along, don’t hesitate to email the teacher. Phone calls are less effective, as the teacher is in front of students all day and can’t get to the phone. Email is much better.
  • Take time with your teen every evening at the beginning of the school year, and you’ll pave the way for better grades and self-confidence in the future.

Click here to read/print a PDF file version of this post.

Help Your Teen Get Organized For School

TIP SHEET #7: Help Your Teen Get Organized For School

When parents reinforce organizational skills at home, they become habits that increase a teen’s effectiveness across the board. A home environment free of distractions and interruptions greatly boosts your teen’s efficiency. Parents play a critical role in creating this tone to help their teens.


  • Keep a neat notebook with school papers separated by class with notes, tests, handouts and homework.
  • Take paper, pens and pencils to school each day. (Use a zipper pocket.)
  • Write down homework assignments and their due dates in your planner.
  • Ask the teacher questions before leaving class.
  • Bring all books and materials home for study and homework.
  • Sit at a comfortable desk or table with good lighting, pens, pencils, paper, and other materials. (Don’t study on the bed or couch.)
  • Study with a partner, if appropriate, for languages or reviewing for tests and quizzes.
  • After studying, put all materials together to take to school the next morning.
  • Look online at grades from teachers every few days.
  • Before going to bed, put all school stuff by the door so you have to trip over it going out the door.


  • Toss papers randomly into books and notebooks.
  • Leave homework at school.
  • Try to study in a cluttered or noisy area.
  • Interrupt your study time with texts or phone calls.
  • Scribble homework on scratch paper or rely on your memory.
  • Listen to loud music or TV while studying.
  • Go to bed without organizing your school stuff for the next day.

Click here to read/print a PDF file version of this post.

Words from a Successful College Sophomore

TIP SHEET #5: Words from a Successful College Sophomore

1. My family’s expectations were clear. “There was never really any other option discussed. It was just completely normal to talk about going to college.”

2. Distractions at home were minimized. “My mom would organize our time, and we’d read a lot. We had a simple structure when we came home from school: grab a snack and do homework. A couple of chores, then we could do whatever we wanted for the night.”

3. We were treated, not rewarded.  “My parents would treat us to things for a good report card, but it wasn’t consistent. The rewards, if you called them that, were sporadic and not planned at all. It wasn’t for the grades but to help us meet their expectations.”

4. Get a peer tutor.   “I’d highly recommend getting a tutor if you need help; it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I had one for science and math the all the way through my last three years, and that little extra study time and personal attention made it easier. My parents used bright students who were a year or two ahead of me, and they paid them.”

5. No emotion allowed. “My parents knew I’d need a Plan to figure out what I didn’t understand. My mom helped by giving me options and ideas, and we came up with a Plan for me to talk to my teachers, get a tutor and extend my home study time. It was very business-like. I’d have to write out my Plan each time there was a bump in the road. Annoying but helpful.”

6. Practice your balancing act. “I learned how to be organized in high school and how to manage my time, especially because I was in sports. I’m beginning now to see the more adult payoff of that program, The Plan. My younger sisters watched me endure and develop, so there’s even a payoff for them.”

Click here to read/print a PDF file version of this post.

Are Your Emotions Contagious?

TIP SHEET #4: Are Your Emotions Contagious?

Dorothy Foltz-Gray and Tony Schwartz
Parents in Highschooland: Helping Students Succeed in the Critical Years

1.    Be aware of the temperament and tone of your home. “Emotional contagion” affects all human relationships, from marriage to business to professional sports. Try to under-react to your teen and not match his or her high emotional state. Try to be business-like.

2.    Sometimes, creating distance can be most effective. Step back and think about the reasons for your teen’s distress and the best ways to cope with it. If you know the cause, you’ll have a better idea of what you can do to help, whether it’s leaving her alone for a few hours or making yourself available so she can vent.

3.    We don’t realize we’re being influenced by others’ emotions. Interestingly, negative emotions are usually more catching than positive ones. One of the functions of sadness is to ask for help from others. Try to be tender and more attentive to your teen, even though he might be trying your patience at the end of a long day.

4.    Be your family’s CEO (Chief Energy Officer). Don’t allow yourself to be overly influenced by a destructive kind of energy and then unconsciously communicate that energy to others in your home. Parents are the leaders in the home and impact the family by their moods. Negative emotions spread fast and they’re highly toxic.

5.    We can’t check our emotions at the door when we walk in the house. It pays to be aware of what you’re feeling at any given moment. You can’t change what you don’t notice. You can’t fake “positive” for long, so genuine matters.

6.    Embrace realistic optimism. Have the faith to tell the most hopeful and empowering story possible, but also be willing to confront difficult facts as they arise with your teen and deal with them directly.

Click here to read/print a PDF file version of this post.