Five simple ways to better support kids at home.

The Common Core curriculum, testing and what schools will and won’t be doing to improve the education system – so what can teachers, parents and caregivers do while the decision makers plan their next move? 

Let’s preserve the curiosity and love for learning that our children have at birth and not lose or stifle these traits in the scuffle.

Adult and child

We read “The Little Engine That Could” to a child when they are very young to inspire them to say, “I think I can, I think I can” when faced with a challenge.  As they grow up they need to learn, “How I can! How I can!” … work at something difficult.

I have spent the last seven years, reading, tutoring,  and working  with teachers to create www.icandothatkids;    I have found that there are some simple, proven ways to help children stay energized, persevere and achieve their “personal best” — even as schools raise the bar.

 Help children know what to “think, say or do” when faced with a challenge with these five tips.

1. Talk about “hard stuff” — challenges.  Explain that kids have to do lots of “hard stuff,” called challenges.  Obstacle courses are a challenge, but are fun.  Video games are challenging and that’s why kids love playing them.  Make the connection that doing “hard stuff” is  like an obstacle course or a video game.  Rather than think, “This is too hard!” think,  “This is a challenge that I can’t do … yet!”

2. Break it down. “There’s too much to do.” Help a child think of the challenge as a large puzzle with pieces to be assembled.  Start with a small, doable piece.   When they have a page of math problems that seems overwhelming,  say, “Find the one that is the easiest to begin with”,  then,  cover the other problems with a blank sheet of paper.  Help them focus on one piece of an assignment at a time.

3. Increase ‘think time.’  Don’t jump in too quickly when you hear, “I don’t remember what to do.”  Provide them with time to stop and think.  Suggest that they look for clues or to explain what they are unsure about.  Delay giving them hints or information until you are certain that they have exhausted their resources.  Provide an opportunity for them to think for themselves!

4. Making mistakes is good!  The surest way to succeed is by working through mistakes.  Not enough emphasis is put on the fact that mistakes will happen.  It’s normal; everyone makes mistakes and they  help us get very good at something!  Mention the most recent mistake you have made, how it felt and what you did to eventually succeed.

5. Use ‘process praise.’  Acknowledge how your child is achieving. For example, say, “That was a lot of work. I really like the way you stuck to it and didn’t give up!”  Or, “I’m impressed that you didn’t let anything distract you from getting your homework finished!”  Research has proven that children who are praised for how they accomplish a task build confidence quicker and are more willing to take on difficult tasks that come their way.

Post these tips on the refrigerator.  You may find yourself on automatic pilot, saying or doing what you have in the past to help motivate a child. These tips provide you with an opportunity to do something different and perhaps challenging, and you will experience what your child is experiencing!

3 thoughts on “Five simple ways to better support kids at home.

  1. So powerful yet simple. Today, my daughter learned how to ride a two wheeler.She is older than the age when many of her friends learned, and though we encouraged her to stick with it, and cheered loud and long when she succeeded today, I wish I had incorporate these powerful tenants in our goodnight discussion of her achievement. I will tomorrow! Thanks so much!


    1. Glad you found the tips helpful Linda. Would love to hear which one was most helpful or effective. Doing my best to provide parents and teachers with tools to help children learn for themselves how work at challenges. Please check out my website, There is actually a cartoon video clip which shows a child learning to ride a two wheeler.(Click on MORE VIDEOS and ACTION STARS TO THE RESCUE) The “I Can Do That!” Action Stars help the child outsmart OBST (as in OBSTacle), a grouchy brick-wall guy who likes to make things difficult. When kids imagine OBST is making things difficult they have fun using their Action Star helpers to outsmart OBST. They learn what to think, say or do when something is difficult. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

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