The Lifeskills Program provides opportunities for all students (K–6th grade) to practice 16 specific “lifeskills” through a direct, systematic and positive focus.
The goal of the program is to empower students to become positive and productive members of their school and community by improving social relationships, fostering mutual cooperation, and developing a sense of self to make healthy life choices.
Caring is a particularly rewarding lifeksill to develop because it has the benefit of creating immediate feedback that is emotionally rewarding. Reaching out to others in caring ways makes life meaningful. Still caring must be actively taught and modeled in order to become a part of a person's core behavior. Through situations and teachable moments that offer positive feedback for caring about others, a child learns that the more one gives in caring ways, the more one receives. Below are some suggested activities to foster and facilitate caring in children so that they may enjoy the benefits of being caring, compassionate people throughout their lives.
- The best way to teach caring is by modeling caring acts. Children learn not only by doing but also by observing those people important to them (like you!). Take the time to let your child see the caring acts you do, whether it is holding the door open for a senior citizen or participating in a food drive. Help your child to think of some caring acts he/she could do for someone (rake leaves off the front lawn, read with a younger child, visit a lonely person, etc.)
- Mediate your child's television. When you monitor and observe what your child watches, it gives you the opportunity to talk about situations in which characters are caring or (far too often) mean and hurtful to each other. Take this opportunity to discuss and encourage caring responses and behavior. For reasons all too clear, television should not be an unsupervised developer of character. Use it instead as a teaching tool.
- Say kind things to and about other people. Conversely, don't gossip or spread rumors. Help your child to find good things to say about others. Practice this by listing people you know and discussing their positive attributes (a great way to pass time in the car). Another idea is send each other caring notes. Each note will be a special message that will express something nice.
- Make community service part of your family routine. Take time periodically to help others. Help your child to understand that when you truly care for others, there are no strings attached. Real caring is unconditional. You don't stop to think whether someone deserves your caring. You care because it makes the world a better place to be (and it feels good, too!)
- Do a "Secret Service." Together with your child, choose someone you'd like to do something nice for or give something to. Leave a treat on a porch or on a desk. Write an anonymous note telling the person why you admire him or her.
Caring has many benefits. Caring helps us to learn from each other. Also, it enables others to help us. Caring connects people. It gives our family (and our school) a sense of community. Look around, and you and your child will notice many opportunities to care about others. Thank you for your efforts to make "caring" a vital part of your child's life!
Common Sense is an important lifeskill. This character trait may seem like the easiest to grasp, but it is often the most mystifying. That’s why in our classrooms, teachers work with students to explore the qualities, uses, and importance of good, old-fashioned common sense. Specifically, teachers and students explore the idea that certain situations may call for a specific type of behavior that wouldn’t make “sense” in a different situation. The different behaviors appropriate at recess vs. those in the classroom are a good example of this situationalcommon sense.
Common sense simply means to use good judgment. Often, common sense is simply a matter of thinking before you act—of drawing on what you already know without having to figure it out. Common sense is a kind of “folk wisdom.” It’s not sophisticated; it’s not profound. Common sense tells you not to walk into the street in front of a moving car. It tells you to close the window when it’s raining. It tells you that if you don’t like being called names or bullied, other people don’t like it either.
The best ways to teach common sense is to figure out ways to give children practice acquiring it. Below are suggested activities that can assist parents in creating situations where children will need to use common sense.
1. Teach “checking.” Checking is a common-sense practice. People check a situation to make sure it is safe and/or comfortable or O.K. For example: --check is the door is locked before leaving, -- check if there is a rip in the bag before putting something in it, -- check if cars are coming before crossing the street, etc. When we get children in the habit of checking, we help them to avoid unpleasant situations.
- Play games such as “I’m Thinking of Something” or “20 questions” with your family. Think of an item and have family members try to guess it by giving them clues or by having them ask yes or no questions. The deductive reasoning necessary to piece the clues together is a type of common sense strategy. Help children to see how one clue by itself might not be enough, but by combining clues, the answer becomes clearer.
- Discuss situations when you NEED to use common sense and make good judgments (emergency situations, peer pressure situations, etc.). Discuss possible responses to these dilemmas and the possible outcome of each response. Children will need modeling and assistance in figuring out what is the most common sense thing to do.
- Point out the need to be aware of one’s surroundings in order to make good common-sense decisions. In this regard, one can relate “common-sense” to “common courtesy.” Behaviors in a restaurant differ from those eating snacks in front of the TV, etc. Remembering to have the cell-phone turned off or on “vibrate” in certain venues is the perfect modern-day example of how common-sense and common courtesy are closely related!
Remember that common sense is gained over time and with practice. We aren’t born with it. Things that may seem obvious to an adult may be baffling to a child. Be patient, encouraging, and continue to praise your children for their best efforts to problem-solve.
Cooperation is an extremely important lifeskill in the world of school; actually, it’s important anywhere there are people! In the classrooms at Rheem, teachers work with students on what Cooperation looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Students practice how to share ideas, to accomplish goals, and to tolerate differences in an effort to use cooperation to enhance learning and promote healthy peer relationships.
Cooperation is working together toward a common goal. Children can learn and practice being cooperative in many ways. Providing cooperative learning activities where children need to compromise, tolerate, and accept differences allows children the opportunity and experiences to understand and learn from other points of view. Below are suggested activities that can assist in teaching cooperation skills at home:
- Create an environment of “teamwork” in your home by working together on an outdoor, household or neighborhood project. (Organization, another Rheem lifeskill, can play a part here as well.) Divide tasks and cooperate as a “team” to meet a goal. The goal could be as simple as cleaning a room or as big as landscaping the back yard. The important thing is to involve everyone so that the good feeling of satisfaction can be shared. Be sure to take time to celebrate your accomplishment as a “team,” too!
- Identify characters in books and on TV who use cooperation effectively. Be sure to discuss how and why cooperation is useful in certain situations. On the flip side, find characters who could be more successful if they used the lifeskill of cooperation. There are plenty of examples of cooperation in children’s literature.
- Note real-life situations where, without cooperation, a hoped-for goal would result in chaos. Team sports are a perfect example. Imagine a basketball game without teamwork! Provide examples from your own life where you use teamwork—completing a committee project, planning a potluck, etc.
- Engage your child in discussions about cooperation so that he/she can better identify his/her own comfort level in working with others. Ask, “When do you like working with others?” “When do you like or need to work alone?” It is very important to recognize and respect a child’s preference for working alone, but it is equally important to create non-threatening situations when working cooperatively is an alternative choice.
- An important aspect of cooperation is the ability to balance one’s own needs with the needs of others in a group activity. This is difficult for children and adults alike! Appropriate patience, empathy, and perspective, combined with appropriate assertiveness, self-awareness, and integrity are essential ingredients to finding this balance. Talk with your children about your own values in this regard. For example, remind them that cooperation does not mean bowing to peer pressure! Help them to evaluate whether the group’s goal is a worthy one. If so, then the lifeskill of Cooperation is essential.
Without a doubt, Cooperation is a skill that children will need for success throughout their school and work careers. It’s very simple: people need to work together and get along with one another, differences and all. Please join us in helping your children to use cooperation skills to lead happier, more productive lives.
Curiosity is a desire to learn or know about a full range of things. Therefore, curious people are never bored! Children who are curious are open to learning about new things – something that comes very naturally to them. We need to foster the enthusiastic learner in all our students to help them develop into life-long learners and interesting people. Below are activities that can assist parent in promoting the lifeskill of curiosity:
- Provide a create work space for children to explore books, machinery, nature, building materials, etc. Simply let them explore. Take the time to join in their self-exploration.
- Try to break out of the usual routine. Try a new restaurant, go to a different park, explore a museum or art gallery. Share things you enjoyed about discovering something new!
- Create your own “genius hour.” Have each family member pick something new to learn about and allow time to share the discoveries. Encourage your child to become an “expert” at a subject that particularly interests them.
The article “Creating Curious Thinkers” by Scholastic, provides many more ideas to encourage Curiosity. Although designed for teachers, this article includes many suggestions about the type of “mindset” that is needed to promote curiosity, including acceptance of the uncertain and being aware that things change. Enjoy exploring these concepts with your children!
Effort is a lifeskill that many children have, but do not realize it. Perhaps, that’s because they don’t use the lifeskill to its greatest affect in every situation. Effort simply means to “try your best.” Most children have no problem using “effort” to accomplish a preferred task, but are less likely to use this lifeskill when asked to complete a non-preferred task. Below are suggested activities to assist parents in trying to instill the the lifeskill of effort into all situation.
- Effort is “going the extra mile” or doing more than a person “has” to. Have each family member share a time when they felt particularly proud of an accomplishment. Relate that sense of pride to the amount of effort that was required. How did working hard make them feel?
- Together check the newspaper or watch the news to identify people showing effort. Discuss how these people are making an effort and what might be motivating them to do their best.
- Discuss the saying, “You’re not finished until you’re proud.” What does that mean? How does that relate to completing chores or a school project? What is the difference between being “done” with a task versus being “proud” of a task?
- As a family, choose an activity or job to do together. You may want to clean up the house, choose and wrap gifts for a celebration… Before you start the work, agree that each person will do their BEST during the activity. After the job is done, discuss how it felt to use one’s “best effort.” How did you feel knowing that others’ were trying their best, too?
As parents and educators, we need to recognize and acknowledge good efforts, regardless of the outcome. It’s the process that is important, not necessarily the product. By carefully monitoring our words and reactions in this regard, we can help our children to develop into people with “growth mindsets” – people who know that success comes from hard work and EFFORT!
The ability to be flexible in difficult and unexpected situations can make a big difference in personal and professional happiness. Flexibility means to be adaptable. This is an important quality since, as we all know, the one thing in life that is constant is CHANGE.
Students can learn about the power of flexibility by exploring options and trying new things, as well as practicing how to be open-minded and resilient. Below are suggested activities to try at home to assist us in teaching and practicing flexibility.
- Identify times when the family had to change plans. (e.g. didn’t go on a planned outing because it rained; couldn’t go to a friend’s house because the friend got sick) Discuss why plans had to be changed and how it felt. What helped you to feel better about the situation? What did people say or do to make the situation better or worse? Children need to talk about and share times when they were flexible. Sharing these times helps to validate their efforts as well as understand that a person’s response to a change (the ability to be flexible) can make or break the situation.
- Flexibility involves compromise—the ability to “let go” of something to gain something else. Encourage children (especially siblings) to compromise in order to solve problems. Compromise can be as simple as taking turns or combining choices. It takes time to negotiate compromise, but the resulting “peace” is worth it!
- Life is full of change, and that means people change also. Discuss as a family how each person has changed. Focus on the positives (what can each person do now that used to be difficult) and have each person comment on every other person. Children need to see that change can be a very positive force.
- (Warning: the next suggestion is the toughest…) Model flexibility. Your responses to unexpected events or disappointments can be a powerful indicator of how your children will learn to react. Don’t huff and puff when waiting in line; instead be flexible and play word games or take the time to engage in conversation. When the movie is sold out, be flexible and go get ice cream instead. When rain upsets picnic plans, be flexible and picnic indoors! Your ability to be creative and use humor during these minor upsets will teach your child how to keep things in perspective.
As parents and educators it’s important that we encourage children to see change or the “unexpected” not as something to be feared, but rather as a gift and an opportunity. This acceptance and understanding is the key to creativity. Often we search for the “right answer,” when a “different answer” or the “second right answer” may provide more insight, satisfaction, and joy. Indeed, many of our greatest discoveries and inventions were born from mistakes! A wonderful book that explores the concept of flexible thinking is A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger von Oech. Actually, as you read this book, you may discover that we, as adults, can learn much from our children about how to be flexible and, therefore, creative. Keep your mind open to the many possibilities that flexibility will give you!
Friendship, the ability to make and keep friends, is a valuable and rewarding lifeskill. It’s difficult to imagine life without friends to share our ups and downs. Having a friend improves self-esteem, as well as the quality and enjoyment of life. In their classrooms, students have learned about how to be a good friend by recognizing the qualities of a friend and practicing communication skills that improve peer interactions. Concepts such as “fairness” and “forgiveness” have also been discussed in an effort to help students recognize that making and keeping friends takes effort and care.
Here are 10 Ways Parents can help their children to get along with others in an effort develop and maintain lasting friendships:
1) Teach your child to use kind words and show respect through kind actions. Remind your child that eople enjoy the companionship of people who make others feel good.
2) Instill respect in your child for other people, their property, and for the laws that govern us. Help your child to appreciate differences in others and to practice acceptance.
3) Remind your child that even best friends disagree. That’s OK, as long as they can be honest with each other and talk things out.
4) Demonstrate how to cool down when angry. For instance, take deep breaths or count to 10.
5) Encourage your child to practice good manners, like saying “Thank you” and “Excuse Me.” Help them to understand the power of telling someone that they are “sorry” when a mistake has been made. And, allow them to practice forgiveness by accepting another’s apology.
6) Be available any time your child wants to talk over problems concerning relationships with others. Discuss what good friends do so that children become aware that certain actions and behaviors represent friendship.
7) Explain that if two people can’t work something out, they should ask a third person to mediate. At school, that often means asking an adult for help.
8) Role-play situations so your child learns how to solve problems that may come up with others. Help them “practice” what would be helpful to say to a friend about a conflict.
9) Create opportunities for caring, such as letting your child help bake cookies to welcome newcomers to your neighborhood, or by writing or making phone calls of thanks.
10) Tell your child to report any bullying or harassment that he or she witnesses at school.
Most important, remember that children learn most by the example of the adults in their lives. We all need to model friendly and generous behavior as much as possible.
By helping children to understand the importance of friendship, parents and educators have the opportunity to help prepare children for a happier and healthier future. Really, what better gift can we give our children, but the ability to enjoy deep and lasting friendships?
Another lifeskill focus at Rheem is Initiative. In classrooms, teachers work with students on what initiative is and how to use it to make a difference in our own and others’ lives. Specifically, students practice how to help others, be assertive, and have concern for self and others.
Initiative can be a challenging lifeskill for children, especially in this day of passive TV viewing and instant gratification through a variety of easily accessible means. Initiative by nature involves action; it requires taking the extra step—or even the first step—to accomplish something that needs to be done. For this reason, the lifeskill of initiative requires motivation to see a problem and to do the right thing to solve it, not because someone has asked or because it is expected, but simply because the action needs to be taken and it’s the right thing to do!
Initiative starts with a good idea, but that the idea is not enough. You must take action to make things happen. Initiative is grounded in first steps and follow-through. We can help establish this lifeskill in our children by recognizing their efforts to identify problems and by supporting their ideas to do something about them. Below are some suggested activities to assist you in teaching your child about Initiative and Motivation.
- Children care deeply about the world around them. Often they are bombarded with disturbing news and images about the problems in today’s world—from pollution to gun violence to endangered animals. If your child expresses concern about an issue, help him/her think of a way to take initiative to make his/her feelings known. A child can write a letter to a legislator or donate part of his/her allowance to a helpful organization. These seemingly small contributions can make a BIG difference in providing children with a sense of worth and power.
- Make a list of all the things that need to get fixed or done around the house. This list should include things that normally aren’t done each week: straighten out a closet or drawer, organize a toy collection, plant some new flowers, etc. Have each person in the family choose one thing to do. Come together at the end of a selected time period to discuss progress. What still needs to be done? How did it feel to finish the job? What was rewarding and what was difficult?
- Share a story about a relative or an important person in your life that showed Initiative. It’s especially powerful when you choose someone whose initiative made a difference in your life (for example, someone who took the time and energy to encourage or help you in some way). Discuss the impact of even small gestures. Then, try to identify those whom you or your child could help. Then, just do it!
- When reading aloud or sharing TV time together, identify characters whose initiative solved a problem or helped make a situation better. Often the plot turns on an example of this one lifeskill. Imagine how the story might have ended if the character had not taken initiative.
One of the most exciting aspects of initiative is the potential for it to banish the “B” word from one’s vocabulary. That’s right, the dreaded “B” word—boring. If a person has truly integrated the lifeskill of Initiative into daily life, he/she would never experience boredom again! There is always something that needs to be done. There is always something one can find to do! When children say “I’m bored,” they are expressing that they are unmotivated to help themselves or others. Rather than sympathize with this comment (thereby dignifying it), help your child to identify the activities that are available. Plan ahead for “boredom” by making a “What to Do When There’s Nothing to Do” list. Children (and parents) can refer to this list when necessary.
Initiative is a lifeskill that separates successful people from those who do not meet their goals. At Rheem, we hope to help students to get involved, to do the right thing, and to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of a job well done! By developing initiative, we can make process towards this important goal. Thank you for your support of this effort.
Having integrity means to be honest, sincere, and to conduct oneself according to what is right and what is wrong. When students can recognize integrity in themselves and others, they are able to develop a feeling of security and self-assurance. By participating in activities that focus on individual strengths, tolerance, and trust-building, students can appreciate the power of conducting themselves with integrity.
Before children can have integrity they need to be taught the importance of being honest. Honest people are trusted by others. Also, an honest person cares about what’s right and wrong. Rights and wrongs need to be modeled, discussed, and explained. Below are suggested activities that can assist parents in teaching integrity to their children:
Read the definitions of integrity in bold type below and discuss these ideals as a family. Ask brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles what they think integrity means. You might ask each person “In your opinion, who in our family (neighborhood, town, etc.) has integrity? Why do you think this is true?” Students will see that integrity is an admirable characteristic. (Note: the point of this activity is not to judge, but to get started thinking and talking about integrity)
- Discuss a situation in which you were lied to and how that affected you. Ask your child to describe the situation in which he/she was lied to. Help them to recognize that lies not only hurt others, but keeps the person who told the lie from being trusted.
- When children feel good about themselves they tend to have improved behavior and to develop a sense of integrity. One way to help children feel more confident is to focus on their strengths. Take notice of honest, sincere, and good acts that your children do.
- Help your children to identify role models who can guide them in developing good values. Role models don’t have to be famous people, but regular people who are genuine and supportive towards others. Note specific examples that make these role models trustworthy. Discuss integrity as a family
- Role play situations that call for honesty and integrity. What if a friend invites you to his house to watch an R-rated movie, and you have promised your parents not to watch R-rated movies? What if a friend asks to copy your homework? What if some friends are teasing a new student and want you to join in? What would you say and do in these situations? Practice different responses. What feels right?
Integrity means doing the right thing, even if it isn’t the easiest or most popular thing.
When our children develop integrity, they can approach each new situation calmly because they don’t have to struggle inside to decide how to act. Their integrity protects them from making poor choices. Integrity is the cornerstone of building good character.
Organization is an important lifeskill. At Rheem, teachers work with students on what organization is and how to be organized. Students review classroom procedures and routines, maintaining orderly spaces, and learn how setting goals and planning strategies to meet goals are all ways to be organized.
Organization is a lifeskill that helps children and adults alike to be better prepared, confident, and more successful. Though to some, organization may seem “natural,” to others being organized is a struggle, Organization is a skill that can be learned through be modeling, and practice. Children need to see the benefits of organization before it becomes a valuable skill. As a parent, you can help. Below are suggested activities that can assist you in this endeavor:
- When your child has a job assignment or project to do, encourage him/her to write down a list of what needs to be done. Then, assign each item a priority and list the steps by which these tasks can be accomplished. Providing this outline and framework can help your child to better organize ideas and make the project less overwhelming. By breaking a large task into several smaller, manageable steps, students can then reap the benefits of accomplishing a goal with much less stress. And, experiencing less stress if a wonderful by-product of organization!
- Provide your child with a small notebook to write down his/her daily “To Do List” ( do homework, clean room, call grandma, etc.). By referring to this list throughout the day, your child can remain more focused. This can be successfully modeled by having a family notebook or chalkboard that keeps track to daily errands or chores for different members of the family. Provide recognition to those who complete their “to do” lists. Provide support to those who didn’t complete their lists (it might even be you!) by discussing what might have got in the way. Refocus by adding incomplete tasks to the next day’s list or by setting more realistic goals. The ability to “reorganize” is equally important!
- Make clearly printed labels to put on shelves and drawers in your child’s room to enable him/her to know where to put things – for example, “socks, “toys,” “art supplies,” etc. For pre-readers you can draw pictures, cut out photos from magazines, or use clip-art. You may also want to have children collect shoeboxes or clear plastic bins to use as storage containers for belongings.
- Planning ahead is an important component of organization – so is delayed gratification. Help children to understand both of these concepts by completing one task before going on to another. For example, plan and complete homework before TV; pack backpack and lay out school clothes before going to bed. Such habits can make the daily routine much smoother and prevent last minute panic.
- Provide your child with the responsibility of keeping a selected “shared” space organized. This could be the Tupperware cabinet, the silverware drawer, or the DVD library. If possible, give your child the freedom to experiment with new ways to organize collections. Your faith in your child’s ability can be a powerful motivator!
Remember, organization takes time, time, and more time. Sometimes, it’s by slowing down that we manage to get the most things done! Help your child to see the benefits in taking the time to be organized. This is a lifeskill they will never outgrow!
Patience is an important lifeskill. Patient people have self-control and possess the ability to listen carefully to instructions. Understanding the important of “taking turns” as well as how to best utilize wait-time are also important qualities that promote patience.
Patience is a life skill that requires practice. Children who learn to wait for what they want, rather than expect immediate gratification, develop an appreciation for what they achieve and possess. Like any other skill, children need practice to develop the skill of waiting as well as directions on what to do while waiting. Below are a few suggested activities that can assist children in developing the lifeskill of patience:
- Teach your child "goal setting." Have your child think of one thing he/she would like to learn or do. Help your child figure out how this goal can be achieved and how much time it will require. Discuss the lifeskill of patience and how, combined with the lifeskills of effort and perseverance, patience will be an important factor in achieving the goal. Remind them that things worth doing or having are worth waiting for.
- Discuss as a family the strategies (things you do) that help you to be more patient (take a deep breath, do something else, read a book, etc.). Try to model patient behavior. This can be a challenge, especially in parking lots, crowded shopping malls, and in school traffic at dismissal time. However, it's important to remember that your children learn a lot by your example.
- Play a board game with your family. This game should be one where players need to take turns. Tell family members that when you play a game with other people you need to "wait" your turn and be patient. Playing games can help children to practice patience as well as enhance relationships among family members.
- As a family, discuss times when people need to be patient at home, (waiting for mom on the phone), in the community (waiting in line at the grocery store), and at school (waiting for your sister to finish practice). Help your children to prepare for situations in which they need to be patient by having them consider appropriate activities to help pass the time. It's amazing how much can be accomplished in those "wasted" minutes!
It's difficult to expect people (especially children) to wait patiently in this fast-paced world. So often, we expect (and even get) immediate gratification through our high-speed technological advances. Still, by helping our children to understand that not all things can happen at our whim, we can do much to improve opportunities for pleasant experiences. The essential worth of skills and possessions are more concretely realized when they have been earned. Yes, patience is a virtue, but in that it can help us calm down and appreciate the little things that happen along the way, patience can also be a gift. Make the most of it!
Perseverance means to keep working until the goal is met in spite of difficulties. When a person has perseverance they don’t give up! Perseverance is the difference between those people who try and those who succeed. Below are suggested activities that can assist parents in teaching perseverance to their children.
- Play Charades with your family! You know how it goes: One person acts out a person, place, or thing without talking. The observers have to try to figure out what he/she is communicating. At the end of the game, discuss how each person had to use perseverance when playing the game. What were the different strategies people used when they wanted to “give up?”
- Look for examples of real life “heroes” who didn’t give up or who overcame significant obstacles to meet their goals. Think Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Jefferson. In fact, it’s difficult to find an accomplished person who did NOT use the lifeskill of perseverance. Talk about these stories! Show admiration for their attitudes and perseverance!
- When things get hard, help your child learn perseverance by saying, “Press on—if you keep at it, you will make it. We’re proud of you for hanging in there.” Remind children that ways they have persevered to learn new things: riding a bike, reading, etc. Ask them what would have happened if they had stopped trying to walk after they had fallen the first time.
The article “How to Teach Kids Perseverance and Goal Setting” from Parents Magazine offers several strategies to instill this important lifeskill in children, as well as what to do when kids fall short of their goals. This article also includes a great “template” for goal-setting.
To help our children develop perseverance, we need to support them as they are working and when they encounter challenges, but we have to be careful not to “rescue” them! Remember, we want our children to grow into independent, confident adults. Praising their efforts, their flexibility and their resilience are important factors to help them develop perseverance.
Effective problem solving strategies are important when seeking solutions to everyday problems as well as to more difficult dilemmas. Although most of us would love to shield children from life’s inevitable disappointments and to solve all their problems for them, a child’s path to independence and confidence is paved with the ability to deal effectively with problems. To be an effective problem-solver, it is helpful to brainstorm solutions, practice assertiveness, improve communication skills, and make decisions about when and how to ask for or offer help. Parents can support these skills in many ways. A few suggestions follow:
- When faced with a decision, help your child weigh the options by making a pro-and-con list. Have your child draw a line down the middle of the page.
On the right side (“Pro”), list all the reasons to do something. On the left side (“Con”) write all the reasons not to do something. This list should help your child to make a more thoughtful decision. They may need assistance at first to develop Pro and Con lists, but this strategy can be useful (and internalized) for many years to come.
- To help deal with problems around the house and within the family, make a “Problem Solving Box.” Family members may write their problems down and put them into the box. One day/night a week, meet as a family and read the problems. Collaboratively come up with solutions as a family, allowing every person to share ideas and thoughts.
- When reading or watching TV together, identify characters who are problem solving effectively and those who are not. Discuss how characters are using (or should use) the aspects of problem solving (brainstorming, assertiveness, communication, and asking for/offering help) to reach a positive solution.
- At school, students learned that there are appropriate ways to communicate, to be assertive, and to ask for help. There are also inappropriate ways to do so (yes, the ol’ “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” lesson). MODEL appropriate communication techniques for your children. If they see you showing respect to others in problematic situations, they most likely will respond similarly. In contrast, if they see you losing control, well…you know the rest…
Thank you for your efforts to promote positive problem-solving capabilities in your children. The positive effects will last a lifetime!
Respect means to have consideration for others. To be able to respect others and the limits they set, one must first develop a respect for oneself. In teaching children respect, parents have the responsibility to model an understanding and respect of others. It is primarily through this modeling that children learn that respect is reciprocal. Below are suggested activities that can assist in developing and supporting respectful individuals:
- Do something kind for a person in your family and/or neighborhood. Reach out in small ways that they do not expect. These "random acts" of kindness make everyone feel good. Don’t deny your child the unique experience of creating such good feelings.
- Practice using good manners like saying "please", "thank you", "you’re welcome", and "excuse me" at home. These "magic words" should begin to feel like natural extensions of everyday speech. You may also want to encourage children to be on the lookout for others using these words. Use the "I Spy" phrase to find examples of respectful words; for example, "I spy ____________ being respectful by saying _______________."
- Try using an I-Message when you are upset, angry, happy. Ask the person how they felt when they heard the I-Message. Use the following prompt: "I feel _________when you __________ because ______________, and I would like you to ________________ instead."
Help your children to understand that different people have different needs. People learn in different ways and at different rates. Be open about the "gifts and challenges" that family members have that may require special attention. Caring about one another in our own families is the first step toward extending care towards others.
In the classrooms, Rheem students learn what Respect looks like, sounds like, and feels like. We practice many different strategies to help us be respectful, such as the I-Messages described above as well as using"De-Bugging" strategies (see below). We hope that you can benefit by utilizing these skills in your own homes so that the lessons learned at school can be further extended into the "real world."
Responsibility means to be accountable for your actions. Children should be encouraged to move beyond thinking only about themselves and to see the greater good that engaging in responsible behavior can bring. Taking responsibility for one’s actions means thinking about the outcomes and impact on others (as well as oneself) before saying or doing things. Practice in developing alternative reactions, taking ownership of actions, considering time management, and accepting consequences will help students develop into responsible people. Of course, children need lots of positive reinforcements from parents and other caring adults. Below are suggested activities that can assist parents in modeling, supporting, and fostering responsible individuals.
- Have each family member (even adults) make a list of three things for which they are responsible for at home. For example: cleaning your room, taking out the garbage, feeding the dog… Make a chart of these jobs and check off each day when you complete the job. Celebrate at the end of the week as a family when all jobs are done. Discuss the difficulties the family would have faced if family members had not been responsible. Discuss how it feels to be a responsible and helpful member of the family. You may want to rotate jobs so all members experience different types of responsibility. IMPORTANT NOTE: Parents should model and walk through the steps of a job several times so that children have a clear understanding of what needs to be done and what a completed job “looks” like. If children are not taught and shown how to do a job, most likely they will not do it to your satisfaction.
- As a family, make a list of rewards and consequences for doing/not doing jobs. Make sure that both rewards and consequences are clearly defined, easy to implement, and fair. One way to accomplish this is to identify a specific “perk” for successful completion of the job(s)—the consequence for not completing the job is simply not to receive the “perk.” Then, the focus is on the positive feelings that will be associated with being responsible.
- When your child leaves clothes, toys, or other things lying around, gather them in a “Saturday Box” where they are unattainable until the next Saturday. They will quickly learn to put their things away where they belong if suddenly they don’t have access to their favorite items! Children need to understand they are accountable for their actions and that there are consequences to not being responsible.
A well-developed sense of responsibility can make all the difference in establishing a successful professional and personal life. Share with your children the many ways you are responsible both at work and at home. Responsibility often means doing things that might not be “fun” but are important and necessary. The rewards for being responsible may come a little later, but the rewards definitely are worth it!
SENSE OF HUMOR
Sense of Humor is the ability to laugh and be playful. It requires people to not take life too seriously, to have a creative view of our imperfect world, and to have the ability to laugh at oneself. Unfortunately, children can loose the skill of humor when they feel unloved and/or when their lives lack models of how to flavor life with a sense of humor. To be able to see the humor in life requires an appreciation of its spontaneity and its imperfections. Below are suggested activities that can assist parents in trying to share humor with their children.
- The most important teaching tool parents possess the ability to show children how to do things. With humor, parents can show children how to find fun in everyday life and how to accepts the twists and turns that life has to offer. Have family members think of a time when, although things may have seemed bad, they were able to find something funny or good in the situation (family vacations can be rich with examples!) Parents can teach children to be optimistic rather than pessimistic by noting the humor in unexpected situations.
- Very Important! When teaching Sense of Humor, make sure to avoid laughing AT children. Rather that laughing at children over something they may have done wrong, first ask them what they think about their mistake and then help them to see the humor in what happened. Unfortunately, if you do not talk about the humor, a child may internalize the laughter and assume you are laughing at them and not with them.
- Have family members share jokes or funny anecdotes. Sharing funny stories helps children to see what other people think is funny as well as provides a fun time together.
- Discuss “appropriate” kinds of humor. Humor is not a put-down and should not be used to hurt other people. Humor should not be used to stereotype certain cultures or groups. Discuss how your child might feel if he/she were the target of such inappropriate humor. Share examples of when someone you noticed used humor in a “good” or “bad” way.
Having a good, healthy sense of humor is a Lifeskill that can help us through stressful times. By finding the humor in everyday situations and be sharing this skill with our children, we can dramatically increase their potential for success and happiness.
IF SOMEONE IS BUGGING YOU...DE-BUG!
As much as we all try to do our best all the time, there are still those occasions when other people "bug" us. As part of the Lifeskills training at Rheem, all students are taught "de-bugging" strategies to use when someone is annoying them. You can support this effort by reminding your child to use one, some, or all of these "de-bugging" suggestions when those inevitable conflicts arise outside of school.
How to De-Bug:
- Move away
- Talk friendly
- Talk firmly
- Get adult help
Not all of these strategies may work in all situations. Also, there is not an exact order that you need to use. Let your common sense dictate the most appropriate series of strategies to use.
Read-aloud and shared reading opportunities are wonderful ways to connect with your child. Children's literature is rich with examples of character-building scenarios. When reading with your child, take the opportunity to include the subject of Lifeskills in your discussions. Ask questions such as: "What Lifeskill is this character using?" "What Lifeskill does this character need to help solve the problem?" These questions will offer both you and your child insights on the power of these important character traits. Below is a list of 16 Lifeskills and a corresponding children's literature book for each:
Respect: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
Don't forget to share some of your favorite books from your childhood with your child. By sharing these favorites, you can communicate your ideas, thoughts, values, and hopes in ways that lecturing never could. Enjoy the pleasures and benefits of reading together with your child!