Friday, February 10, 2017

Use ‘The V of Love’

I would like to share a concept developed by Dr Sylvia Rimm, a noted psychologist, author and educator. Rimm explains that children require leadership and limits from their parents to feel secure. Effective parents use what she calls the "V" of love.

Envision the letter V. The space in the center of the V represents the amount of choice, freedom and responsibility that a child can be given. When children are very young, they're at the base of the V with few choices, little freedom and small responsibilities that match their small size. As children mature, parents can provide them with more choices — freedom with responsibility. Although limits remain, more freedom is provided. The top of the V represents the time when children are ready to leave the nest.

Obviously, a newborn has few choices. However, by the second year of life, a toddler can choose between water or milk or which of two books he or she wants Dad to read. By the preschool years, a young child can decide between two different shirts, which board game he or she would like to play and whether the bath should be filled with bubbles or not. The type and amount of responsibility we assign to our children also changes over time. Infants are dependent on us to take responsibility for all of their needs. But toddlers can help put toys away, learn to buckle themselves into their car seats and throw something in the trash for Mom. Children ages 3 and 4 can help set the table, gather laundry and help prepare simple meals. Responsibility allows a child to gain competence and confidence — both important characteristics of kindergarten readiness.

Unfortunately, if parents invert the V and give children too many choices and freedoms in the earliest years, children will have difficulty when not given a choice. These are the same children who cannot accept limits imposed on them by others. They will resent rules and responsibilities. These children are often the ones we see who seem to be in charge of the household. They hold their parents hostage through temper tantrums, whining and pouting. They demand power that shouldn't be theirs before they are developmentally ready to handle that kind of responsibility. Remember how important the V in love can be for you and your child.

Use ‘The V of Love’ to set limits, build your child’s responsibility

Parenting is always a balancing act between letting go and setting limits. Here’s a great way to think about how to set limits. It’s called “The V of Love.”

Draw a large letter V on a piece of paper. The sides of the V represent the parent’s firm limits. Outside those lines, the child has no choices—the parent’s rule goes. But inside the lines, the child can make decisions and live with the consequences.

As your child gets older, you can give her more freedom. For example, when she was a toddler, she could choose between the red or yellow shirt. As a preschooler, she could choose to eat a banana or an apple.

Now that she’s in elementary school, her choices should expand. She should decide if she joins the swim team or soccer team. And she needs to live with the choice she makes. She can decide whether to do her math homework first or her reading (but she has to finish both).

The older your child gets, the more control she should have. Gradually, she’ll be ready for adult life—ready to make responsible choices and live with the consequences.

Some parents work the other way. They give young children too many choices. They treat their kids like little adults. These parents soon have a child who’s out of control. Then the parent clamps down. The child is unhappy and rebels, so the parent clamps down even more.

So, think about “The V of Love” when you’re setting limits.

The V of Love – Setting Age-appropriate Boundaries

 I was driving back to my mum’s place with my kids in the backseat when my older boy, just 9 years old then, asked me, “Mum, when will I be able to do that?”

“Do what, Darling?” I asked.

He pointed to a group of junior college students walking along the pavement leading to a mall nearby. My son wanted to know when he can go out with his friends, on his own, after school.

On another occasion my son asked, “When will you allow me to have my iPhone? I will only use it after I finish my work, Mum. We can discuss the rules. Can I have it please?”  

My husband and I had our reservations about giving my son a smartphone, let alone an expensive iPhone. It is true that we have to set boundaries when we decide he is ready, but the policing seems like a constant battle for many parents I have spoken with. There seems to be a constant negotiation between parent and child. So for a long time, the easier option was the status quo – no smartphone, no iPhone.  Just use the phone in the school office if you need to reach us.  But I knew we couldn’t continue to hide in our cave much longer, the boy was a pre-teen, we had to deal with this situation soon enough.

The First Step on a Wider Path of Decisions (us) and Choices (them)
We finally did, out of necessity. I was travelling for three weeks and wanted to be able to keep in touch with my sons daily, and for them to still “chat” with me like they do when I’m around.  It’s been six months since both boys were given their smartphones. (Yes, the younger one got it when he was just 9 years old. Is there really a right age to give them a mobile phone? I am often asked this by friends)

Thankfully the ground rules were set and we have no issues with the phone interfering with our family meals or their homework so far. But I am prepared for the day when we have to renegotiate the terms of use when the older boy starts to question the restrictions we place on him.

What’s next?
He is already telling me about the complete freedom his friends have -- they are allowed to use the phone late into the night, they can play games on it anytime, they can download games or any applications without needing to ask for permission! But he cleverly adds, “But I am not comparing. I am just saying.”

I may have crossed a small “milestone” in the life of every Singaporean parent -- the giving of mobile phones to my sons, but I have yet to cross another. That is, when do I allow them to go out on their own with their friends? Or when will I allow them to play computer games at home. For now, we have not bought them an Xbox, PlayStation or a fancy laptop for gaming.

We take it a step at a time though I do admit we have had it easy so far. The boys have been raised to reason, and have not asked or pestered us for any of these, for now. They have, however, asked about going out with friends or hanging out in their homes. When do we let go? How much freedom should I give to my boys? These are questions every parent will ask, many times over as our children grow up. How do we navigate this? How do we negotiate with our children or should we even negotiate? Thankfully, I have had resources that help me make informed decisions (not perfect because every child is different) and I can learn from the experiences of other parents and experts who have spent time studying and working with children and teens.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

PBL Teaches Children to Be Learners

PBL Teaches Children to Be Learners

Dear Dr. Sylvia:

Q. What are the benefits and pitfalls of Problem Based Learning (PBL)? Our school is in the very beginning phase of changing to PBL. Do you know any research sources?

A. Problem Based Learning (PBL) began in universities and medical schools where it has been researched, at those levels, as being extremely effective for student learning. It provides students with challenging and open ended real life problems and gives the students the responsibility for organizing, initiating and directing their own learning experiences. Students take turns in leading small groups, gathering resources, discussing differences in interpretation and evaluating their experiences. They also debate and discuss possible solutions to the problems. Teachers facilitate the learning by only occasionally asking questions requesting clarifications and suggesting additional resources that could be helpful. Teachers also observe and evaluate student participation.

At the medical school level, case studies are introduced and students must research the potential causes and treatments for the case as they will have to do in the real world of medical practice. Students report enjoying PBL much more than they have the typical lecture approach, although as part of PBL there can also be lectures that provide technical information which argument the discussion process. The students integrate the information from many resources to describe solutions for the patient case.

Many school districts are now encouraging teachers at the upper elementary, middle and high school level to incorporate PBL into the learning process. In the classroom, there might be four or five small groups, each working on the same problem and eventually sharing their solutions with the rest of the class. Science and social studies classes are more likely to include PBL than are math or language classes. For example, a government class could learn a great deal about their local government by trying to solve a problem within their community such as "How can the community prevent traffic accidents at a busy corner where there have recently been several accidents?” Students would have to research traffic patterns to verify that the problem exists, determine the legal issues involved, identify who controls these laws and how law related to traffic in a community are changed. There is little doubt that students would not agree on the same solution, so in addition to identifying possible solutions, students learn to listen to each other, debate and compromise. Reports would likely have to be written either together as a group or individually, so the written aspects of learning are not neglected. In some cases, students might prepare PowerPoint presentations to present to a public audience about the need for changes in the law.

Schools don’t usually adopt PBL as their entire curriculum, but only utilize it in some subjects and as part of learning process. Students seem to enjoy it and research findings have been continuously positive. Searching the Internet can provide you with significant research evidence. As to the pitfalls, I've not seen those yet, but I'm sure there are some. Most crucial will be that since children seem to enjoy taking responsibility for their own learning, they may be more disappointed to have to return toward the more routine and boring kind of learning that is still required for many basic subjects.

Animosity in School District Causes Problems

Animosity in School District Causes Problems

Dear Dr. Sylvia:

Q. I have been reading your book, “Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It” (Great Potential Press Inc, 2008) while I am also pursuing a second Masters degree in Educational Leadership (My first is an MS in Healthcare Management). The current district I am teaching is in vast need of your expertise. This is my first year here, but my 7th year of teaching. I am trying to find the right way to help this district get on the road turning the underachievers into the achieving students that I’m sure they can be.

What holds me back most is that this district is at war with itself. In spite of this obvious animosity and verbose disgust between teaching staff, administration and parents, the Superintendent is intent on having the teaching staff set up Professional Learning Committees. This requires full support of the administration and teaching staff in order for the idea to work, but both sides don't trust each other.

I get the feeling that the Superintendent doesn't care about the animosity, that feelings are very raw among the staff and it will take a lot on the part of the administration for this to be successful. It is frustrating to see this and stay to the outside. Do you have any advice about how to get both parties to clear the air? I ask because, unless this gets straightened out, I can't see my staying in this school district beyond this year.

A. Perhaps it's your work in your various Masters Degree programs that has sensitized you to the management issues taking place in your school, or maybe they're so bad that they're obvious to all. I don't know much about Professional Learning Committees, but your superintendent may be intending to use them to heal relationships between administration and teachers. Although it's obvious to you that there are major antagonisms as a first year teacher in your school, you're probably not in a position to do much about the continuing conflict. Although it may seem like the Superintendent doesn't care, he probably cares very much. While you may eventually decide to leave the district, I'd recommend that you don’t announce such threats or you may not be invited back just when you’ve decided you love your school after all. My experience working with schools is that either the animosity eventually diminishes or School Boards make dramatic changes.

The more important part of the answer to your question follows. You want to reverse underachievement and I know you can. Sometimes entire school districts adopt all or parts of my Tri-focal Model for reversing underachievement, but other times, teachers choose to reverse underachievement in only their classrooms. While it's easier if your colleagues join you, you can successfully reverse underachievement of one child at time, these children and their parents will appreciate your help and your progress will soon be known.

Don't let the conflict in your school prevent you accomplishing what you can--that is helping your students work to their abilities. In that way, you won't be an underachieving teacher. You can feel good about what you're accomplishing instead of avoiding the challenge by reason of a somewhat dysfunctional school. Your task is more challenging than it would be otherwise, but my message for your mission, is much like one that I would give to a middle school student who blames his or her underachievement on peer pressure to underachieve. Your determination to teach well is at least as crucial to you as the motivation for a peer pressured child to learn. Your students need your commitment and dedication and you will feel better about yourself if you can cut through the politics and concentrate on your teaching mission.

Bullying Causes Serious Problems

Dear Dr. Sylvia:

Q. I’m hoping you can help me with a problem in my classroom. I didn't see a book or DVD about bullying on your website, but that is a problem in my classroom and other classrooms in my school. What are your recommendations for dealing with bullying that occurs out of sight and earshot of the teacher? What do I do when a student or parent of a student complains about another child's bullying that I haven't witnessed? I teach fourth grade, and every year there seem to be problems with bullying.

A. I've actually written a great deal about bullying in various books and I'll summarize those after I've answered your specific question about what you do about bullying you haven't witnessed. The answer is that you take it as seriously as if you had witnessed it. Most bullies manage to bully kids out of sight and earshot of teachers and parents or they wouldn't be successful at bullying. They're smart enough to know that teachers and parents would make them quit, punish them and force them to apologize. Bullies don't win any peer credit by getting caught. Kids who habitually bully other kids are likely to have great problems later in life and to be in trouble with the law eventually. They often come from families that provided neither sufficient love nor boundaries, so you do them a great favor by providing caring and consequences. The caring is harder to provide than the consequences because bullies can be mean. Finding their strengths and engaging them in positive activities is a challenge. Punishing them can keep others safe temporarily, but they'll soon be back if they can get away with hurting others. They've learned it's one activity at which they're effective.

The continuous victims of bullying need protecting and suffer great harm to their self esteem. Children need to know how and where they can be safe and that they won't be considered tattletales for reporting their problems. They need engagement in activities to build confidence and friendships. Sometimes victims of bullying also need social skills counseling.

Anti-bullying programs in schools are effective at decreasing, but not necessarily eliminating bullying. I have many other suggestions for children that teachers could include in their lessons. Bullying is particularly prevalent at the middle grade level, starting at around third or fourth grade. A chapter on bullying in schools starts on page 39 in my book, Growing Up Too Fast: The Rimm Report on the Secret World of America’s Middle Schoolers. Because overweight children are often victimized by bullies, Chapter 3 in my book Rescuing the Emotional Lives of Overweight Children, “Feeling Like a Blob and An Outcast,” has additional tips on bullying. Finally, suggestions that are directed specifically to kids, but will also be helpful to you, are included in Gifted Kids Have Feelings Too and See Jane Win For Girls. In addition to all these, I'll be happy to send you a free newsletter on bullying, and there is an article in the parenting articles section of my website titled “Bullying Needs to Stop” which you may also find helpful.

Boy Needs Challenge and More Audience

Boy Needs Challenge and More Audience

Dear Dr. Sylvia:

Q. I’m a teacher in a school for intellectually gifted children. One middle school boy is of particular concern to me. He’s bright (160 IQ), tremendously creative, and one-on-one, a delight to be around. He would have excellent grades except that his behavior is problematic. The child spends his life in trouble, constantly securing a spot in detention for misbehavior and being talked to in a stern manner. He laughs at inappropriate times, loves to be the class clown, and says inappropriate things for shock value. We know that taking away his audience helps, but we certainly cannot isolate him constantly. His parents, lovely people, both professionals, are mortified. I believe that the current "discipline" program that we subject him to is completely off base. We haven’t changed his behavior in three years. He doesn’t fit the profile of bright but underachieving because he DOES do the work quickly and correctly so that he can get into trouble! Do you have any suggestions for changing his "consequence" plan in order to change the behavior?

A. Your middle school student acts like he has too much time on his hands, not enough challenge, and not enough positive audience. Independent or small group projects like demonstrating science experiments, writing and performing plays, editing a class newsletter, participating in forensics, debate, Future Problem Solving, Odyssey of the Mind, Quiz Bowl, joining students in a higher grade for subjects where he excels, coaching younger children in academic or sports areas, or shadowing mentors in areas of interest are just a few potential approaches to helping this young man see himself as more than a class clown. Isolating a child briefly in a time-out when he gets into trouble can be helpful temporarily, but giving him avenues for expressing his creativity in positive ways will have a more permanent impact on his real needs for creative expression.

Letters from Educators

I would like to extend an invitation to educators who would like to share stories about educational programs, their schools or schools they've visited. Writers can feel free to describe or discuss programs at any level from early day care to middle and high schools, university or even graduate school levels.

Teacher - Teacher Finds Teens Disrespectful

Middle School Teacher of the Gifted - Boy Needs Challenge and More Audience

Elementary School Teacher - Bullying Causes Serious Problems

Experienced Teacher in New District - Animosity in School District Causes Problems

Educator - PBL Teaches Children to Be Learners

Elementary School Teacher - Fifth Grader Pulling Teacher's Chain

Educator - School and Behavior Plan is Different

Teacher - Teacher Respect Crucial

Elementary School Teacher - Can Child Be Too Polite?

Teacher - Teacher Comparisons Can Be Helpful

Teacher - Teachers Need Parents' Help

High School Teacher - High School Teacher Inspires Failing Student

Fifth Grade Teacher - Nothing Works All the Time for Acting Out

Teacher - Encouraging Student Efforts Isn't Easy

Preschool Teacher - Kindergarten Readiness

Gifted Education Teacher - We Can Teach Gifted Students to Write

Welcome to Chinese University 101 by Jeff Walsh

Teacher Finds Teens Disrespectful

Dear Dr. Sylvia:

Q. I'd like to share an experience I had with a student yesterday. I let the students have a dry erase marker so they could play hangman on the board at the end of the period. The word they chose was "mobster." When they tired of hangman, one of them started drawing gang symbols on the board. I explained that he would be written up if he did that and the markers weren't for play.

Next, he started writing graffiti on the board, so I asked for the marker back. He whined and said I was silly. I said, "The markers are my personal property; I paid for them, and I don’t want them wasted. I use them for teaching and for educational purposes. Please give the markers back to me." He said, "What? These cost 50 cents for f__'s sake." I then said, "Young man, the markers do not belong to you, and they're not to be wasted. Please hand them over."

I turned back to my newspaper and waited, pretending not to watch. After about 15 seconds, he put the marker back on my desk. I told him to erase his graffiti, which he did slowly.

I think that teens don’t like it when parents and teachers say no to them. I never would have acted the way this boy did, so I wonder if he's not made to follow rules at home. I was too tired for a battle, but I couldn't let this happen either. It's a struggle getting students to follow simple rules.

A. Adolescence has always been a time when teens push limits a little, but you’re absolutely correct that more teens are disrespectful today than in the past. It does seem that each generation becomes a bit more difficult to parent and teach, and adolescent disrespect begins earlier and earlier. The media's image of teens being disrespectful toward adults hurts parent and teacher efforts. Fortunately, there continue to be many wonderful teenagers who look to their teachers and parents for guidance and who accomplish amazing contributions and challenges. Consider also, that the disrespectful ones may be dealing with their own feelings of failure.

Thanks for hanging in there and setting limits for those teens who push too hard. While the cost of a marker isn't the major problem, the boy's disrespect had to be stopped, and you managed that beautifully without further battle. Remember, that for every student who stays in school just to push teacher buttons, there are hundreds who look to you as role models and willingly learn what you teach so that they can lead productive and positive lives. By the time children are in high school, parents don't often take the opportunity to thank teachers, so for all those parents who are also struggling to guide their own adolescents, we appreciate your firmness and your kindness.


"Dear Dr. Rimm, Thank you for sending this response. You offer so much help for young girls and their parents. It is deeply appreciated and I feel very privileged to be able to share your wisdom with our readers. Thank you again." -- Paula Davis,

"Dr. Rimm, I am a mental health professional who's always on the lookout for new ideas in advising parents and your suggestions are most helpful. I have been very impressed with your crystal-clear, unpretentious presentation of problem-solving with children. Thanks for your work." -- Joe Delatte, LCSW, Ph.D,. Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Child Development Specialist

"Dear Dr. Rimm, Thank you so much for your sage advice; your words are precious. Your email addressed my question how our differences affect our children's up-bringing and why unsolved differences cast negative effects on them. In addition, your practical approach gave me assurance that I can manage this issue. As you guessed, our children's study time, screen time, sports and music are the majority of topics I have with my husband, and that's when I feel our significant differences. I love your way of leading me to find a comfortable middle ground with him. It struck me like a lightening when you said we are role models for how to solve our differences. It's a good thing someone is pointing me at my reflection in the mirror :-) Thank you for pointing out the sign of negative effect in our children - that they might think mom is mean. I saw many Asian-American teenagers and even grown-ups don't talk to their parents because they believe their parents cannot get along with Americans. I do not want that to happen. I am reading See Jane Win and it is a wonderful book to read. Your book gave me a hope that our daughter can become what God wants her to be." -- KK, column reader

"Dr. Rimm is a welcome voice of calm and reason--someone who offers practical advice, with almost immediate results. She's a guardian angel for families who need a little or a lot of guidance." -- Katie Couric, former host of NBC's Today Show

"Dear Dr. Rimm: Years ago I came across one of your first (maybe the first) books you wrote with your theories of gifted underachieving children. It gave us hope. My son is now a very well respected artist in Portland, Oregon. He was in 6th grade at the time we found your book. He is now 34 years old. We had a very rocky time of it. So, thank you for your outstanding insight into the gifted child and the parents, and thank you for going to so much trouble to communicate and educate. Thank you again." -- Patricia Cooper, Alumnus of the Doctor of Nursing Program, CWRU

"The kind of down-to-earth advice parents desperately seek when struggling to motivate their underachievers." -- The Washington Post

"...The book (See Jane Win) is a fascinating look at why people become who they are...Parents will take away many practical tips and good advice on how to encourage their daughters to aim high." -- Los Angeles Times

"How Jane Won is a great book for our daughters. It's a road map to living an extraordinary life." -- Ann Curry, NBC Today Show

"I am embarrassed to say that I only recently discovered you through one of my clients who uses your book closely with her three children. My clients turn to me for answers, but after finding your book, I am now making it a requirement for all parents to own a copy...and encouraging all parents to utilize your resources." -- Dr. Marcie Zinn

"You are an inspiration and profoundly interesting speaker. I was in attendance at a recent seminar and wanted you to know how much I appreciate you sharing all your life-long work. You speak from not only experience and vast array of knowledge, but from your heart and soul. I will take with me new strategies to assist those gifted underachievers that I see in my position as a gifted and talented teacher. I hope to put into place your research yet before the end of this school year. Thank you for all you do! It was truly a pleasure and honor to have been at this seminar." -- Linette Mace

"I want to thank you for your great contribution to the success of our conference. I was priviledged to attend most of your sessions and continue to be inspired by your words of wisdom and conviction. I find your support of parents particularly admirable. I am in awe of your works and wisdom. Thank you again." -- Marilyn Lane, California Association for the Gifted

"We selected Sylvia Rimm to be our Keynote Presenter for a two-day event...[due to] Dr. Rimm's outstanding credentials, the variety of presentation topics which complemented our theme, her high name recognition, and her reputation as being an outstanding speaker. Sylvia did not disappoint us with her workshops; our conference achieved maximum attendance, and educators attended her sessions with enthusiasm and provided strong reviews...without question, Dr. Rimm contributed to it being a successful event." -- Abbey Block Cash, Ph.D. AGATE Program Chair

"Just wanted to send a little note of "thanks" for an awesome presentation. You lived up to your outstanding reputation. Thank you for sharing your talents with our school. We think the world of you and respect your opinions and advice immensely." -- Greg, Stephanie and Nicholas Poghen

"Dr. Sylvia Rimm is an exciting and informative speaker who keeps audiences enthralled. She brings a vast amount of useful information to every presentation. Audiences feel they have gained valuable knowledge that can be used immediately. Dr. Rimm has spoken to parents, teachers, and students at least five different years. She brings new and important knowledge and research each time she presents. She gets my highest recommendation." -- Pat Hollingsworth, Ed.D., University of Tulsa

"Dr. Rimm spoke at our state conference. Everything went really well, and Dr. Rimm was highly praised by the attendees! She took the time to speak to some high school students the evening before, and they loved having that time with her. All three presentations went very smoothly and it was a delight to have her with us!" -- Tom Zigan, Wisconsin Association of Talented and Gifted

"Your topic is a very important one and I hope to apply the principles in my current position.  On behalf of many educators and administrators of gifted students in public education, thank you for your positive contributions, wise advice, and your professional example.  I sat amazed as I thought of your life whole; especially as you described your backdoor entrance to gifted education.  You more than arrived and you keep on doing great work.  Blessings to you.  Enjoy knowing that you are making an impact on many of us out here."  Priscilla Lurz, Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, TX

"I attended your presentation in San Antonio and I want to thank you for such a refreshing, affirmative, and encouraging talk.  It was as if you had been with me all throughout my upbringing and into my adult and family life, and we were sitting by the fire and I was listening to a summary of my life’s experience as it pertained to each aspect you discussed.  I could ‘totally relate’ to everything you were talking about.  It is a rare thing these days to sit in the presence of a wise person, and today was one of those milestone visits that blew fresh wind into my sails."  Sam, NISD, San Antonio, TX