Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Family Traditions

Recently, in an attempt to prepare my students for the MCAS long composition test, I had them write a personal narrative. The topic: “Family Traditions.” The first word that tripped them up was “traditions.” Many children had no clue as to what the word even meant. How could they start the writing process?

Unlike the real MCAS, I could tell them the definition of traditions as well as brainstorm some examples. Most children thought of holiday traditions but I also tried to get them to think of vacation traditions and any others they could think of.

We had many traditions in my family. When I was little we had a tradition of going to dinner at my grandma’s house on Sundays. The traditional Sunday dinner has become a thing of the past in many families, including mine. We spent Christmas Day with my mom’s side of the family at my great uncle and aunt’s house. Having no children of their own, it was not a kid friendly place to be. Picture, if you will, white furniture and carpeting.

One of my favorite vacation traditions was the brown lunch bag for the road trip. We couldn’t open the bag to enjoy its contents until we were officially on the highway. But we already knew what we’d find: a new comic book, quiet car games and candy!

These were designed to keep us quiet and occupied for the majority of our journey. Being voracious readers we were done with all three of the comic books in no time. (We traded back and forth.) My older sister, Cindy, could make her candy last, but not we younger two, Marcia and me. We gobbled it down then enjoyed a sugar rush followed by a sugar crash. Good times.

After modeling the above traditions from my childhood, it was time to set the children loose on their writing. A couple of students were able to accomplish the task with relative ease. The rest had melt downs. They couldn’t think of any traditions. They didn’t know where to start.

After reminding them to make a list, draw a picture, or web out their ideas, they still whined. Most of my students do not like to write. It is too much effort for them. Writing is hard and takes focus and an ability to visualize. I tried to get them to tell their story by painting a picture with their words.

Still no luck for my severest reluctant writers. Some days I feel like I’m pulling teeth trying to get these kids to write. My only hope is that I’m planting seeds for the future when everything clicks and these kids, hopefully, get turned on to writing.

I actually called a few families and explained their child’s difficulties. The homework for those kids: talk with their families about their traditions. As I suspected, the families did have traditions, the kids were just not aware of them.

The bottom line? Talk with your children about your childhood traditions. It’s your heritage and theirs as well. Point out your family’s current tradition. Chances are, you’ve got them, your children just don’t know it.

Are you continuing any childhood traditions with your family? Are you creating new ones? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Teaching Gratitude and Graciousness

As parents the greatest gift we can give our children is the ability to navigate successfully through life. One of the best ways to do this is to teach them to be grateful. Practicing gratitude daily has many benefits but at this time of year we focus more on giving and receiving presents.

Jimmy Kimmel asked parents to play a trick on their children. The parents were to give their children an early Christmas gift. The twist was that the gift had to be something the children would never want. Then the parents video-taped their offspring opening said presents and posted them on YouTube.

Some parents wrapped up half-eaten sandwiches and rotten bananas. I enjoyed watching the little girl open the carton of six eggs and then proceed to crack open an egg. The child who got the rotten banana actually started eating it, peel and all.

Most of it made me laugh out loud but there were two clips that disturbed me. One was the boy in the red striped sweater. He has some anger management issues, I think. The fact that he was allowed to attack his parents bothered me as well. That was bad enough, but the last clip was over the top. The comment made by the young boy about what Santa could do was quite rude. Those parents get no “Parent of the Year Award” in my book. Apparently that language is considered acceptable in that household. I found it vulgar and disgusting especially to be uttered by what appears to be a ten-year old.

See for yourself. CLICK HERE to watch. Oh, and if you read the comments below the video, some of them are quite vulgar as well. (Just my humble opinion)

In addition to being grateful, perhaps we should also teach graciousness. When preparing my children to attend family gatherings, we discussed opening “Aunt Claire” gifts. My husband’s godmother, Aunt Claire, often gave gifts that weren’t quite what he wanted, like the year he received the cowboy hat. Still, he said thank you and even wore it for a short time. Then it was relegated to the back of the closet for all eternity.

Gifts are not so much about the recipient as the giver. There is a great article from USAToday about this very subject. CLICK HERE to read it.

The bottom line is that when you open a gift, even if it’s not something you like, it’s important to smile and thank the giver. It’s more about their thoughtfulness, time, and efforts.  Teaching this to children is key to avoiding social gaffes and possible embarrassment.  A polite, well behaved, gracious child is a gift not only to you and anyone your child encounters, but to your child as well.

Has your child ever reacted in a not-so-appropriate manner when they opened a gift?  Leave me a comment.  I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Achieving the Impossible by Overcoming Procrastination

Everybody procrastinates to some degree. That is, we avoid doing something we should do in favor of something we want to do. Procrastination becomes a problem when it interferes with our lives. We may not reach our fullest potential in our professional and/or private lives.

 According to, there are three steps to overcoming procrastination:

1. Recognize that you are procrastinating. You can’t address a problem if you don’t acknowledge it.

2. Determine WHY you are procrastinating. The most common causes: the task is unpleasant to us, we are unorganized, and/or the task is overwhelming.

3. Develop anti-procrastination strategies. There is a great, free, on-line tip sheet at to help even the worst procrastinator get started.

So, what are you waiting for? Seize the day and get something done!

Have you ever put off doing something and regretted it? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!