Private school versus public school – which is better?

Recently, I’ve had cause to think about the choices we make as parents regarding the type of schools we prefer for our children. I’ve had experience with both, having gone to Catholic school during my entire childhood and having taught in public school for the last 17 years. At the risk of oversimplifying the matter (and hopefully getting my blog followers to pipe in!) I offer my humble opinion: Students are capable of getting an excellent education in both public and private schools that are well-funded and enjoy parental support. In other words, I’m not sure that a private school that costs $15,000 a year necessarily provides a better education than a good public school.The emphasis here is on “good.” There are plenty of bad public schools. However, might it be argued that there are just as many overinflated, under-performing private schools?

Naturally, students who attend religious schools do so for the additional religious instruction they will receive and most likely, a belief that peers will emulate some of the same values and beliefs.They want to pray openly during the day, reference God in their discussions, and give equal time to their religious studies. I think we can all agree that those elements are key reasons parents choose these types of schools.

But the big question remains – is one better than the other? What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with public and private schools? I would love to hear about your experiences with either, your judgments regarding their value, or why you chose what you chose for you own kids.

Three ways to get your kids to talk to you (Part 3)

Once you’ve met your kids where they are and established their trust, they know they can come to you with anything they need to talk about.But you need to commit to time to talk to your kids and not rely on it happening organically. Even though this last step seems elementary, it is crucial in establishing an open relationship with your kids. Because most people view full-on face-to-face conversations as intimidating and uncomfortable (Think about the last time you sat knee-to-knee with someone else, looked them straight in the eye and talked. Can’t think of one? That’s because we avoid those situations), it’s important to create a talking environment that is relaxed.

3. Have dinner together. Yes, I know that this is difficult for a lot of people. Packed schedules oftentimes preclude getting everyone together at the same time. But you CAN prioritize so that this time is prized, untouchable even. You can have a later dinner after sports practice, for instance. You can insist that the family eats together, without TV, cell phones, or any other distractions. Family dinners have the advantage of gathering to do something else (eat) but because silence is uncomfortable, people will speak up. I can’t tell you how much I learned about my kids at the dinner table just by talking about my day and generating conversation. A caveat – rarely does asking about their day get them to open up. Instead, ask about something specific that will require more than “Fine” as an answer.

If, despite¬† your best efforts, dinner just can’t happen, then make sure there is another time. It can be driving time or breakfast, but the key is that it should be uninterrupted, one-on-one or family time. Time in the car or taking the dog for a walk has its own advantages, because boys, in particular, tend to open up more when they are not faced with, well, their mother’s face. No, it’s not your looks. Research shows that for a lot of people, opening up is not easy when the listener is staring directly at them. Much more is revealed when the conversation casually unfolds as Fido searches for a fire hydrant.

So find time. Without it, believe me, your teen probably won’t make a great deal of effort to seek you out and talk to you.

Three ways to get your kids to talk to you (Part2)

In my last post, I talked about meeting your kids where they are in their own interests and finding common ground on which to build conversation. The second way that you can reach out to your children and get them to share some information with you is let them know that no topic is off-limits in your house. Let’s put it this way – if mom and dad cringe over a topic that all of their peers discuss openly, who do you think your kids will go to for their information?

2. Put on your poker face. The quickest way to get your kids to stop talking to you is to have an over-the-top reaction to something they have confided in you or are curious about. This includes sex, drugs, alcohol, cheating, lies, hasty actions they now regret, and so on. You are allowed to be appalled on the inside, but I promise you, if you swallow hard, look your kids in the eyes, and deal with whatever they’ve just told you calmly, they will come to you again and again in the future. Right now, they are gauging exactly what they can and cannot say to you. They want to talk to you, but they need to know that they can without immediately paying the price via parental rage or worse, punishments.

I used to tell my kids that yes, there would be consequences to all of their actions, but no, I would never punish them for their honesty. I made it my mission to never have them regret coming to me. I’ll never forget the day that my very young daughter approached me about something she had heard from a friend and this thing called “sex.” Although I couldn’t believe this was happening at such a young age, I braced myself and answered her questions. It was actually a quick and blessedly general conversation that didn’t require specifics or squirming on my part. It was over in minutes. But in the end, she smiled, relaxed, and threw her arms around me, hugging me tightly.

“Thank you, mommy,” she said.¬† I knew if I asked you would tell me the truth.”

And that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Let your kids come to you without fear. Remember that their world is different from yours and if they trust you to share it, you are very blessed.

3 Ways to get kids to talk to you

I oftentimes hear concerns from parents that they just can’t seem to talk to their kids. Those concerns are legitimate. Parents try,exhaustively, to communicate in one way or another, and many times their efforts are met with roadblocks, apathy, or even aggression. So what do you do when all you want to do is talk to your child? In this post and the next two , I’ll share three ways that you can open up the lines of communication with your kids and help them to see you as confidants.

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1. Meet them where they are. This means that instead of talking about what YOU want to talk about, you let them tell you what they are WILLING to talk about. Discovering this takes patience and a willingness to put aside your desire to solicit certain information and just listen. For example, your son loves to play video games and hates when you interrupt him to talk. Instead, try approaching him, watching him play for a while, making a brief comment about how cool the game is, and then walking away. The next time, do the same thing, but this time, ask a question: “How do you manage to leap over the wall like that?” You might be surprised as he excitedly tells you how he discovered that move and then demonstrates it for you. Congratulate him and move on. Now he sees you as someone who is interested in his interests but won’t necessarily bother him when he’s pursuing them. Afterward, use the game as an opener for a conversation. Ask him about it, ask him who he plays against (assuming he’s online with the rest of the teenage boys) and what he likes about it. Let him tell you. And whatever you do, as tempting as it may be, don’t use it as an opportunity to tell him that you used to play outside, not in front of a computer. Whether we like it or not, times have changed.

A goal to work towards in this scenario? Actually playing the game with him or against him. It can happen, but you need to open up that line of communication first.

How Ray J and other celebrities influence teenagers (aka: Why we should be frightened)

Last week, Ray J debuted his new single, “I Hit It First.” It was one small step for rappers, one giant step for further degradation of our society. I hope you haven’t heard it, because if you have, your ears are probably bleeding and you’re probably feeling more hopeless about our future than ever.

To the blissfully uninitiated, let me give some background. Ray J and Kim Kardashian made a sex tape together that later propelled her to stardom and him to B-list fame. His small fame must be waning, because he just produced a cringe-worthy “song” and video that alludes to the fact that he had sex with Kim K before Kanye. He “hit it first,” a beautiful expression that elevates them both and expresses their love and affection for one another, right?

How do you feel about the fact that this is the society our teenagers are navigating their way through? Guys are being told that it’s a matter of pride to see girls as nothing but sex objects. Their sexuality is a race to “tap that” before another guy does. Girls are learning that all it takes is a sex tape and an ensuing series of bad choices to make them a role model for even younger girls.

Sure, my generation had Prince, and Prince said some, uh, racy things. But the enormous difference between the two (aside from, obviously, talent) is that Prince was an anomaly. He was unique in his lack of inhibition. Ray J, sadly, is not. He is representative of the new norm, a growing mass of people who have no sense of what it means to be a real man or woman and who want our teens to join their ranks.

Scary, huh?