Young children ask hundreds of questions every day. Research suggests that by adolescence, the number of questions per day drops to about three. There are lots of ideas about why this decline occurs, including both reasons of nature (i.e., natural development) and nurture (learned behavior and life experiences). Nonetheless, it happens… Kids stop asking questions as they grow older.
A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer.” – Unknown
In this post, we continue with the topic of self-advocacy by exploring several ways to encourage kids of all ages to keep asking questions:
- Modify your own responses. Intentionally reply in ways that create a safe space for more questions. Try not to answer with a quick “No!” or with dismissive statements such as “Look it up” or “Go figure it out.” Instead, respond with reinforcing statements such as: “Great question!” or “Tell me more about what you are thinking” or “That’s interesting, what made you think of that?” or “You ask great questions.” If the child answers and then asks if they are correct, avoid replying with a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead, consider saying, “Let’s take a look…show me your thought process” or “That is not quite right, let’s look again” or “I love that you are checking in” or “that is not quite right…let me help…what questions do you have… Let’s see if we can figure out where you got off track.”
- Help your child see themselves as good at asking questions. Positive and prescriptive statements such as “You are such a thinker” or “I love how your mind works” or “You are so curious and ask such great questions!” are highly reinforcing and will increase the likelihood that your child will ask more questions. You probably recall from previous articles that our words inform our children’s beliefs about themselves. Tell them they are good at asking questions, and they will see themselves as having good questions to ask.
- Avoid answering questions for your child. Instead, respond with statements or questions that facilitate thinking, problem-solving, and further contemplation. Imagine that you and your child are playing volleyball with a giant beach ball. When the child asks a question, gently volley the “ball” back into their court. Be sure your volley is supportive and not dismissive. If you know the answer, consider responding to part of the question, and then research the topic further with your child. For example, if the child asks why flamingo feathers are pink, you might reply, “Great question! I feel like it is either because of the bacteria in the water or because of what they eat…I can’t remember. Let’s find out.” Or “Oh, are you studying flamingos at school?” or “What got you thinking about pink feathers? Let’s google it…my computer or yours?”
- Give your undivided attention. Avoid multi-tasking or half-heartedly mumbling a response when a child asks a question. Your non-verbals are a strong reinforcer. Let the child know their questions really matter by using your eye contact, smile, gestures, and body posture. If you cannot stop what you are doing at the moment, be sure to circle around later when you can give your undivided attention. It is never too late to let them know how glad you are they asked and that you want to uncover the answer together.
- Play games that get your child asking questions to think. My favorite is The Answer Game. You think of a question (“What was my first childhood pet?”) and then give the answer, such as “a cat.” The child must figure out the question. You can play this game verbally or on paper. Encourage your child to ask as many types of questions until they figure out the question. You can add clues or respond with “hot/cold” responses to keep them going. Then reverse roles and have them give an answer and you model asking good questions. Another favorite is the 20 Questions Game. You probably recall from previous articles that children of ALL ages learn best through play.
- Model curiosity and vulnerability. Ask your child questions about their areas of interest and expertise. Model being vulnerable and asking all kinds of questions—even if they would be considered “stupid questions.” If your child is into LOL dolls, get curious about LOL dolls. If they are into football, get curious about football. If they are into poetry, get curious about poetry. If they like a certain show, get curious about that show. Model asking different kinds of questions to them (and in front of them). Early on, children learn that when an adult asks them a question, there is an expected response or a “right answer.” When we ask lots of questions, we are showing them that no one knows the answer to everything. We are modeling that it is okay not to know, and most importantly, it is okay to ask “stupid questions.” Essentially, we are teaching them that asking questions does not make you stupid. Rather, asking questions shows you are curious and makes you wise about many things.
©2022 Individual Matters. All rights reserved. Feel free to republish so long as credit is given.
In a previous post, I touched on the importance of self-advocacy and how to support students with developing this skill. By “self-advocacy,” I’m referring to a student’s ability to speak up for him/herself to get a need met or problem solved at school (versus promoting personal, personal, or religious ideas or beliefs to others). In terms of school and life success, self-advocacy is inseparable from personal responsibility.
Here are five simple steps for helping students develop self-advocacy skills for school:
- Discuss and define what it is. Make self-advocacy a regular part of classroom and home conversation. Adults can share ways they have (or have not) self-advocated in their education, jobs, and everyday lives.
- Validate, validate, validate. Sympathy and understanding are key when responding to a self-advocating individual. Critical or belittling reactions will shut down this process.
- Make a plan. How can a student ask for help, explanation, or permission? Is there a particularly “safe” teacher with which to begin practicing this skill? If so, communicate with them in advance. Rehearse the process at home. Then give it a try.
- Reinforce and review. How did the self-advocacy experience go? What worked and what didn’t? How did it feel before, during, and after? Compare notes with the teacher. Also, what positive reinforcement can teachers and parents implement to help sustain this behavior in the student?
- Return to step 1. Self-advocacy never stops. Successful individuals are continually evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses and responsibly communicating (not demanding or imposing) their needs to others.
Remember, self-advocacy is a skill. For mastery, it must be learned, practiced, and repeated!
©2022 Individual Matters, LLC. All rights reserved. Feel free to republish so long as credit is given.
School is out for summer! For some students this is a sentimental time, and for others the last day could not have arrived soon enough! Here are five fun activities that can help you and your students wrap up the school year and kick off summer!
1. Write a letter to your future self. Encourage your student to write a letter to their future self and seal it until the night before the first day of school next year. It could include some encouraging words, favorite quotes, a lesson learned, a poem, a drawing…you could create a summer fun list and see how many fun to-do’s you accomplished.
2. Create a deck of conversation cards with questions like: what was the most memorable moment this year? Who influenced you the most? What is one thing you would do differently? What was your proudest moment? A deck of conversation cards can stimulate discussion and connection. You could also complete the cards alone by journaling your answers.
3. Memory Collage of the year’s best, funniest, and most inspiring personal moments. This is a great way to wrap up the year and create a keepsake to look in the years to come.
4. Create a Sumer Vision Board. This is like the memory collage – but in reverse.
5. Pick a theme for your summer. Maybe you want to relax, get fit, connect with friends and family, have new experiences, be courageous, slow down, get mindful…you might even pick a theme song that captures the essence of what you want your summer to be. Maybe the family picks one to share or maybe each person has their own.
Hope you enjoy these ideas and have a wonderful and fulfilling summer!
©2021 Individual Matters, LLC. All rights reserved. Feel free to republish so long as credit is given.
How are fear and anger connected? This relationship is easily understood by way of “The Anger Iceberg” (a model developed by The Gottman Institute). Only 1/3 of an iceberg is visible above the water – a small peak that symbolizes ”anger.” The bulk of the iceberg hangs below the water – and this represents “fear.” Basically, anger is what we “see,” while fear lurks hidden beneath the surface.
When fear is triggered, the brain and body enter a “fight, flight, or freeze” state (aka survival mode). Anger represents the instinct to fight, serving as a protective factor by signifying strength and power. Imagine the tiny chihuahua who takes on the German Shepard by snarling, barking, and showing his canines. The chihuahua is trying to communicate strength and power to a perceived threat.
“The Anger Iceberg” reminds us that an angry child is a fearful child. So, next time your child (or you) is angry, try to look below the surface…what is the driving fear thought? Fear of not being good enough? Fear of rejection? Fear of looking stupid? Fear of not being loved?
Now that you know anger is driven by fear, you can respond in a supportive and solution-focused way without being pulled into an anger-fueled battle.
©2021 Individual Matters, LLC. All rights reserved. Feel free to republish so long as credit is given.
Ever ask your student, ”How was school?” and all you get is “I dunno” or “fine”? It has been my experience that both parents and kids/teens crave a more meaningful discussion but are not always sure how to make it happen. This week, I want to share 5 ways to connect with your student of any age:
1. Change the Way You Ask: Rather than asking, “How was your day?” try phrases like “I wonder if…” or “Tell me about…” or “What was something funny that happened today?” or “When did you laugh?” or “What was hard about today?” You can also get more specific, such as “Who did you sit by at lunch?” “What was for lunch?” Or “What was the topic in history class?
2.Model How to Connect: Share details about your day first. Describe a situation at work and how you responded. Share a funny story about your boss. Share a proud moment or achievement. Describe something you learned. Share what you had for lunch and who you sat next to.
“Every good conversation starts with good listening.” – Unknown
3.Create an Open and Receptive Atmosphere. Turn off the radio. Put the phone away. Talk less. Listen more. Embrace moments of silence. Genuinely pay attention to the response your student gives. Follow up on a previous bit of information to show you really care and do remember.
4.Fine Tune Your Active and Reflective Listening Skills: Don’t problem-solve. Don’t rescue. Don’t teach. Just listen. If you’re unsure how to respond, just try reflecting back what your student shared. For example: “That sounds frustrating.” Or “Seems like you put in a lot of effort.” Or “You sound sad.”
5.Routinely Use a Theme: When your child climbs in the car, during dinner, or at bedtime, consistently use the same theme to open up a discussion. One theme I use with clients is “Petals and Thorns.” A petal is something positive while a thorn is a disappointment, struggle, or challenge. You could also use successes and challenges, hits or misses, Thumbs up/Thumbs down, or any other variation of this theme. Consistently using the same conversation starter can help prompt topics and may get your student thinking about it even before you ask!
Try these out and see how they work. Practice patience – and remember that success takes time. All good communication starts with good listening.
©2021 Individual Matters, LLC. All rights reserved. Feel free to republish so long as credit is given.
Today we’ll look at the last piece of the R Solutions for Everyday Living. As previously discussed, each R Solution targets one or more area of executive functioning (EF). This week’s R Solution is: Review and Recharge.
Now is the time to take a break from our EF work, look back at our journey, and review progress! If your students set a S.M.A.R.T. goal, did they accomplish it? Where did they excel, and and where did they get hung up? Parents and students can do this together. Just remember, this should be a positive, constructive process. Just because there’s always room for improvement doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate successes along the way.
Here are some areas to Review: Did our S.M.A.R.T. goal target the real EF deficit? What went well over the previous weeks, and what didn’t? What times or activities caused anxiety, frustration, or “blow-outs”? When/why did things not get done? What tasks or activities on our checklists could be added, deleted, or moved around? Are there any skill “gaps” that got missed? (Tip: Use “I’m wondering…” as a conversation starter)
Recharge: Recharging looks different for everyone, and everyone needs it! Developing and using EF strategies are hard work, and for some, the use of EF strategies will always feel upstream. Therefore, it is important to determine how your child recharges (which they show us through their actions and interests) and build that activity (or that “non-activity”) into their rhythm and routines. (Tip: Put “recharge” on the student’s to-do list!)
Hope you’ve enjoyed this series! Join us for the next podcast, where we’ll continue to “learn about learning” and share ways to help your student (and yourself) live a more positive and fulfilling life.
A Free Presentation Series for Parents with Students of All Ages
Individual Matters hosts a series of presentations for parents of students of all ages. Join Dr. Katen and other local experts to learn about all things that have to do with learning.
The presentations take place on the FIRST TUESDAY of every month for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Topics will include:
- Learning Simulations
- ADHD: What is really causing the attention problem?
- Dyslexia and other Learning Disorders
- Auditory and Visual Processing
- Executive Function and Learning
- Learning Styles and Using Strengths to Find Success
- Gifted and Advanced Learners
- Successful Learning Skills: Organization and Homework Strategies
- Autism and Other Social Challenges
- IEPs, 504s, and Advocating for your Child at School
- And many more!
Location: 2530 E. Foresight Circle, Grand Junction, CO 81505
Day/Time: 1st Tuesday of each month, 5:30-7:00pm
If you can make it, please RSVP by email or phone so we can be sure to have enough seats and snacks.
Hope to see you there!
Do you answer “yes” to any of the following questions?
- Are you curious what hidden gifts or talents you possess, but don’t use?
- Do you sense that you learn or perceive the world differently from others?
- Does it feel like you could conquer the world – if only you didn’t have so much anxiety and self-doubt?
- Do you have big wishes/goals, but feel like you’re not educated (or smart) enough to attain them?
- Ever wonder why you experience relationships and social gatherings differently from your family and friends?
- Is school or work a struggle? Boring? Simply a poor “fit”?
- Are you an entrepreneur who wants to fine-tune your role in your business?
- Are you an employee who secretly wants to be an entrepreneur?
- As a mom, do you sense that your child is not performing at their best? Or as happy as they should be?
- Is it hard for you to pay attention, remember things, organize and manage your busy life?
- Do you feel like you’re a smart, creative person who is drowning in a world of checklists, to-dos, and non-stop life maintenance?
Maybe these questions seem like an advertisement for a motivational class or success
seminar. But sometimes, they’re questions that lead individuals to seek a neuropsychological learning evaluation.
A comprehensive, high quality, neuropsychological learning evaluation can help you understand:
- How you think.
- How you learn.
- How you relate to the world.
- Your interests and talents.
- Factors that may be suppressing your performance and happiness.
The goal of this evaluation is not to “diagnose” what is “wrong” with you or your child.
But it is important to identify what issues may be keeping you from functioning your best – and being your happiest. Here’s an analogy we can all relate to:
What would you do if your car did not start in the morning? Would you “give up” – i.e., call your boss your boss and quit your job? Would you “check out” – i.e, climb into the driver’s seat, stare out the windshield, and wait for something miraculous to happen? Would you become “behavioral” – yelling and cursing, maybe hitting your car? Or, would you buckle down and work harder – i.e., push your car to work?
Everyone will respond in his or her own way, depending on temperament, motivation, how many times this has happened before, financial situation, whether a phone is available, and so on…
Of course, the ideal choice would be to call a tow truck and have your car delivered to a mechanic’s shop. There, the mechanic would begin his assessment of the problem by asking you what happened. Based on the history you give, he might continue the diagnosis process by considering your vehicle’s make/model, identifying the type of engine in the car, checking the oil, evaluating whether the engine parts are moving correctly, determining whether any parts are broken or jammed, ensuring the engine is connected to the drive rod, axle, and wheels, etc. He might even check to see if your wheels have air in them – or if the gas tank is empty!
Basically, the mechanic would take a comprehensive look at your vehicle to figure out exactly what is keeping your car from performing the way it was designed.
Similarly, a neuropsychological learning evaluation involves understanding where you are, how you got here, and where you want to go.
Like a mechanic’s shop, the diagnostic process evaluates your brain – its horsepower (IQ), output (e.g., academic achievement, behavioral symptoms, emotions), how various parts work together (e.g., attention, working memory, executive function), and if the engine connects to the rest of the car (e.g., visual, auditory, sensory processing). This is a simplistic comparison, of course, but it illustrates the value of comprehensive diagnostic assessment.
Since every human is unique, a neuropsychological evaluation is arguably much more complex than figuring out why a car won’t start… Especially when one takes into account the influences of emotional, social, and behavioral functioning, the infinite scope of interests, personality, temperament, and family dynamics – and the fact that everyone is unique!
But the overall goals of the two assessments are similar – to figure out how to optimize performance.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma about “psychological testing” that may prevent adults from pursuing a learning assessment – either for themselves, or for their kids.
Over time, this will change, of course. At some point in the future, neuropsychological learning evaluations will become mainstream. Someday, it may be as common as getting vision or hearing checked, having cavities filled, or getting blood pressure checked – just another approach to living longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Few people would disagree with the sayings, “Live life to the fullest,” or “Be the best you can be.” Wouldn’t it be nice to find out what the “fullest” or “best” really means? And then to identify and overcome any obstacles that might stand in your way?
– Dr. Katen
“Live the life you were meant to live!”
©2017 Individual Matters. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share this article with others, as well as to print or post it on other websites, so long as credit is given to the author.
Attention issues, learning challenges, and social and emotional issues
Parents often feel lost, frustrated, and powerless when their child is struggling at school. Although motivated by love and a fundamental desire to help their child, parents may be unsure why their child is having trouble and what steps to take in figuring it out. There are many reasons a child may be struggling, and, although these may be obvious in some cases, for most children the root cause is complex and not immediately evident.
One underlying cause may be attention issues, which can result in academic problems, negative behaviors, and social difficulties. Academic performance is greatly affected by poor attention because it creates gaps in knowledge. In the classroom, new knowledge builds upon previously mastered material and, as the child progresses in school, gaps in foundational knowledge become increasingly problematic. Behavioral symptoms of attention issues can look very different for each individual child. For example, some children are disruptive, some stare out the window, and others present as engaged while, in fact, their thoughts are elsewhere. Since children in this latter group are not characteristically hyperactive and disruptive, they are at highest risk because their attention problems are least likely to be identified. In addition to academic and behavioral disruptions, attention issues can also result in social and emotional struggles. Children with ADHD are often socially immature and experience low self-esteem.
A learning challenge may also be the culprit of low academic performance. A learning disorder is suspected when academic achievement is substantially below what is normal for age, schooling, and level of intelligence. Not surprisingly, learning disorders significantly interfere with school performance and achievement. Beyond failing grades, these problems can also cause demoralization, low-self esteem, and deficits in social skills. Children may become disruptive in class or simply “check out.” Furthermore, undiagnosed learning disorders can impact students into adulthood when they feel ashamed and “stupid.” As a result, personal relationships and careers may suffer. Contrary to popular belief, learning disorders are not indicative of low intelligence and do not assure failure; some of the greatest thinkers of our time are believed to have had learning and/or attention deficits.
Social and emotional issues can also lead to academic problems. A child weighed down with sadness, anxiety, low self-esteem, and turbulent relationships is less likely to find the focus and motivation necessary to be successful on tests and assignments. Every individual expresses and deals with social and emotional issues in his own way – a reality which presents additional challenges to parents who seek to understand what is going on with their child.
Many times a child’s difficulty at school is not due to a disorder or attention problem, but instead relates to a particular learning environment or style. For instance, children who are advanced in a certain area, but who are not challenged to the upper level of their abilities, are at risk for disrupting class, losing motivation, hiding their talents to fit in with peers, and developing an unhealthy view of why they are different. Sometimes a child simply has a different style of learning. For example, a visual-spatial thinker (someone who conceptualizes in images, and who sees “the whole” rather than organizing information into “silos”) learns most effectively when they understand the big picture first and can utilize their non-verbal abstract learning skills. Visual-spatial students also typically have “light bulb” moments when they grasp a concept all at once rather than in a step-by-step manner. Recognizing and capitalizing upon individual strengths and learning styles are essential for maximizing academic achievement and personal growth throughout one’s life.
When attempting to understand the cause of a student’s struggles at school, a good first step is psycho-educational testing. Essentially, psycho-educational testing removes a great deal of guess work by distinguishing between “can’ts” (inabilities) from “won’ts” (behavioral choices), and by giving parents solid answers and direction. Results of testing reveal how an individual thinks and learns, information which can be used to offer recommendations based on cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral functioning, as well as individual strengths and interests. Once parents clearly and comprehensively understand their child’s struggles, they can focus on promoting strengths, developing skills, seeking supportive learning accommodations, and collaborating with educators. Ultimately, the goal of psycho-educational testing is to maximize the child’s potential and lay the foundation for personal and professional success.
– Dr. Katen
©2016 Individual Matters, LLC. All rights reserved. Feel free to republish so long as credit is given.