Setting Limits with Children

Flourish, home of Studio for Change, hosted an event sponsored by Neighborhood Parents Network (NPN) and led by one of Flourish’s therapists – Melanie Arons.  The topic of Setting Limits is most relevant to the toddler ages, although parts of it certainly apply to children of all ages (and, as I used to experience in the corporate world, to some co-workers).

Arons explained children tantrum and act up because they want you to understand the intensity of the emotions they are feeling and they don’t have the vocabulary to express it – ie, just to say I am really upset right now.

Often parents try speaking to the children like adults not realizing the child doesn’t have the brain capacity to understand and comprehend.  Children respond based on certain motivations depending on their age – for example, up to age 7, a child’s primary interest is to avoid punishment.  From ages 7-11, that motivation shifts to a desire to please others (certainly parents of girls can attest to this) and it isn’t until age 12 and older that a child can realize that you do something simply because it is the right thing to do.

Similarly, a child’s ability to respond varies by their age.  From birth to age 2 a child basically responds only to the here and now.  From ages 2 to 7, they are egocentric and respond to the world immediately around them.  From ages 7 to 11, they are not yet able to think abstractly; that occurs after age 11.

With this in mind, as parents we need to speak to our children where they are and place our expectations accordingly.  One of the things we can do is to actually reflect what we believe they are feeling to help them see that we do in fact understand.  For example, “You feel sad because your friend had to leave early.  Here’s what we can do to make that better.”

It’s also important to let the child know you are never mad at them but rather the behavior they are exhibiting.  The child is not bad; the behavior may be.

Negative attention seeking is one of the first areas where we see our children begin to test limits.  This is perfectly normal and usually begins to occur around the age of 2, though it could begin as early as 18 months with some children.  This is a sign that the child is ready for time outs.

Most important is that parents follow through on their rules and actions.  Arons suggested the following tips:

1. Establish firm rules, but not too many as that can be confusing and hard to remember.  Her recommendation is 3-5.

2. Post the rules where everyone can see them.

3. Make the rules specific and short – if you hit another you go into timeout.

4. Have a family meeting to discuss the rules.  This is important particularly for children over the age of 4.

5. Avoid empty threats – if you really aren’t going to cancel the birthday party if the child doesn’t behave properly, don’t put that out there.  Children must know you will follow through.

6. Any rule violation should have immediate consequences or the child won’t correlate the consequence to the behavior.

Arons also gave suggestions to listen for the cues to a tantrum to catch the child before the behavior becomes a problem.

Note your child’s behavior before they tantrum and then begin to teach them coping skills so they learn to calm themselves:

1. use words

2. take deep breaths – and do this together

3. walk away from the situation (if possible)

4. tell an adult how they are feeling, especially if they need a break

I think it is a true gift we can provide our children to start seeing how they can take control of their emotions.  I often wish we could teach meditation from a young age because the idea of stepping away, taking a deep breath and calming our mind is a tool we can all use.

Finally, Arons shared these 5 skills for parents when interacting with their children:

1. Describe by giving information only, not by telling a child why he/she is wrong or bad.  Describe the problem; this helps children figure it out themselves.

2. Give choices – no more than 3 – which gives the child power and independence and helps them feel in control and builds confidence.

3. Say it with a word – shorter is better.  Avoid lectures or you lose the child’s attention.

4. Ask questions rather than state demands. When you ask a question, you give your child the opportunity to recall and to interact with you.

5. Show empathy.  It helps children to know their parents understand how they feel, which makes them more likely to listen to you.

Flourish and NPN are rich and valuable resources to parents.  You can find out more about each here:

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Homework Made Easier – Part 3

Part 3 of a 3-part series on Making Homework Easier

Tips for Students to Improve Study Habits

Whatever the issue may be there are things parents and students can do to make studying and homework easier.  Every tip will not apply to every student, and some should be varied by the age of the student.  It is suggested you incorporate 2 or 3 and see how they work with your student.  If they don’t produce the desired result, move on; if they do – hooray!

Every student is different and as parents we don’t want to judge our child or compare him/her to someone else.  Keep in mind that most corporate CEOs were C students.  We are all unique and individual and those differences should be celebrated not criticized.

1. Each student should have a distinct workspace for homework equipped with the necessary supplies  – pencils, pens, erasers, stapler, tape, glue, highlighter –whatever it may be.

2. Shut off all electronic devices while doing homework, especially texts and email.  This is going to feel interminable to the student, just assure him/her it will get better.  Students will tell you they study better with headphones listening to music – studies show this is false. And in fact, listening impairs concentration and the ability to remember.  Students do best in a quiet environment they call a “steady state environment.”  Interesting side note, listening to music you like before you study, not while you study, does improve performance with memorization and concentration.

3.  Do homework first.  Come home, have a snack, then hit the books.  Getting homework out of the way first means there is a better chance of actually finishing it on time and well.  Then you can allow time for other interests or activities.  Sometimes this isn’t possible.  There are activities after school and by the time the parent and student are home, it’s time for dinner.  In this case, homework should be done right after dinner.  In either scenario, the point is not to move into discretionary activities until homework is done, as that is the first priority.

4. When the student sits down to homework, the first thing that should be done is to go through the backpack and organize any loose papers.  Whether it is something for parents or a class assignment – all papers should be put in a folder or organized in some manner.  Folders or binders are a great way to organize notes, papers and assignments by subject or class, depending on the age of the student.

5. Next, review any class notes from that day.  This saves study time later and also gives the student an opportunity to see if there are any concepts that he/she doesn’t understand.  These are areas to go to the teacher for clarification.  The student should not wait until studying for a test to realize there is a concept that is not fully grasped.  Not to mention that teachers love it when students ask questions because it shows they are paying attention.

  • Some students will do better to read the notes out loud as a means to further reinforce learning.  Others find rewriting notes has the same benefit.  It depends on the student.
  • Creating sample test questions from the notes is a great way to think about the concepts being taught, test knowledge and begin to prepare for tests.
  • Some students will prefer to do this note reviewing exercise standing up or walking around. Believe it or not, movement helps some people focus.

6.  Teachers will often give an idea of how long homework should take.  If they don’t, ask them to include this information.  Parents or students may consider timing homework to be sure it is being done within a reasonable band of time.  If it’s taking too long, or isn’t challenging enough, talk to the teacher.

7.  As a student is working on a given assignment, talk about or ask her to think about how it will prepare them for upcoming tests.

8.  If a student gets stuck, tell him to step away from it for a bit and work on something else.  Even when you are working on the “something else” your mind can still ponder the problem and may spit out an answer when you least expect it.

9.  Take a break every 45 minutes or so.  Sitting for longer than 45 minutes produces diminished returns.  But, and here’s the key, the break should last no more than 5 minutes to maintain momentum, and it should not involve email, texting or tv.

10.  Set up a reward for finishing.  Choose something your student will look forward to – a special food, time with friends, electronics, a tv show.

11. As soon as an assignment is finished, put it in the proper folder and put the folder in the backpack (if finished with that subject).  Older students may want to read ahead for what will be covered in the next day.  They will  already be familiar with the material, which will keep them more engaged in class.

12. Make sure your student uses a planner or some centralized place to write down every assignment and upcoming test.  Both parent and student should check it frequently.

13. Before bed on each school night, pack up the school bag for the next day and check the planner to make sure everything is covered and to see what’s on the horizon.  The morning is too rushed to wait until then for important tasks, plus eating breakfast is really important.

14. Get adequate sleep – most students don’t get enough sleep and their natural body clocks want to stay up late and sleep late.   While school and societal norms force them into this early morning routine, they are fighting their natural impulses.

In some families, the fights over homework begin to have a negative impact on the relationship between parent and child.  In other cases, a student’s issue with a specific subject is beyond what can be accomplished with focus and organization. Many families in that situation choose to hire a tutor or homework helper.  It’s something we can help with as well – just give us a call at 773.697.9326.

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Homework Made Easier – Part 2

Tips for Parents to Help Students master Homework

Given homework battles at their core are about a child asserting independence, there are ways parents can make it less contentious.

1. Hard as it may be, give back some control to your child.  Give your student options by providing  choices.  Do you want to work on this on Saturday or on Sunday, or a little of both?  Do you want to study before or after dinner?  If you’d like to go to the party this weekend, I need to see that project done first.   The areas in which you choose to give control truly depends on your child.

2. Let your student know it is her responsibility to tell you the homework plan each day – she reports to you on what’s due when, what she will work on and how much time is required – and what materials.  Projects that aren’t due yet should be on the radar early.  Having your student tell you the plan avoids you nagging.  You can also set it up with consequences if it isn’t working.

3. Help your student learn time management by reviewing the planner together and putting together a work plan and transitioning the task to the student.  Also, teach your student how to break a big project into smaller tasks so it doesn’t seem overwhelming or unmanageable.

4. Finally, take some of the burden off of you and move it onto the child.  Delegate tasks to your child.  Make your child call a friend for a missing homework assignment.  Let them bear the consequences of a missed deadline or shoddy job.  For most students, it only has to happen once.

Tomorrow – Part 3 – Tips for Students to Improve Study Habits



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Homework Made Easier – Part 1

This is Part 1 of a 3 part series on Making Homework Easier.  Parts 2 and 3 will be published this week.

For some families a tension arises with the start of each new school year as parents prepare to resume the battle over homework.  It’s not an issue in all families, but for those where it exists neither parent nor student feels good about it.

On one hand, homework has to be done and there is the double-whammy of increasing homework loads and a compressed amount of time after school which is already filled with activities, dinner and family time.  Add working parents and busy students to the mix and you can understand how the tension builds.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  If parents can understand that the battle for homework is just another power struggle with their child (not dissimilar to toilet training but with a larger and smarter child).

A student knows you, the parent, want the homework done and that it is important to you.  That student also knows that you can’t do the homework.  Only the student can.  So fighting about homework is a way for the child to exert control over the situation.  The student knows eventually he/she will have to do the homework,  but maybe not quite yet.  It can also become more heated if you try to get the student to do it your way.

I don’t mean to suggest there’s anything wrong or odd about this – it’s perfectly normal.  And there are tactics we as parents can use to bring about the desired outcome.

There are common reasons students may have issues with homework and studying, in addition to the power struggle.

Student lacks confidence. Some students avoid or delay homework because they are struggling with the subject matter.  Maybe they aren’t the best with math or reading or writing.  For students with this issue, it is recommended parents help the student find some area, in school or out, where your student does feel confident and teach them to transfer that confidence to the subject with which they are struggling.  A student who feels accomplished in one area may gain a new perspective on themselves as a student overall. Parents must validate their accomplishments in these other areas, of course.

Procrastination.  Even adults have issues with procrastination – waiting until the last minute or just ignoring the task at hand.  The plus side of procrastination is that it is always in our control.  Children don’t know how to plan ahead, so we have to teach them.  They can’t remember what they had for breakfast, let alone what assignments were given today, and certainly not last week.  A review of the planner on a regular basis with your student and mapping out how the work will get done, taking into account the various activities, events and appointments in the meantime will help the student feel in control.

Perfectionist.  This seems to happen more with girls but it could occur with girls or boys.  The student feels the homework must be absolutely perfect and that striving for perfection draws out homework longer than necessary.  We have to help our children see when good enough is good enough.

Disorganized. It goes without saying that a disorganized student is not going to be as productive as an organized student.  Whether this is forgotten assignments, workbooks left at school or not prioritizing properly the problem is fixable teaching skills a child can learn.

Lack of engagement. A student may be going through the motions, not fully aware of why they have to do this homework or its relevance to the class or upcoming tests.   The student may be distracted or bored, especially if the homework isn’t that challenging.  He/she may just need to see the bigger picture and why the homework is relevant and important.  We can look for ways to make it more fun or interesting for them, or at least help them see how the homework ties into the bigger picture.

Lack of motivation. Typically a lack of motivation is coming from somewhere else – a communication issue, a clash with a teacher or teaching style, a boring segment or a lack of confidence.  In this regard, engagement at school does matter.  It has been shown that students who are engaged in extra-curricular activities at school are more engaged in school work.  If a student is forming positive relationships with others at school – students, teachers, coaches, etc – they will have a more positive attitude toward the school and their work.

Tomorrow:  Part 2 – Tips for Parents


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Upcoming Events at College Tutors

College Tutors of NE Chicago is excited to announce two upcoming events for families:

1. Financial Planning for College –

It’s never too early to start!

On Wednesday, September 19 from 7pm-8:30pm we are hosting Shireen Groleau of Lighthouse College Planning.  Shireen will conduct a free seminar on financial planning for college which will cover topics such as:

• Which classes in middle and high school will give my child a competitive edge?

• The pros and cons of 529 plans – How do they work?

• Can private colleges be less expensive than state schools?

• Do I make too much money to qualify for financial aid?

• What are the costs of college going to be in 5, 10, and 20 years from now?

• What colleges are looking for… starting as early as 8th grade!

Lighthouse College Planning helps parents navigate the entire college planning and funding process. They have a proven track record of saving families thousands of dollars in college costs and mentoring students to select majors and schools best suited to their needs so every student succeeds.

The event is free and space is limited.  RSVP today to: or call 773.697.9326.

2. CPS Kindergarten Options – Get the Facts

On Saturday, September 22 from 11am – 1pm, Education Consultant Christine Whitley joins us again to give her overview of CPS preschool and kindergarten options.    Christine helps parents navigate the waters of the Chicago Public Schools including applications, timelines, selection, school comparisons, selective enrollment and inside information on specific schools.

This 2-hour session will give you the essential information you need to make sense of public preschool and kindergarten testing, applications, and admissions. Get your questions answered about specific programs, gifted testing, and great neighborhood schools.

This event is also free and space is limited.  RSVP today to: or call 773.697.9326.

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Chicago Teachers Union Issues Intent to Strike

After what seemed a promising end to negotiations, the Chicago Teachers Union has issued the 10 day notice of its intent to strike.  The official date is September 9, with Monday September 10 being the first school day to be impacted.

Taking what sounds like a hard line, CTU President Karen Lewis said, “I want to make clear that we will remain at the (negotiating) table until a deal gets done.  We will have a contract and it will come the easy way or the hard way.”

CPS Chief Jean-Claude Brizard said they would be prepared to keep the children in school in the event of a strike with a budget of $25 million allocated.  According to the Chicago Tribune, the plan includes:

- 145 schools open from 8:30am-12:30pm Monday through Friday, for student activities

- central office and non-CTU employees will oversee students

- outside organizations will be enlisted as partners to provide a place for students to go

- in school, children will be engaged in independent reading, writing, art, athletics and computer work.  They can not be taught by non-CTU employees.

- students would be provided with breakfast and lunch at all facilities.

- Chicago Park District summer camps may be extended and public libraries may be made available to students

While it is my sincere hope an agreement is reached before a walkout, should strike occur, College Nannies + Tutors is prepared to provide additional childcare to our clients and will issue a special strike plan to advise them how to access on call childcare during that time.

Here are some links to local coverage of the strike and negotiations:


Chicago Sun Times

Chicago Tribune,0,1018577.story

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Raising Successful Children

The New York Times ran an op/ed piece on August 5, 2012 titled “Raising Successful Children” by Madeline Levine.  The piece was so compelling, I wanted to share some highlights and encourage all parents, grandparents and teachers to read this as well.

Of course, we all want our children to be successful and believe we are doing our best to make that happen for them.  Sometimes we are motivated by what we perceive to be shortcomings in our own childhood (perhaps speaking personally here) and sometimes it’s peer pressure and sometimes it’s a reflection of what we expect for ourselves.

The pull quote from the article is “If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you’re in the wrong business.”   The point of that being we have to “hang back and allow children to make mistakes.”  We did it so well when they were toddlers learning to walk, and somehow forgot those lessons of letting go.

I think many of us coming from corporate careers are used to “taking the bull by the horns” so to speak.  Taking charge; taking initiative; performance reviews – and we bring those skills to our home life forgetting that we aren’t grooming a successor, we are raising a child and in doing so our goal is to help them explore and discover their innate talents and abilities.

Some takeaways from the article:

Praising children’s talents seems to rattle confidence.  Letting them figure something out on their own without telling them in advance it will be difficult or easy for them actually produces a better result.

“Once your child is capable of doing something, congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on.”  Continued intervention does not produce a better result.

Your children will make mistakes, and as long as there isn’t serious danger present (as opposed to mild inconvenience)  let it go.

Taking on too much for your children can reduce motivation and increase dependency.  Here’s where parents must ask themselves – am I the one who doesn’t want my child to become more independent and eventually leave home.

“The job of a parent is to “know your child well enough to make a good call about whether he/she can manage a particular situation.  The child’s job is to grow; your job is to control your anxiety.”

Food for thought for parents and a good reminder of our role in raising a child.

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CPS Strike Averted?

I just saw this on Crain’s and it seems promising to those of us who don’t want to see a strike.

Rahm Gets His Longer School Day – But At a Cost

The gist is a deal was struck whereby the school day will be extended but the teachers do not have to work a longer day, using some of the laid off teachers to supplement the additional time.  Sounds like a win-win for the mayor and the teachers  – and more importantly for the students.

Still to be resolved are the ten additional school days during the year.

Watch this space for more information as we have it.

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Please vote for College Nannies + Tutors of N.E. Chicago

College Nannies + Tutors of N.E. Chicago has entered a Grant contest sponsored by Chase and LivingSocial called: Mission Small Business.

Your vote could translate into a $250,000 grant for College Nannies + Tutors of N.E. Chicago. In order for our application to be considered, we need at least 250 votes. (see instructions)

The program is intended to help small companies with immediate plans put them in motion with an infusion of cash. Read all about it!

Please VOTE for College Nannies + Tutors of N.E. Chicago.

Here’s how:
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3.    Scroll down to VOTE Local.
4.    Under business name, enter: College Nannies + Tutors of N.E. Chicago
5.    Select Illinois from the State scroll down box
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Thank you in advance for helping us to grow.

Have a wonderful weekend!


PS.  If you have applied and would like our vote, I would be happy to help you try and grow your business too!

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Emanuel Committed to better High Schools in Chicago

Rahm Emanuel committed to bettering Chicago High Schools

Photo by Al Podgorski

Rahm Emanuel announced a new partnership with DePaul and Loyola Universities to improve Chicago area high schools.  DePaul is working with Lake View High School and Loyola with Senn.  This was reported in the Chicago Sun Times.

Emanuel’s administration is moving many high schools to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and IB (International Baccalaureate) programs in an effort to persuade families not to flee the city for the suburbs as their children approach high school age.

STEM is a public, private partnership with five companies – Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Motorola Solutions and Verizon Wireless.  These are six year programs from which students will graduate with an associates degree from a Chicago city college.

The IB program is a rigorous program meant to produce globally-minded students.  It’s been offered at Lincoln Elementary and High Schools for several years and was more recently incorporated into Ogden Elementary as well as several other Chicago schools in an effort to produce better equipped graduating classes.

Lately, I’ve heard more good things about Lake View and north side parents who want it to be a viable option for their children.  Parents do make the difference in improving schools and there’s no reason the resolve we seen by parents at Nettelhorst, Blaine, Oscar Mayer (to name a few) shouldn’t be translated to high schools.  Senn High School has a lovely campus and it’s worth checking out.

Rahm Emanuel commited to better Chicago High Schools

Photo by Mark D. Drapeau

One of the more exciting aspects of the announcement is: “When Lake View juniors and seniors become eligible for college-level courses, they’ll take those classes at DePaul, earn transferable college credits there and become ‘first in line’ for admission to DePaul.  The university will also help develop the new Lake View curriculum and train Lake View teachers.”

It is encouraging to see Chicago addressing the shortage of quality high school options in innovative ways.

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