Chrstmas Spirit

Chrstmas Spirit
My wife and kids having a little holiday fun

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures Has Moved!

The new home of Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures can be found at  Hope to see you there.  The long awaited book can also be purchased there as well!  All my best to you and your families!!!

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twitter: @claylauren2001

Monday, January 31, 2011


Welcome back my friends!  Today's post is going to have two parts to it.  The first is comparing public school teachers to illusionists while the second is going to say goodbye (for now).  Off we go!!!

I've always been amazed with illusion.  First, you see it; then you don't.  They can do card tricks, slight of hand, and even levitate.  How they do it, I don't know. But these acts entertain millions and I am one of them. 

One of the tricks that baffle me are the escapes.  I know there are secrets as to how they do it but I typically don't know how it's done.    When people have their hands tied, handcuffed, and shackled by their feet, escapes shouldn't be possible.  Yet, they are time and time again.

Thinking about these incredible acts, it strikes me as amazing that teachers are supposed to make the magic happen much like an illusionist no matter how unrealistic the trick really is.  Here are some examples.

1.  Teachers aren't handcuffed but they are significantly restrained by what they can and can't do.  For example, when  discipline problems exist in the classroom, there is not much a teacher can do besides deal with it to the best of their ability.  Remember, every minute spent dealing with a behavior issue is a minute taken from your child's education. The time lost is not accounted for when future tests are taken.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot an administration can do as well.  I remember as a teacher some colleagues would get mad at the principal and the counselor because of their lack of help.  The problem is there are hundreds of kids in a school and they have a laundry list of things that have to be accomplished.  In all my years, I never caught a principal or counselor playing card games on the computer or sitting around doing nothing.

2.  Teachers are expected to solve what appears to be an unsolvable mystery. What is a teachers job?  Simplistically, most of us would say to teach.  But, since teachers are evaluated on test scores, what happens when they are low?  Does it mean a teacher spent almost 10 months with a kid and didn't teach?  That seems a bit unlikely.

Test scores are obviously a quantifiable measure of progress.  But, this isn't like working the line at Ford Motor Company.  The parts aren't all the same.  Yet, teachers are supposed to produce a highly qualified and highly efficient test taking machine. Does this mean I disapprove of testing?  No.  Does it mean I approve of standardized testing?  Not really.  Again, it's an unsolvable mystery to me.

One of the main differences between an illusionist and teacher is this.  An illusionist only appears to have an unsolvable mystery.  With teachers, it's real.

3.   Teachers are expected to "perform" like illusionists with kids even if they aren't ready for the course work.  When a third grade teacher has to work with a 1st grade brain (happens a lot more than you may think) then either you give the kid extra instructional time (which means the other kids get less) or partially neglect the kid (in the air of fairness to the others) or totally neglect the kid (in order to work with the other kids who are on or closer to grade level).  There are not too many more options for teachers. Whatever direction the teacher goes will directly influence your child.

The grandest illusion of all is when parents believe schools will solve the problems.  The public has been fed the same line way before I started teaching and year after year, there are many parents who believe them.  That's why they get so mad at the system when problems occur.  They actually were fooled in believing it was going to work to begin with.  While it's frustrating even to me at times, I don't get surprised or upset.  I have responded by educating my kids to the best of my ability and wrote a blog almost 6,000 people have hit telling you all about it and what to do.   

Teachers work very hard but many are in a "box" they can't escape.  I was in that box as well and didn't realize it until years AFTER I left the profession.  When I taught, I can guarantee you I worked a lot of hours, ran a disciplined classroom, and taught the lessons I was expected to teach to the best of my ability.  There were kids who exploded with knowledge as the school year progressed.  There were others though who I couldn't help enough and continue to be "shackled" to this day.

Please keep a finger on the pulse of your children's education and help whenever you can.  Don't get caught up in the illusions.  I promise you'll never regret a minute of life working with a child you love.  

As I said before, this will be my last post for a while.  I try not to say never because I know better.  For those who have been following, you know I wrote a parenting book and am looking for the right publisher.  It takes an extraordinary amount of time to do this.  I am to the point where this needs to be my focus.  The purpose of the blog was to help great parents become even better and to get my name in the cyber world.  I truly feel I have accomplished both in a big way and had a lot of fun in the process.

I have had many people ask me about the book and when it will be available.  I am not sure but if anyone who has followed my work would like to purchase a copy down the line, shoot me an email.  If and when the book is published, I am sure I will be deep in the blogosphere again.

As far as people who have submitted parenting questions, I plan on responding to you privately.  If you are going to take the time to ask a question, I should take the time to answer it to the best of my ability.  This blog will also stay up indefinently.  If you have a question in the future, feel free to shoot me an email.  My door will stay open for you.

I wasn't sure how to end this blog until I checked my Twitter messages (@claylauren2001) about 10 minutes ago.  A girl I've never met wrote to me "we are beginning an adoption process from an orphanage and wanted some tips."  I fully admit I teared up a bit.  Anyone who knows my past would understand why.  If I help this stranger out in the smallest bit, all the hours spent in the creation, promotion, and writing of this blog will have been worth it.

Thanks again to everyone who has made this blog the success it's been.  Thanks for telling your friends.  Thanks for your comments.  Thanks for your words of encouragement.  If all goes well, maybe I'll be in a town near you someday signing my book.

Goodbye (for now) from the world of Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Handling Failure

I am glad to have you back again!  I am noticing some of my parenting questions getting more difficult.  I think some of you out there are trying to test me.  Well, bring it on because I asked for it.  There is an email address on the right side of the screen all questions can be sent to.  If I don't think I can answer your question, I'll send you a return email privately.  Please be patient with me.  I only answer one question per week for now.  On that note, buckle up because this ride will not be pretty. 

Today's question is from "Amy" who asks "How should I respond to my child who has failed at things important to her?"  Amy mentioned grades and a cheer leading team as examples.

First of all, allow me to be blunt- failure stinks.  What I would like to impart to you is our children do not have the same mental capacity to handle a failing situation like most of us do as adults.  There were times when I was a kid that I failed and my mom (God bless her) would give me the ol shake it off speech in one way or another.  "Shake it off Clay.  It will be just fine."  Another line used more than once went something like, "It won't even matter when you are an adult." (But mom, I am only 11)

I'm not angry in the least at my mom but the truth is she didn't know what to do or what to say.  I would be willing to bet there are a lot of parents who mean well just like my mom but don't know what to do as well.

The first glimpse I had at looking at what was perceived as failure through the eyes of a child came at St. Joseph Children's Home.  I'll guarantee few parents who read this will understand failure like a child who goes through an adoption fair, doesn't get "picked" and watches one of his buddies who does.  I won't get into the process but it goes on for quite a while before the adopted kid actually leaves.  Therefore, everyday the "chosen" kid is still at the home is a reminder for the unpicked child.

Some of the children in these cases were inconsolable for a while. It was really hard on me personally to watch these things happen even if I was happy for the newly adopted child.  This was especially true when a kid looked right in my eyes and asked that familiar question, "Why couldn't it have been me?"  Another of my heart wrenching "favorites" was "What's wrong with me?"

I told you that story because I had a general response/attitude that worked for me in these dire times and I hope it works for you as well.  My response was something like "I know things didn't work out for you but I'm right here and I think the world of you."  The only reason this worked for me was because the relationship I had with certain kids was top notch.  Anything less, and the kids would have interpreted my words as pure B.S.  In these moments, that is the last thing a kid needs.

When it comes to Amy and her question.  Grades come and go but if they are important to the child, then they should be to you.  Let's pretend, for example, we are talking about a math grade.  I would display a nurturing attitude with a tough undertone (because that is my nature).  Here's how this would look.     

I'd put my arms around Amy's kid and let her cry.  When she was finished, I'd let the child know how smart she is and that we were going to work through this problem together.  In the ensuing days though, if I ever saw the kid slacking on the math work, I wouldn't be quite as nurturing.  I'd give subtle reminders of how that math grade made her feel and encourage her to stay focused.

Cheerleading is pretty much the same story.  Any time a child doesn't make a team, it is devastating because of (1) the feelings of failure for not making the team and (2) having to face the peers at school who did.  Although the math grade may be more important to you as a parent, the cheerleading problem may be harder in the eyes of the child.  After all, the math grade is private.
Photo taken at a public event of event partici...
It is not easy to face the girls who beat you in school

I'd like to know why she didn't make the team by talking to the coach.  (Don't pressure the coach to include the child on the team).  Find out what she can improve on and attack the weaknesses if the child is willing.  If not, it may be a good idea to find another sport which she is better suited.  Let the choice be hers.

As all of us know, failure is a part of life.  No one succeeds at everything.  But, the effective parent will get down on the child's level, help them through the pain, and teach towards the future.

Thanks to all who stopped by today.  If you think this post is worthy please pass it along to another family.  

This Monday, I will be back with an education blog.  I am going to write the illusionists piece I premised last Friday and some similarities they have with teachers. Break out your magic wands and hidden keys and I'll see you Monday.    

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Competing for Mama

Today's behavior blog will focus on the relationship some children have with their mothers. In my home, the boys really like their mommy time.  I used to joke that when my oldest son was smaller, he was mommyfied.  (I know spell check- it's not really a word)  The competition for mom's time is fierce.  They are competing with dads, the television, the internet, the phone, and their siblings.  What is it about mothers?   More specifically, what is it about mothers versus fathers when it comes to competing for time?

Even as a stay at home dad, the boys competition over mama is much greater than their competition for my time.  For example, I could be on the phone 20 minutes without being disturbed.  My wife can't be on the phone 20 seconds before I am shooing a child away from her.  One may think I could be sore about this lack of gripping attention.  Quite the contrary.  I could have guessed this would have happened even before I had kids because I saw the same things at St. Joseph Children's Home.

There's something about moms and their ability to connect with small children.  One of my theories is that it has to do with affection.  It could be that mom is home more or that when she is home, more of her time is spent touching children (in appropriate manners).  At. St. Joseph's we had some strong willed women who could show affection as well.  They were dedicated and really knew their business. Children gravitated to them especially in time of need.  As a matter of fact, in our youngest department with kids ranging in age from 3 to 5, I would approximate women logged over 95% of the hours.  

What's interesting to note is that when I worked alone, the children would open up in the exact same manner when they needed anything.  But, they didn't compete for my time.  This also held true in the classroom where I obviously worked alone.  In other words, I didn't have children crying for their moms when I was teaching.  Although I wasn't out to win any popularity contests, most of my students really liked me.  This has led me to believe that while children will take affection from dad, there are times they would rather have it from mom if there is a choice. 

Bill CosbyBill Cosby performing "Himself."

These beliefs reminds me of an old Bill Cosby comedy routine which spoke to the power of moms.  Basically, he said he was hoping for a son to be a great football player one day.  Many hours would be spent working with the kid to be the best he could be.  Due to the time and hard work, the kid could go on to a major university, score a touchdown, stare into the television camera afterward, and yell, "Hi mom!"  The stumped look on Cosby's face will forever be etched in my mind.

I've always felt there was a lot of truth to be garnered from that skit.  Moms are special and I've never met a man who could really take their place. Even though the opposite is true as well, I've never actually witnessed children competing for a dad's time or at least not nearly on the same level.  Keep in mind I know there are homes out there where this precisely happens but with all my experience, I would have assumed seeing it by now. 

I believe my boys would perch on my wife's legs all day if we would let them.  The only time they have ever been disciplined for hanging on mom too much is when I can tell she's getting a bit tired of it.  (Even then, I'm not too hard on the boys).  The only thing that bothers me from time to time is with all the competition for mom's attention; I worry mom doesn't win often enough.  By that I mean if other mothers are like my wife, when do you carve the time and place all the attention on yourself?  At. St. Joseph's, it was different because the house parents were compensated employees.  All the house parents (outside of myself and a couple of other ladies) also had their own homes.

As a dad, I really feel one of my roles is to encourage and prop up my wife on the highest pedestal possible.  Of course, she will read this and get emotional (because her husband is so great) but the truth is I have an alternative motive.  I want my boys to have the deepest respect and love for their mom because in some way, it translates to being a good man, a good husband, and one day, a good father. If this means competing and /or clinging on to my wife for a small period of time in their lives, so be it.  These days won't last forever.  One day, the competition will be over and, in the end, all of us will hopefully be winners.

I guess the lesson in the end to all parents but especially to the dads- be patient with your kids.  Back away from time to time and let the kids have their time with mom.  But when you see your better half getting a little tired, be there to peel the kids away for a while.  This is a competition after all.  The kids do not get to win every time. (wink) 

All my best to parents and children who still cling to their momma's legs (figuratively and literally). I'll be interested to read the comments.  I'd like to know if there is a competition for mama in your home and how it is handled.

I read an interesting parenting question I would like to answer on Friday. The general topic concerns kids failing and how it has been handled on the children I have worked with.  I look forward to having you back on this road of tantrums, troubles, and treasures. (or as my father in law calls it: t-cubed)

One final note: If you know any parents who have small children who "compete for mama," please consider passing this blog along.  I certainly hope it helps by letting them know they are not alone.