Positive Parenting: Megaskills 3


The value of believing in effort over native ability is that you can help children do something about their level of effort. It’s harder to help them do something about their level of ability. Ability seems set in stone; effort can be influenced; it’s open to change.

In Texas, elementary school children having difficulties with subtraction were divided into four groups–A,B,C,D. Each group worked on its own with a packet of materials. An aide checked the work in groups A,B, & C every eight minutes. As the children came to a new section, the aide gave them the new instructions. To group A the aide said, “You’ve been working hard.” To group B she said, “You need to work hard.” Group C received no comment. Group D had no involvement with the aide other than to hear her read the instructions to everyone.

Group A, that was told, “You’ve been working hard,” actually did work harder than the others. They completed 63 percent more problems & got three times as many right on the test that followed this training. They also said that they felt more confident about the test & their ability to deal with the problems they would face.

We can talk children into making more effort. They do not have to be afraid. We can help them see that more effort can mean better results.

Learning About Effort: Here are some suggestions on how to give kids the opportunity to know effort when they see it & to practice effort on their own.


My Day–any age

Spend time talking with your children about the pleasures of your work & of effort. Try to be as specific as possible. Don’t stint on letting children in on the everyday efforts & goings-on at work & at home that illustrate effort & the sense of satisfaction that comes with it. Not all problems are solved quickly or easily. Let children in on your frustrations. But when you do talk about the day’s problems, try to discuss what you are doing & what your children think can be done to solve these problems. Ask children about their day too. Urge them to follow your lead in talking about the little successes.


The Extra Mile–any age

Help your children know what we really mean when we say “make an effort.” Take time to point out to children those people who are making that effort. Point to others who are making an effort & showing how much you respect this.


Homework & Effort: Asian children go to school 240 days a year, while American children go only 180 days a year. Asians believe that hard work makes a difference, & they let their children know it. The Japanese count on persistence & patience to win the day. They just plain outwork everyone else. They have long-term perspective, & they’re persistent. They work long hours; they live in accommodations Americans would not accept. Our young people need to learn about endurance & to be taught the importance of effort.

Parental Infrastructure: At least three kinds of parental discipline patterns have been identified.

Permissive: Adult makes few demands on child & sees child as own self-regulator. Authoritarian: Adult has set standard of conduct in mind & sets out to shape child to fit it, using force & punishment to curb child. Authoritative: Adult sets standards & asserts control but sees child’s need for reason & understanding.

The trick, & it’s a tough one, is for parents & for teachers to be authoritative without being authoritarian. It’s not easy.


A Study Place–ages 4-9

Children need their own place at home to do schoolwork. Fancy equipment is not needed. Use old furniture. Cut it down to size as needed. You need a table or desk, a chair, a light.

Walk through your house with your child to find that special study corner. It need not be big, but it needs to be personal. Paint cardboard boxes or orange crates for bookcases. Latex paint is easy to clean. Encourage your child to decorate the study corner; a plant & a bright desk blotter do wonders.

A study place can be a desk, or it can be a modest lapboard for a child to use atop a bed.


A Homework System–ages 10-12

There is a better way than nagging children every day about schoolwork. This activity enables children to keep track–on their own–of what has to be done. You need paper & a marker.

Use a sturdy, large piece of paper to make a homework chart that can be posted on the wall. Here’s what one looks like:



Days     English   Math  S.Studies  Science

















Make checks to represent school assignments. To show completed work, the check gets circled. Attach to the chart a marker or pen so that it is always handy.

Talk About Homework: Talk about assignments with your child after they’re completed. This is more of a conversation than a checkup. Was the assignment difficult? Easy? Would your child like to know more? Consider follow-up trips to a museum or library.


Our Home: A Learning Place–any age

Help your home (even if it’s a small apartment) convey the message that people learn here.

You want children to be reading as often as possible. Let there be books & magazines everywhere, including the bathroom. Let your children see you reading, & talk with them about what you’ve read.

You want children to be writing as often as possible. Put notepads & pencils in a number of places around the house, including next to the telephone, for messages. In the kitchen use them for grocery lists, & keep them next to the bed for putting down that brilliant middle-of-the-night thought.

Use a bulletin board or magnets on the refrigerator to display children’s schoolwork & artwork. Or use an indoor clothesline with clothespins. Youngsters enjoy changing these displays themselves.

Time For Studying: Some children are faster to finish classroom work than others. When you talk with your children about schoolwork, ask if they think they are putting in enough time to do it really well.

Effort is Pleasure: Talk about the pleasure a writer gets, an artist, etc. Children need to know that effort is the path we take to achieve mastery.


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Sunbird Quote of the Month:

“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.”

                                                                                                                                                                      E.M. Foster

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Birthdays, Birthdays, Birthdays

Every birthday is important. It marks a year of growth, progress and accomplishment. Sunbird is always ready to host a little appreciation feast for the one who has completed  another year. We are proud of all of you, our Sunbirds!




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Positive Parenting: Megaskills 2


When they have it, it shows: You see your children wanting to do things, eager to learn. They do schoolwork & household jobs without a lot of nagging. They make plans for the next day, for the next week.

Parents can help with activities that generate a child’s excitement in learning. But children have to catch this fire & start fueling up on their own. In this chapter are activities that help children gain a sense of discipline it takes to stay motivated, to work against discouragement, & to face competition & challenge. It helps to learn:

–How to break down jobs into manageable “bites.”

–How to set & keep to time limits.

There was a picture in the paper the other day of a ninety-one-year-old woman who had just climbed Mount Fuji. Now that’s what I call motivation. She was quoted as saying, “You always feel good when you’ve made a goal. You need goals.”

A special ingredient found in motivation is the ability to work against discouragement & to keep on going. Attitude counts for so much. How do people become motivated? We can’t catch “fire” for our kids, but they can catch some of our fire. The fire does not have to be a bonfire. A low, low simmer will do. One way is to share our own excitement. Remember, children are born motivated, not bored.


Just Outside–any age

While your children are young, start to share & discover the joy & mystery of the World: a walk as it’s turning dark, a stroll through light rain. Talk together about what you’re sensing & feeling. Stay up together to see the moon rise & get up early one day to watch the sun rise. Use a magnifying glass to look closely at those small objects that fascinate small children. Listen to the wind & the birds. Smell the rain & the burning wood in the fireplace. Observation & use of the senses are crucial to a scientist & to a poet.


Shopping Center Stroll–ages 4-7

Most of the time we shop at breakneck speed with kids being dragged along. Try a walk with no other purpose than to show your children some of what goes on backstage at the local stores. Go into the florist’s & watch the making of corsages. And go “backstairs” in the supermarket, if permitted. That’s where the supplies are kept & where the meat is cut…where the action that makes the market look good takes place.


Sitting & Watching–ages 4-7

There’s a lot to be seen & learned while watching the workers at a construction site, at an airport or rail station, or at your own corner.


Getting Around–ages 8-12

Learning to get around without a car can be a valuable lesson. Gather bus route maps & schedules to a place around town. Let children use the schedules to figure out what transportation is available, how much time it will take, & how much it will cost.


Beyond Nagging: I’d like to think that nagging works because it is such a handy thing to do. But like millions of parents, I have found that nagging can do just the opposite of what it is intended to do. It can motivate kids not to do things. Cutting down on nagging, in contrast, can be a motivating factor, one that works for both parent & child.


The No-Nag Writing System–any age

For practice, announce that for five minutes no one will talk. Instead you will send notes. Try this out at the breakfast table. Choose at least one nagging problem that is important to you & your child. Promise each other that instead of nagging, for one whole week you will send each other reminder notes.

Set up a message center for these reminders. A bulletin board in the kitchen or family room is a good place. Or post reminders around the house. Leave the notes in the bathroom, on the stairs, or on other places where they will be seen. A note left on the pillow always seems to work!


The First Step–any age

The old Chinese saying is true: “The longest journey starts with a single step.” The first step in doing something can be the hardest.

Ask children to tell you about any first times they remember. It might be the first day at school, the first grade they received on a paper, the first time they tried to ride a bike or swim the pool.

First steps are hard. We tend to say, “Aw, come on, that’s easy,” but it’s not. Our goal in helping to motivate children is to help them gain the optimism & the courage to take more first steps. That is the lesson we have to teach, & one way to teach it is by sharing our experiences.


Time Me–ages 4-6

This activity will help your child better understand the difference between “a few seconds” & “a few minutes.” You need a clock or watch with a second hand.

Ask your child to watch the second hand for five seconds. Together count off the seconds. Put this into action. Time it again & see how many times your child can clap in five seconds. Now have your child watch the clock for one minute. Then time it again & see how far you can both count in one minute. Together read a book for five minutes. Time yourselves. How many pages did you read? Hold your breath for five seconds. Let your child time you. Then trade places. Time yourselves as you both say the alphabet aloud. Together time a traffic light as you stand at a street corner.


Tell Me–ages 4-9

Teachers in the early grades tell us that children have trouble listening. Think of a real job at home that your child can do. It might be setting the table, taking out the garbage, bringing in the newspaper, hanging up clothes. Think of three or four instructions for this job. Ask your child to listen carefully as you say them. Example: “Take out four forks, four knives, & four spoons. Put them on the table in four place settings. Put the fork on the left, the knife & spoon on the right.”

Let your child give you instructions to follow. They can be as easy or as complicated as you & your child want. In this way, you individualise this activity to suit your child.


Excuses Don’t Count–ages 7-12

Make a chore chart for the hours between five p.m. & bedtime. Ask children to choose a time to do each chore. Write those times on the chart. The chart might look like this:

   Chore            Time       Done

Setting the Table    5:30

Doing homework       7:30


Talk about when they did the tasks. Did they do them all? If not, did they have real reasons or excuses?

Families need their own reward system. It’s important that the rules be clear, the system fair & consistently followed. Whether it’s a present, a grade, a raise, or a word of praise & a kiss, a reward is very sweet, indeed.

Rewards: This scene captures for me the power of rewards. It was a hot summer Saturday in a restaurant in a small town. A little girl had just opened the door. Her parents were busy behind the counter. And this child, age eight, was busy, too. Carrying her parents’ laundry, she came through the door with a smile on her face that said to all of us, “I’m not bored. I’m happy. I am doing something important.” That was her inner reward. Her parents’ praise was the external one.

Competition: There are some basic principles of competition that every child should learn, or at least listen to. To compete, you have to be able to lose. You have to be willing to fail but not feel like a failure. You have to get up off the floor & try again.



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Sunbird Quote of the Month:

“Free the child’s potential…. And you will transform him into the world.”

                                                                                                                                     Maria Montessori

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Summer Time Fun

During the two hot months, Sunbird children and their friends came together for many hours of fun, playing with sand and water, having exciting craft activities that nurtured their extra curricular skills in science, geography and magical light tricks. Relive the moments with them here.

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Positive parenting : Megaskills 1

Dear parents

Sunbird is back with a new series of MEGASKILLS. We hope you were able to make good use of PRIME PARENTING.

We wanted to give you a little break before we launch the new series, so here is the new topic which will be self explainable. It also includes older children’s support, as we know many readers have now children that are anywhere from 6 to 12 years old.


MEGA SKILLS–By Dorothy Rich


What can parents do?: For years parents were told, “Hands off, you don’t know what you are doing, leave teaching to the schools.” Over twenty years ago, I decided I had to find a way to help parents know what they could do & what they should do to help children learn. The answer: Figure out what your family can do. Come up with a system that works. Don’t make it too hard or too big. Make it simple, easy & everyone can do it. Make it practical. Make it enjoyable.

Remember, it doesn’t take a lot of time to do a lot of good. Get people doing things together. You don’t need to be perfect to be good, & that goes for your children too. Convey to your children that learning matters, & that they matter. Encourage kids & feel encouraged yourselves.

Start now. Don’t worry about what you did or did not do before. The education in this book is serious, but it’s not grim. It’s play & pleasure & the delight in learning & in time spent together.

MegaSkills are the very basic values, attitudes & behaviours that determine a child’s achievement. MegaSkills are our children’s inner engines of learning. Though reinforced in the classroom, they get their power from the home:


  1. Confidence: Feeling able to do it
  2. Motivation: Wanting to do it
  3. Effort: Being willing to work hard
  4. Responsibility: Doing what’s right
  5. Initiative: Moving into action
  6. Perseverance: Completing what you start
  7. Caring: Showing concern for others
  8. Teamwork: Working with others
  9. Common Sense: Using good judgment
  10. Problem Solving: Putting what you know & what you can do into action.




A MegaSkill, like confidence, is a long-lasting, achievement-enhancing skill. It’s what makes possible the use of the other skills that we learn. A MegaSkill is a catalyst. It’s like yeast making bread rise.

These aren’t only MegaSkills, but they play a strong role in determining success in school & beyond. They don’t drop from the sky & land on a lucky few. They can be taught at home by parents, even today. They are the values that undergird our work ethic, our character, & our personal behaviour.

I Care About You: Many children today feel they are not getting the time they need. I’ve heard the excuses, & there aren’t any good ones. “I’m just too busy” & “My kid doesn’t want to do anything with me, anyway,” are not acceptable, not now when our children need parents as much as they do.

What does this time together do? It says to a child, “I care about you. I want to spend special time with you. I want to hear what is on your mind & what you are feeling. You are important. You are needed.”

Children need time to relax & to think & to be on their own, & so do parents. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do a lot of good.

Our Children’s World: A Scary Place: The World is increasingly a frightening place. When I went to school, no one offered me drugs. AIDS was unheard of. The music I listened to had sweet lyrics & melodies compared to today’s torrid words & music. There seemed to be a communally shared sense of right & wrong & a greater sense of safety.

Looking around you now, it seems that children are being told & shown more than they want to know or need to know. It’s as if anything goes, & it is making real growing up harder. Parental guidance is more than suggested. It’s essential.

Today many children are full of stress. Time spent with children is the best possible vaccine that families can use.

Hope: A Vital Ingredient: There’s a well-known story of two children put in a room that contains a big pile of manure. One child looks at the pile & falls into despair. The other starts searching the room, saying, “With all this manure, there must be a pony somewhere.”

We can help children feel more hopeful & optimistic. Children need to be able to expect & to predict. They need a sense of schedule & of routine. Children need to be able to believe in themselves & in the people around them. Children need to feel that they matter.




I said to myself, “There has got to be a better way,”  when for the tenth time that day my darling child said: “I forgot,” or “I can’t find them anywhere,” or “I want to watch more TV,” or “I need some money.”

We all want our children to remember, to be responsible, to be concerned. As a teacher I thought, “If I can figure out how to teach the parts of speech, I ought to be able to come up with some ways to help teach these important basics.”

Using what I knew from the classroom, I decided that my method would focus on what is to be taught & then break it into teachable bits–like the directions of a recipe.

That was the beginning of the home learning recipe. It is the heart of the program.

It Starts At Home: This program uses everyday things, like doing laundry or paying bills, & going places, like supermarkets or gas stations, for teaching. It is easy. It is fun. It takes little time. Everyone can do it. It costs no money. The idea is to enable children to apply what they learn.

Common Sense is Still in Fashion: In recent years education became the job for the school. Today there is research showing that families are important educators of their children, teaching even when they don’t know they are teaching. No matter how good they are, teachers cannot do the job alone. This book provides a way to think about & use everyday moments for teaching & learning. Children need physical activity & opportunity to ask questions, to explore, & to experiment without competitive pressures.

What’s in a Home Learning Recipe?–A home learning recipe has to:

  1. Tie to schoolwork but not be schoolwork: Children need ways to succeed at home that are different from school but at the same time help them succeed in school. Parents need ways to help their children learn other than by nagging, “Did you do your homework?”
  2. Be serious & be fun at the same time.
  3. Have a teachable focus: You don’t send a very young child upstairs to “clean a room.” You send a young child to do one thing: To make a bed or to vacuum the rug or to open the shades. It’s even helpful to resist sending an older youngster to “clean up that whole mess at once.” Good teaching is a step-by-step operation.
  4. Be easy to do, take little time, & cost little or no money: Parents can teach & learn with their children joyously, without worry, without hassle. I needed activities that could be done alongside my household routines, using whatever I had at home. Today’s busy parents need these easy-to-do “recipes” more than ever. Use these ideas to take off on your own, using your & your child’s creativity to come up with additional “recipes”.

A good home learning recipe gives everyone a chance to succeed. There is no one right way to do it. A recipe is a road map, not a set of rigid rules. The activity itself is designed to provide a feeling of accomplishment. It gives parents a chance to step back & children a chance to step forward. The idea is to help both parent & child feel good & get to know each other better in the bargain.

Different “Recipes” for Different Ages: What works for preschoolers won’t work for fifth graders. Parents have to be ready to change gears. Around ages four through six, many of the “recipes” have to do with getting ready for school & using primary school subjects like counting, sorting & early reading at home.

Around ages seven through nine, many of the “recipes” focus on helping children get organised, build study skills, & develop solid work habits.

Around ages 10 through 12, “recipes” work toward helping children understand themselves, their friends, & their family. Activities aim at developing greater self-reliance, building career awareness, & establishing healthy habits & self-esteem that can help prevent destructive habits, such as drug abuse.

These are not hard & fast age & grade distinctions. Use all & any of the activities that appeal to you & your child.

For children who do not yet read, I recommend that parents read all directions aloud, that children dictate their ideas for parents to write, & that symbols be used alongside words as needed. In labelling a dresser drawer, draw a sock next to the word “socks.”

We use a series of eight “recipes” over a period of eight weeks, one a week. This is designed to get parents & youngsters tuned in to the idea of using “recipes”. Read through the entire collection of “recipes” first, starring or checking the ones that appeal to you. Then ask your child to help you select the ones you both like. Work at your own schedule–but guard against overkill. Once a week is really fine. You can build a whole year of activities as you go along.

Staying with the Program: Use them on a regular basis. If you’ve used one part of an activity, go back to it to find the extra idea you haven’t tried. Think of ways you can build on what you have done. Improvise, be creative.




We know what we’re hearing when children say: “I just can’t do that.” “The other kids are better than I am.” “I’m scared.” “I won’t try it.” We’re hearing a child’s cry for more confidence. “I remember the potholder I made in third grade, made out of loops that were yellow, red, gold & orange. It was a present I made to give to my mother, & oh, was she proud. And did it make me feel good!”

Those are the words of a man in his late fifties. He has a doctorate & many scientific achievements on his resum. But when asked about his sense of confidence, he talks about the potholder.

I still remember the day I carried Rocky, the rooster, home in a crate bigger than I was. It was the last day of first grade. About fifteen of us lined up to draw slips for our chickens. I was a winner. I struggled with that big box over the six blocks to my home. My brother came by a couple of times to try to help me with it, but I refused. This was my chicken, my achievement, & I would bring him home alone.

I have never forgotten Rocky & the day I carried him home alone. It is a memory of struggle & success that gives me confidence & motivation to this very day. When I have to do something hard & when I get scared, I think back to Rocky & that crate, & even though it has nothing to do with the current situation, I breathe deeper & think to myself, “I can do it.”

Confidence Practice: Confidence ebbs & flows like a river. It does not run at high tide all the time. Coming up with confidence-building experiences for children can be a challenge. These experiences need to be small enough for children to deal with, large enough to encourage growth, & easy enough for parents to work with. You can start at home with household objects, such as a telephone.

Here are a few activities, all using the phone:


Telephone Time–ages 4-6

For this early reading activity, you need a telephone, seven small squares of paper, crayon or pencil. Tell or show your child your home telephone number. Say each separate number aloud as you point to it.

On separate pieces of paper, write down each number. Now show your child how to put the pieces in the same order (left to right) as your phone number. Let your child read this telephone number aloud from the assembled pieces of paper. Provide help as needed.

As a game, mix up the pieces of paper & let your child put your telephone number together. At first let your child match the papers to the number listed on the phone. Then try this without looking at the phone. Now ask your child to write down the phone number, left to right, on a larger piece of paper. You might want to post this for all to see & admire.

When you are both out together, let your child dial home. Do this when someone is at home to give your child the satisfaction of making contact.


Calling For Help–ages 7-9

This activity helps your child learn to use the telephone to report emergencies. Ask your child to find in the telephone book the numbers for Fire/Rescue & Police, usually listed at the front of the telephone book.

If you don’t already have one, make a list of important telephone numbers to call in an emergency, similar to the one that follows. With your child, fill this in & put it near the phone.



Fire ____________________

Dad’s Work_______________


Mom’s Work_______________

Friend or Neighbour______


Take turns explaining what to say on the phone when you report emergencies. Examples: Someone at home is hurt; you smell smoke or see fire. When you use the phone in this practice, be sure to keep the contact button pushed down.


From Things to People: In the journey of growing up, children must learn to manage objects & work with people. Confidence comes from both. In the activities that follow, children find out more about their families & themselves, & they get a chance to learn to like each other more. I believe that if children knew more about their parents, especially about their early lives, it would help.

I’m Okay, & So is My Family: Children love knowing more about themselves. Parents like this activity because it not only helps children think seriously about themselves but provides lots of laughs, too. It helps families remember the funny times that sometimes seem funny only in retrospect–the time the big fish got away, along with the fishing rod, or the time friends were invited for a birthday party on the wrong day.


The Importance of Me–ages 4-9

The task is to make a “me” poster. You need markers, poster cardboard or large paper, scissors, paste, old magazines for pictures, & snapshots, if possible.

Together look through magazines. Find pictures of what your child likes–pets, foods, clothes. Cut them out & with paste arrange them on a large sheet of paper. Magazine pictures are fine. If you have extra snapshots, use them.

An activity like this one says to your child, “You are special, & your family knows it.”


Now & Then–ages 10-12

This activity helps to get generations talking together, especially about those early years. Everyone was a child once. Here’s a way to share some of those memories.

In this activity, the child & a parent or grandparent make a Time Line. It’s a way to recapture memories of people at certain times in their lives.

You need a roll of shelf paper or large brown wrapping paper, pencils & crayons, & a ruler.

Decide together with your child when to begin the Time Line. This may be at birth or when school started or some other special time. Decide how much space will be allowed for each year. One inch per year or one foot per year? Draw a line for each one of you.

Talk about the memories. Compare similar experiences. Talk about differences. For example, at no time in my life have I experienced such a momentous decision as my parents did when they decided to immigrate to a new, unknown country.

Another way to harvest memories without using a Time Line is to have children interview grandparents & relatives who lived through different periods of American (or family) history.

Young people may want to start their own family archives by putting all these family memories in a book to share with their own children.


What Do I Do Right?–ages 10-12

Many of us spend a lot of time telling each other what we do wrong. Here’s an activity to help us focus on what we’re doing right. You need paper & pencil.

Together think of & write down at least two things you like about yourselves. Example: “I have a good sense of humour. I like to share with others.” Talk about what others say they like about you.

Figure out together jobs & activities at home that both you & your child will feel proud of accomplishing. Examples: Fixing something around the house, cooking a special dish for the family, teaching the family a new game.

Try to set a time every day, if only for a few minutes, to talk about the events of the day. If you’re available to listen to your children when they are young, chances are they’ll continue to communicate with you as they grow older.


It Takes Courage: “It takes courage to make courage.” We want children to be careful but not fearful. Work towards a gradual building of the abilities it takes to be courageous & careful at the same time.

I have a problem with heights. When my young children went to the top of the big slide in the playground, my immediate reaction was to shout, “Stop! Come down! You’ll hurt yourself!” They were perfectly happy up there high in the sky. I was the one who was petrified. It took some time for me to pull my own courage together, to let them be courageous & free from the seeds of my fear.

Confidence & Expectations: In California a few years ago, a study showed that “ordinary” students could exceed themselves when expectations for them were high.

Researchers went into a school & tested the students for academic potential. Ignoring the score, they told teachers that one group was made up of “late bloomers” whose academic “promise” would be realised that year. At the end of the year the “promise” was realised. This group was comparable with their classmates as far as could be established, but their teachers had expected them to succeed & they had.

Children learn–by trying. When they try, they build confidence. When children see themselves as doers, they develop the ability to do more.


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Dear parents and friends

We wanted to take you on a little tour of our recent events. We had a great summer camp with lots of participants, held many birthday parties and enjoyed great outdoor antics.

We hope you like the fun pictures.

Wishing you a Happy Independence Day ahead. Jay Hind




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Sunbird Quote

When I was young I observed that nine out of ten things i did were failures, so I did ten times more work.                                                                                George Bernard Shaw

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Sunbird Quote

What you leave in your children, is more important than what you leave to them.                                                                                                                                          Denis Waitley 

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Sunbird Quote

A father is neither an anchor to hold us back, nor a sail to take us places, but a guiding light whose love shows us the way.                                                        Author unknown

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Sunbird Quote

Age considers; youth ventures.     Rabindranath Tagore

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Graduation in Motion 2

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Graduation in Motion

Hi parents, we are publishing the little clips taken on youtube. We will keep  publishing them over the next few days. Enjoyy

P2 and KG dance

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Prime – Time Parenting Part 8


A successful family team works together to achieve goals. Every member has a unique role to play. Each contributes his share. Each is essential to the final outcome. But the whole–the concerted team effort–is stronger than the sum of its parts. And as a result, each family member shares in the gratifying joy of meaningful relationships, a growing sense of self-worth, & the satisfaction of fulfilled ambitions.

A good coach is the key to building a winning team. It is your spirit, your drive, your enthusiasm, & your expertise that will ultimately make the difference between success or failure.

A Team Purpose

Every team needs a purpose to keep it going. Every family needs a goal that is worth striving for. One of the Kuzma family goals is excellence; we all strive to reach the highest level that each of us is capable of attaining.

Kim wants to be the best flute player she can become. Knowing this, it is much easier for the rest of us to remain quiet & stay out of her way while she is practicing. At times, Kari has even offered to make Kim’s bed or fix her sack lunch when time is running short & Kim is preparing for a lesson.

In order to have a successful team, children must feel that they are ultimately contributing to family goals. One of our short-term family goals has been to help Mommy finish her book. The children have curtailed boisterous play outside the study door & have taken on a number of Mom’s home responsibilities. Each finished chapter is cause for a family celebration. And now the watchword is “only one chapter to go!” Just this morning as I was taking the children to school, I asked if one of them had a good thought to guide us through the day. Kim quoted something that she was learning at school, “Remember that you will never reach a higher standard than you yourself set. Then set your mark high, & step by step, even though it be by painful effort, by self-denial & sacrifice, ascend the whole length of the ladder of progress.”

The passage continues, “Let nothing hinder you. Fate has not woven its meshes about any human being so firmly that he need remain helpless & in uncertainty. Opposing circumstances should create a firm determination to overcome them. The breaking down of one barrier will give greater ability & courage to go forward. Press with determination in the right direction, & circumstances will be your helpers, not your hindrances.”–A terrific motto for us all!

A common purpose binds the family together in a cooperative working relationship that encourages them to overcome obstacles & progress toward the standard–their team goal.

A Code of Behaviour

Every successful coach establishes behavior standards for team members. A successful family must do the same. Your challenge is to help each member of the team see the relationship between his behavior & the success of the team.

It is important that you, the coach, set an example by meeting your own standards. If you want others to be self-disciplined, loyal, & cooperative, you must be this way first. You must inspire your family with the fact that winning or losing is really dependent upon each one’s willingness to reach for the goals together. Finally, it is your responsibility to discipline those who do not uphold the ideals.

The Game Plan

Planning is an essential part of a winning formula. In addition to a general plan that includes the family purpose & a code of behaviour, the family must have a game plan for each new day. A successful game plan should provide a step-by-step scheme that will help you achieve your goals without being sidetracked. Game plans should consist of bite-sized objectives–what you want to accomplish on a weekly or daily basis–& have a balance in a variety of activities, as well as an appropriate sense of timing. To be a winning team, the family must also consider what problems they are likely to encounter & provide an adequate plan of defense. For example, if Mom is late getting home from work, someone should start dinner. Or if Dad gets out early, he should phone Mom & see if there is anything she needs to have him pick up on his way home.

Communicating the Game Plan

Effective communication is an essential quality for a successful coach. You must know what to say & when to say it. Your goals for the team, your winning strategies, your standards, even your expertise & enthusiasm, won’t make a winning team if you fail to communicate these things.

Coaches plan a variety of team meetings to get their message across to their players & listen to the players’ feedback. They hold weekly rallies to encourage the team, they give pep talks, they ask the players to evaluate the team’s progress & make suggestions, & they develop long-range plans. Then, before the team hits the field, they hold chalk talks to plan strategies for specific games or solve specific problems. Once the play begins, the communication does not cease; rather, it increases in the form of a huddle. Huddles are called whenever necessary in order to make immediate plans or give the necessary encouragement that may ultimately make the difference between winning or losing.

Winning family teams need this same form of communication. You will be a more successful family leader if you plan (or encourage your family to help plan) a weekly family rally, a daily chalk talk, & family huddles whenever needed.

Here are some ideas for making team meetings more attractive to your family.

  1. Make the meetings so interesting, informative, warm, & enjoyable that everyone will want to join the fun.
  2. Ask each person to put suggestions for a rally or chalk talk in a suggestion box, and use them.
  3. Make sure each person feels that his contributions are important to the family.
  4. Plan something special that everyone enjoys.
  5. Serve a special treat at a family rally.
  6. Vote on decisions.
  7. Make sure that everyone has a chance to express himself.
  8. When the children are old enough, have them take turns leading a session.

Establish and Maintain Team Spirit

Everyone is important, but the team comes first. Superstars seldom make it to the top by themselves. In team sports, the outstanding player owes much of his success to the support of his teammates, just as every individual owes much of his success to his family.

The superstar of a family might be a parent who is a famous scientist, or an outstanding musician, or president of a company. It may be a child who is a born athlete or intellectually gifted. If these individuals overshadow other family members or receive attention & recognition at the others’ expense, there will be a breakdown in family morale. Each superstar must learn to accept recognition & praise graciously, & honestly credit the family when credit is due.

Children who are not superstars sometimes feel neglected, worthless, & unloved because they do not receive the attention that another is receiving. The family cannot always prevent this if the attention comes from outsiders. But within the family they can make sure that all of their children receive recognition for their skills & abilities, even if the outside World has not crowned that child with superstar status. Each team member should be challenged to do his best.

Everyone is needed. It is not much fun to play on a team when you don’t feel needed. Parents sometimes err when they try to be so self-sufficient that their children come to believe that their contributions to the family are really not worth very much. So make sure each of your children feels really needed & useful to the family & to you!

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