31 December 2008 09:18 AM

Top Dr. Rick Blog Themes from 2008

by Dr. Rick

As the New Year looms, it’s helpful to look back at 2008 and take note of what proved to be important to us and what promises to be important in 2009. As the Dr. Rick Blog enters its second year, it’s interesting to see that certain timeless “themes” occurred and re-occurred time after time. I guess that’s why they’re “timeless.” 


Here are the 10 most frequently mentioned Dr. Rick Blog themes for 2008. No doubt they will be just as important in 2009. They’re common sense, but they’re also borne out by research. They are for parents and intended to benefit students – whether in elementary, middle, or high school.


  1. Be a role model. What behaviors do you want to see in your children? Do you see those behaviors in yourself? If your children can’t get themselves organized at homework time, for example, is it because they see you’re rarely organized? If they have weak reading skills or, worse, low interest in reading, is it because they rarely ever see you reading? If they’re couch potatoes, do they see you enjoying a good workout and eating healthily? And don’t get me started on smoking, especially around the kids! (Parents who smoke around their children should be beaten with sticks.) Kids watch what we do, and they learn habits, values, and attitudes from parents, their first and most powerful teachers.
  2. Stay positive. This can be hard. You don’t have to be relentlessly cheerful – which gets old quickly – but it is important to show your kids that the inevitable letdowns and disappointments of life are not permanent setbacks. Persistence pays off in the end. Didn’t do well on a test for which he thought he was prepared? Don’t panic. Don’t pull out the “I told you so” routine. Instead, help him to examine what he did and make adjustments. What worked? What didn’t? There will always be other chances to improve. Stay with him, encourage him.
  3. Establish routines. Routines are vital for kids. (They are vital for adults, too, by the way.) They make kids feel safe. Structure gives them the framework of their days. Help them to stick to their routines for homework, meals, playtime, bedtime. Be strict about these routines. That way, when you want to be flexible once in a while – a celebration, for example, or a family event – the occasion will be that much more special.
  4. Encourage “study buddies.” Having a study buddy helps kids of all ages stay on track in school. Study buddies check with each other to make sure they understand homework assignments and long-term projects. They help each other stay on deadline. They motivate each other as they study together for tests. Study buddies allow kids to see how their friends learn, and recognize that we each learn differently and at different speeds. They allow kids to ask questions they may not want to ask teachers, and to explain concepts and skills in kids’ language.
  5. Show that school is “real.” Show your kids daily how you use your reading, math, and writing skills in your own life. Let them see that school subjects are life skills. Take them shopping with you and ask for their help in determining the best values. Give them an earned allowance and expect them to budget their spending, set aside a percentage for savings, and plan for future big expenses. Show them how you read for information and for pleasure.
  6. Start early. Give your kids a respect for knowledge. It’s the longest lasting gift you’ll ever give them. Show them that your family values the knowledge and skills they learn in school. Read to them early. Get them their own library cards and make library visits a regular and fun routine. Be involved in their school lives from their earliest enrollments. Ask specific questions and make specific comments about school every day and expect – demand – multi-sentence responses. You’ll learn a lot from these informal conversations.
  7. Get help early. If you suspect a problem, fix it right away. If there’s one parental regret I hear more often than others, it is that parents waited too long to face an academic problem. These things don’t fix themselves. What was once a minor issue is now a major problem that extends beyond the classroom. It often results in a child’s sad lack of confidence, which can take much longer to fix than a simple academic tune-up. Get extra help from a teacher or go to a tutor. 
  8. Stay healthy. Encourage plenty of time for exercise, especially for those kids who are “kinetic” or “haptic” learners – the ones who need to move around and expend energy. Play with them. They love when you give them time with you. Make sure your schools are paying attention to this vital childhood need.
  9. Be the adult. You’re in charge. Kids want structure, despite their occasional (or frequent) protests. Help them set goals. Monitor them; make sure they’re doing what you expect of them. Nag them, excuse me, motivate them to stay on track for those long-term science fair projects and term papers. Have high expectations and reward kids for meeting them. There are lots of different rewards. Find ones that work with your children. And, no, there’s nothing wrong with a reasonable, earned, monetary reward.
  10. Help teens take charge. Encourage teenagers to see that they – not their friends – are in control of their academic life. Help them choose their friends carefully, keep to their goals, and enjoy the rewards of success. Remind teens that real friends will encourage them, study with them, help them, motivate them, compete with them, and celebrate with them. This is not an easy lesson, and teens choose the “wrong” friends from time to time. Eventually they see the light if you’re supportive and kind.

All the best in 2009!  Let’s see if these common sense themes keep their relevance in the new year. My guess is that they certainly will.


What are the perennial themes of your family?  Share them with us.  Just click on “comment” at the end of this blog.




Add comment


  • Comment
  • Preview

Blog Posting Rules

This blog is for the good of education - for students, for teachers and for parents. I very much value a two-way communication with you and welcome and encourage your comments and feedback. However, to facilitate a constructive conversation that is beneficial to everyone in this online community, I expect the same respect in your comments that I present in my blog.

Read the full Dr. Rick Blog Posting Rules.