Back to School Anxiety. Parents, you are not alone

UnknownFor many this week seems more like the beginning of the new year than January 1.   Kids are back at school, beginning a new school year, filled with excitement and apprehension about what lies ahead for them.  Many parents are also filled with apprehension as they wonder how their little shining stars will do in school, whether they will thrive, learning and successfully working in the school system in a way that will help them progress, achieving success as the year unfolds before them.

Elizabeth Renzetti in the Globe and Mail, Aug 31 Feel­ing anx­ious about school? Par­ents, you are not alone discusses the seemingly global concerns of parents around the quality of education their children are receiving.  She spotlights some countries, identifying what appears to make their educational system somewhat superior to others.  It is interesting to learn how different countries approach the universal challenge of providing a high standard of education to their young in a way that supports continued learning, where the children can thrive and maximize their potential.

She makes reference to Amanda Ripley, an American journalist who has written a book “The Smartest Kids in the World”.  The book discusses her exploration of the educational systems in the 65 countries in which all 15 year students take a standardized test through the Programme for International Student Assessment.  In the very last paragraph of this piece, Renzetti refers to Ripley who recommends:  “The main thing parents can do for their kids, Ms. Ripley argues, is to read to them (a lot), ask them questions (a lot) and above all, expect them to think. A lot.”

This struck a chord with us.  It seems the learning of children in all countries involved can be supported by parents who are intentional in how they connect with their kids.  By reading with them, being curious – asking questions of them and expecting them to think, parents can provide the kind of support that will help their children learn.  Once again, curiosity manifested through the asking of open questions which can encourage kids to think is found to be useful!  Once again, we see the power of curiosity.

So what does this mean?  We believe this means, as parents, there is a need for us to support our children and how they learn by showing up in a curious way, asking those open questions that ensure our kids pause, reflect and are thoughtful in their response.  Such communication opportunities ensure they have the opportunity to build those reflective skills so necessary for thinking and learning.

This is the beginning of a new school year.  How can you be more curious with your kids?  We invite you to take just five minutes at some point during your time with your kids, perhaps in the evening or over the dinner table.

  1. BE Present with them.
  3. Ask those open questions (begin with who, what, how, where, when or why) that can’t be answered by yes or no.
  4. Listen 110% to what they say focusing on and being in the moment with them.
  5. Explore their thoughtful comments in an open way that encourages them to reflect and be thoughtful in their response.
  7. Repeat
  8. What have you learned?
  9. What has your child learned?

We invite you to develop this practise on a daily basis and reflect after 5 days:

  1. What have you learned about your child?
  2. How have these conversations supported learning for your child?
  3. What is needed to continue to build these conversations to be even better?


Share with us below what your tips are for back to school and how you like to support your child.

How to support greatness in your child


Parents are loving and embracing our Parenting Challenge!   When being curious in their listening and asking open curious questions here is what they have experienced:

I took the last challenge (I felt that listening was the crux of it) and it made a difference.  My teenage kid was having a sulky belligerent “nothing is right” night.  Pushing all of our buttons and ended up on her own in the living room (nobody wanted to be near her).    Then – I remembered the challenge to listen without solving, I and went to sit with her and let her know I would love to help if I knew what was wrong and I was there for her if she wanted to share.  It took her a few minutes  – then she burst out in a rant – someone was moving in on her best friend, another girl was being mean to her and there was nothing to do. My normal response would have been to “tell” her what I thought she could do in her relationships – and to find her “something” to do.   This time it was – “yikes – that’s a lot of stuff to deal with, relationships are hard, no wonder you are feeling a bit stressed”.  Sure enough she stopped sulking and elaborated a little , and before I knew it she was her normal happy self – singing and entertaining me in her normal way.  The exchange took a deliberate effort and about 5 minutes of my time – but through it – the tension in the house turned to good humour.  What an eye opener this was for me.

Now – to curious questions – wish me luck!”  – D. Vancouver

“It has been eye-opening for me how little curiosity I have when it comes to my kids (and husband) and their experiences.  Entering a conversation where the focus is just on them is really hard.  THANK YOU  for the parenting  challenge!  I am realizing I need to make some changes and find your posts incredibly eye-opening and useful.” – K. California


For more about the Parent Challenge, experiences and the tools parents are using visit us here.



Your child’s success: How are you standing in the way?

We have recently been reading article after article on the trials and tribulations of ‘helicopter parents’- how we as parents don’t even know we are doing it and how it is NOT serving our kids well.

Here are but a few of such articles: 

Have  American Parents Got It All Backwards?

Hover No More: Helicopter Parents May Breed Depression and Incompetence in Their Children

A Loss Of Perspective: The Perils Of Parenting

How Helicopter Parents Can Ruin Kids’ Job Prospects 

‘Helicopter Parents’ Cause Long Term Issues 

You get the gist..

As parents we all want what is best for our kids.  We want to give them everything and of course we approach it with best intentions – yet at what cost? We are learning it is our children who end up suffering, both as young adults and as leaders, as parents fulfill their own needs rather than meeting the needs of their kids.

So how do you know if you are a helicopter parent?

You can check out the 4 Signs You Might Be a ‘Helicopter Parent’ — And How You Can Stop here

(Notice how the solutions offered are focused around communication and relationship building)

One thing that comes through loud and clear in all these articles is the importance of supporting struggle, frustration and failure in our kids at any age. It builds resilience.  When we protect our kids from failure they don’t learn.  When we constantly “fix” and “solve” our kids problems they don’t experience struggle, frustration or failure – a.k.a they don’t learn how to fix their own problems and they don’t have the opportunity to develop confidence in problem solving.

When we constantly tell our kids what to do and how to do it, how are we supporting or nourishing their ability to problem solve, make choices, be independent, rise to and experience challenges, learn, think independently, understand their needs, or connect with the others?  How can we expect them to find jobs, lead teams, accomplish goals, or have ambition?

Then when they don’t match or exceed our expectation we blame them, shame them and even judge them for it.  As parents we need to change how we show up for our kids.

Being involved in our kids’ lives is important.  However, what we do is no longer as important as HOW we do it.

What would it be like for parents to take a step back and support our children to be independent, competent and connected?

What would it be like to trust our children and their ability to make decisions that will work for them?

What would it be like to be curious about your child, inviting them to be apart of the decision-making process, or have them lead the problem solving process, making them accountable for its success?

What would it be like to be open to doing something differently?  Perhaps you could approach something from your child’s perspective and see what you can all learn from their perspective.

What would it be like to connect with your child?  To truly see, hear and understand who they are and where they are at.  And what would that be like for them?

We invite parents to stop, take a breath, and take a step back – even those parents who believe they are not ‘helicopter parents’.   So many of us have helicopter tendencies wanting to keep our kids hurt free, tantrum free, happy and successful.  Parents, it is time to get real.   In the next week we challenge you to bring your awareness to your parenting style.   Be a curious observer of yourself and keep track of:

  • How often do you let your kids struggle, feel frustrated or fail?   What is that like for you?
  •  How often do you find yourself fixing, solving and telling your kids what to do?  How come?
  • Finally, when using the strategies above what do you notice about your relationship?  How does it make you feel?  What about your kid?

Curious to know more? Check out our Parenting Challenge and how to support your child


Share with us your craziest ‘helicopter parent’ experience.. You know we have all had at least one!

Judgement Day, “It makes me feel better”

This is a real conversation that we overheard between a young daughter and father walking the seawall and felt compelled to share with you:

10-12 year old daughter:  “Daddy, why do you have to be so judgemental?”

Dad:  “Because it makes me feel better.”

Daughter:  “How can putting someone else down make you feel better?”

Dad:  “It just does.  If I make someone else look diminished, it makes me feel more important.”

Daughter:  “How do you think the other person feels when you make them feel diminished?”

Dad:  “I don’t care because I feel better.”

Daughter:  “I don’t understand.”

This little girl of 10-12 was wise beyond her years and was so curious, asking her dad open questions to try to better understand why he said things she did not understand.

Think back to when you judged another for what they said, were doing, were wearing etc.  What were you really doing?  How do you think your judging comments made the person feel?  How did your behaviour/comments make you feel and what were the REAL reasons you were doing it?

For us, building relationships means nourishing others and thereby nourishing ourselves.   We wonder how diminishing others through judging helps to nourish anyone?

We invite you to reflect on how judging makes you feel and what you can do differently so you end up feeling you are nourished and have nourished others.