When something goes well for a student in the classroom, it is likely that something has gone well at home. A healthy home environment can have a powerful impact on a child and will likely affect the child’s school experience and performance as well. Conversely, things that work well in school can contribute to positive home experiences. For this reason the McKay School, through the Positive Behavior Support Initiative (PBSI), has put together the “You Can Do This” project (YCDT).
Based on over 30 years of research and experience, YCDT is a powerful tool for helping parents raise healthy children at home who can excel in school. “There are certain practices for helping kids learn that work well in school,” Lynnette Christensen, one of the program’s directors explains. “So we thought, ‘Why not bring them into the home for parents to use?’”
There are certain practices for helping kids learn that work well in school, so we thought, 'Why not bring them into the home for parents to use?'"
The program focuses on the important elements of raising children, the first of which is the quality of the parent/child relationship. Building a strong and healthy relationship takes time and effort, but is fundamental. Preventing and correcting misbehavior appropriately, along with giving praise and encouragement, are also vital to the process. While resorting to scolding and punishment instead of taking the time to teach and uplift children may seem easy and even natural, teaching and uplifting can make a significant difference in the parent/child relationship.
The benefits of a good parent/child relationship are not limited to the household sphere. “The richer the relationship, the more confident the child will be,” says John Wilkinson, another director of YCDT. That healthy relationship becomes a stable foundation for a child, allowing him/her to function, learn, interact, and grow in school and in life.
The second component of YCDT is a focus on cultivating attitudes of kindness and gratitude in children. “Feeling and expressing gratitude can have a very positive impact on our lives,” observes Wilkinson. “In fact, it has been found to influence optimism, goal achievement, school satisfaction and a lot of other positive things.”
Wilkinson notes that this second part of YCDT is mainly a set of skills for parents to implement in the home. The “Expressing Gratitude” and “Showing Kindness” sections on the You Can Do This Website include specific “Things To Try.” One useful exercise suggests setting a goal of expressing gratitude five times a day to various loved ones or acquaintances. Numerous videos on the site give helpful overviews of each important section.
Christensen and Wilkinson are hopeful of the direction YCDT is taking. So far feedback has been good. "We may be tempted to think that we don’t have time,” says one parent. “But the meaningful things can be those that happen in less than a minute: that special hug; that walking up to someone and just putting your hand on their shoulder.”
What started as a small collection of instructional videos four years ago has grown to include a Web site, as well as booklets currently in production for parents. Christensen and Wilkinson are currently exploring the possibility of implementing a live training program in which parents and teachers can participate. “We have a great thing that we know works very well,” says Christensen. “We want to get it out to the public as much as we can.”
The "You Can Do This" video can be accessed here.
24 January 2011