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3 Family Habits to Start Before Going Back to School

This is a guest post by Clay Brizendine. Clay is a CPT, a personal and corporate trainer, father of two daughters and author of Shoebox Letters – Daughters to Dads. Follow Clay online and on Twitter. Interested in guest blogging for NFI? Email us.

The weather is a little hotter, vacations are coming to an end, and ads everywhere are talking about school supply lists. All of this is to say that there's just a little time to go before school starts, and for a lot of us, that's a great time to cement some good family habits that will carry you throughout the school year.

back to school computer key

Setting your family up for success in these ways is no different than anything else at which you would want to be great—practice makes perfect. It’s often said that it takes between 30-60 days to create a habit, so practicing certain routines now will make the school year easier.  

Here are three key things you can do now:

  1. Treat the rest of the summer as a test drive. Practice new routines and habits as a family, and see what works best so that once the school year begins, you have something in place you know works. Kids are great at trying something new, and if it doesn't work, trying something different. Use that to your advantage. For example, if there’s a nighttime routine that you want your kids to follow rather than the very loose summer hours that some of us keep, start easing into that now. It might be at a later time, but it’s the actions and activities like showers, teeth brushing, etc. that will signal when it’s time to go to bed. Bring those activities forward little-by-little each week until you're at a time that will work once school starts.
  2. Pick your family meeting spot. Meet as a family on equal turf, as this will be critical throughout the school year. Sitting your child on the couch while you stand over him doesn't create a great environment for sharing. Pick a spot like the kitchen table, where everyone sits at an equal level, to talk through anything important that's happening. The more your child feels like he can participate, the more he will. Exercise caution on this point. You don’t want him feeling like he owns conversations, but you don’t want him feeling like he isn't valued either. It’s a fine balance, but one that can be helped be having a family spot—something like the kitchen table.
  3. Make your conversations positive and about the child. Positive thinking opens up possibilities. Keeping topics on things surrounding your child shows you care. If your family sits down at dinner, for example, be the first to set a great tone for conversation by asking your daughter what the best thing was that happened that day. This focuses a child on the positive, which will often create more positive emotions during the conversation (Find more back-to-school ideas at 10 Tips to Help Your Child in School). When school is back in session, the chances of less-than-ideal situations happening increases, but knowing that you’ll look for the positive and show genuine interest in what’s happening allows for possibilities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

Think back mom and dad: What did your parents do to help you transition from summer break to starting school?

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image: iStockPhoto

Learning From A Kindergartner

Writing in the Huffington Post, Dr. Ricky Choi tells of an "interview" he had with his daughter about starting kindergarten. Turns out, there was a big difference between his answers and his daugthers. Reading the conversation between Dr. Choi and his daugther may remind us dads to be more perceptive and listen to our child more intentionally. Whether your child is entering kindergarten or college, the lesson this parent learned is worth memorizing. 

sfo terminal 2Dr. Choi writes his most recent column that he learned some things on his "last-hurrah-before-kindergarten-daddy-daughter trip." After waiting in Terminal 2 of the San Francisco Airport on a flight delay and knowing that kindergarten was fast-approaching, he was filled with new thoughts and emotions. He puts in words what so many have gone through or are going through as parents, the idea of "coming to terms with seeing my daughter as a more independent person." Choi then decides to take a break in the airport terminal and ask his daughter some questions about starting school. 

Dr. Choi is not only a dad, he is a pediatrician. He spends his day tossing out parenting advice and telling parents to listen to their children. But Choi is honest and says, as a father, "his assumptions about his daughter's capabilities and view of what is best for her can put me out of touch with her actual day-to-day concerns." Isn't this true dads? Don't we often get sidetracked into what we THINK we know rather than what we really know about our kids.

Take time and read Dr. Choi's dialogue with his daughter. Choi asks his daughter honest questions about her feelings of starting school. He asks questions like:

What are you most excited to learn about?
What is the most important thing to remember in order to do well in kindergarten?

Read Choi's article and see how different each perspective is in the answers. For each question, Choi offers what he thought his daughter would say and what his daughter actually said. Armed with this new perspecitve, dads may learn to gain insight by listening first, then offering whatever is best needed; whether it be comfort or praise. This sounds elementary doens't it dads? But oh how difficult it is to listen!

For instance, Dr Choi asks his daughter, "What will be the hardest thing about going to kindergarten?" He expected her to say something like, "Challenging school lessons, homework, missing my family and the demands to be independent." Instead, her answer was, "Figuring out who will be my best friend."

Choi reveals a "telling difference" between what he expected to hear and what his daughter actually said. He observes, "I'm focused on her academic performance and meeting expectations. She is concerned about relationships with her friends and teacher."
He describes his conversation as a "humbling reminder to really pay attention -- and address what she cares about especially if I want to effectively impress on her the things I view as important." If we are honest as dads, we think we know what we are doing sometimes by offering advice or trying to "fix" things. The best approach may be offered after listening to what our child's actual concerns really are. Thanks, Dr. Choi, for making us dads see from a different angle...the angle of our child. We need this reminder in our busy lives.
We agree with Dr. Choi, parenting may have its ups and downs, but in the midst of all the emotions and expectations of a new school year; slow down, relax and listen to your child.

Parents: Where do you go to "get away" from everything, and listen to your son or daughter?  

Read Dr. Choi's full daddy-daughter interview
 
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photo credit: Marcin Wichary

Dad’s Guide to Back-To-School Gadgets

Thank God kindergarteners don't need laptops. With my firstborn attending kindergarten soon, clothes and supplies are enough expense. You have no doubt seen the legendary lists of supplies from your child’s school by now. NFI may not be helpful as it pertains to fashion (considering our president has written extensively, and sadly in favor of, the fanny pack!). But as it pertains to tech and gadgets, we can offer our "expert" opinion. 

pencils

Whether it is gadgets for your university student or middle-school scholar, we are here to help you save a few dollars and use the time to connect with your child. See our ideas below on what to look out for in purchasing the lastest mobile devices in three categories: 

Laptops

Dell UltrabookThe new Dell Inspiron Ultrabook (starts at $649) is one of the new "ultrabooks.” It's ultrathin, fast and is said to have a around seven hours of battery-life. Your child may want this laptop considering the offer of also getting an Xbox 360 with your purchase. Also, with your purchase, the machine comes with Windows 7 but Windows 8 can be purchased for $14.99 when you own Windows 7.

macbook airFor Mac families, there is the MacBook Air, starting at $999 for the 11-inch model (don’t forget: $949 with qualifying education discount). The new MacBooks come with OS X Mountain Lion, iLife, iWork and all the software your student will need. The 11-inch MacBook Air has an i5 processor, 4GB of memory and 64GB of flash storage (no hard drive) and at least five hours of non-stop, wifi-using battery life. This makes it one of the lightest laptops ever for carrying around in a backpack with other books all day. The MacBook Air also includes the popular FaceTime HD camera for HD 720p video calling. The Apple Store has Back to School deals that should not be missed. Deals include a $100 iTunes gift card with the purchase. And don't forget to ask about education pricing.

Tablets
Apple continues to have the market cornered with regard to tablet devices. But depending on your student, you may find Google's Nexus Tablet the right fit.

apple new ipadThe new Apple iPad is a powerful and very mobile option. Honestly, dads, the iPad may be a better and cheaper option instead of a laptop for many students. It is the best-selling tablet for many reasons. iPad prices start at $499 for the Wi-Fi-only version and 16GB of storage. Apple’s Back to School deals include a $50 iTunes gift card with new iPad purchase. Remember, education pricing can be used for iPads (same as laptops) because Apple considers this mobile device the same as a personal computer. 

google nexus

If it’s a smaller touchscreen you desire, there is the 7-inch Google Nexus Tablet (which starts at $199 for 8GB) for the student in your house. Consider this option when mobility is valued over storage. It is a great option as long as you have storage elsewhere.

Phones
With so many different phones on the market, students can be very mobile and pack very lightly. From taking notes in class, recording lectures or calling parents, phones can be a very useful tool. For some wondering what phone is best for their student, you may find this helpful:

iphone 4sApple's iPhone 4S (starting $199 for 16GB with contract) and comes with a great camera and tons of features like Retina display. The iPhone also has FaceTime so you can see how your child is doing when each of you are in a Wi-Fi hotspot.

HTCAndroid lovers also have plenty of good choices when it comes to phones. The HTC One V boasts a 3.7-inch screen, a powerful battery and great camera that rivals the iPhone.

When shopping for back-to-school deals, it is a good time to consider asking for an all-in-one printer when purchasing a computer. Most retail stores will consider adding a wireless all-in-one printer when at the time of purchasing a new computer.

Consider these options and for the student in your family when chosing laptops, tablet devices and smartphones. Dad, get involved in the process of shopping with your child this year. Shopping for the best deal and learning about the best device for your child can be a good time of connecting.

Discuss what is most important and useful in the devices with your child. Even though it is money from your pocket, try making it an enjoyable and teachable experience. Your child will remember these back-to-school shopping days. I haven't forgotten back-to-school shopping as a kid. Please, someone reading this, remind my future self of this post when my daughters ask for laptops. Happy shopping, dads!

What is one gadget the scholar in your family wants this year?

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photo credit: Melissa Hincha-Ownby
photo credit: audiovisualjunkie
photo credit: audiovisualjunkie
photo credit: Imrishale
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photo credit: audiovisualjunkie

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