Brains need to be calm to be “reason-able.”

It’s a stressful time of year for kids.  It’s a stressful time of year for parents. Everything seems high-stakes.  There’s not a moment to spare!

So, it was not surprising to me to receive a missive with this concern:  “It’s not the tutor’s job to make my son feel better.  I am paying you teach him strategies and don’t want you wasting his time.”

I understand and sympathize with this parent’s sense of urgency.  But, let me be clear: stressed brains don’t learn well. Sufficiently stressed, brains effectively cannot learn at all. 


4 Tips on Parenting a "Plan B"

Few among us do our best under extreme duress. For most of us extreme stress undercuts our ability to think clearly, to bounce back, and to solve problems creatively.

Faced by a daunting test, task, or tribulation? Go to Plan B thinking:

The Worst Advice I've Heard All Year

“My parents told me I shouldn’t take away time from studying to exercise.”

That may be the worst advice I’ve heard this year.  I should add that this (rather anxious) student was a regular runner and on her school’s cross-country team, so she would be stopping what was already a healthy, helpful habit.

You’ve been told that exercise is good for you.  But, let’s explore why. 

National Arbor Day is not only for trees!

There’s a lot to be said for trees.  They provide us beauty, materials with boundless uses, environmental health, and the simple joy of shade.  They are also inherently good for our brains.  Japanese culture embraces “forest bathing,” the cognitive benefits to brains found by the simple act of walking in the woods. 

My friend says kids who are smart don’t need test prep.”

That thought has been echoing through my head all week.  First of all, I’ve come to really dislike the word “smart.”  One, “smart” suggests a bit of “you’ve got it or you don’t,” which is pretty threatening.  Make a mistake?  Oops, you’ll be thrown off the Isle of Smart.  “Smart kids” don’t make those kinds of mistakes.  Two, “smart” also flies in the face of the fabulous research done by Dr. Carol Dweck and colleagues on Mindsets.  According to Dweck, a fixed mindset clings to the notion that ability is innate, in-born, God-given.  You can see it by performance.  No longer performing well?  You’ve reached your limit.  Better find something else to do where you have greater natural talent and therefore better hope doing well. - See more at:

The Merit Badge Approach to Life

Until you do something by yourself, you don’t know that you really know how to do it.  It has made me reflect on how often I show my kids and tell them how to do things.  So, we are starting today on a list of skills and tasks they want to learn, things that everyone should really know how to do.  And then, they are going to learn how to do them.  They will be more prepared for life.