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The School Slide—Avoiding School-Time Parenting Pitfalls

“The School Slide”

Feeling that back-to-school vibe yet? If not, I’ve got a two-part pop quiz that’ll get you in the spirit of the season.

  1.  Complete this analogy:

The “summer slide” is to kids as the “school slide” is to ____________.”

Answer:  Parents!

2.   Define “school slide.”

This one’s a bit trickier, so grab your notebook, Parents, and join me in the classroom for three lessons that just might change the way we all approach the school year . . .


First, there’s the summer slide, which is the knowledge and proficiency that—when left unattended—evaporate from kids’ brains during summer break.

So what’s the school slide?

Well, when schedules begin to refill with homework and activities, and both bedtimes and morning departures are once again non-negotiable, parents can start to slip. We often shift focus toward the to-do’s, frequently leaving a trail of nagging, yelling, and unreachable standards.

The enforcer in us replaces the calmer version of ourselves, turning these:

“Sure, stay up and watch the rest of the movie—it’s summer!”


“It’s okay, we were at the pool all afternoon; just do some extra reading tomorrow.”

into this:

“It’s almost bedtime and you still haven’t done your homework or brushed your teeth?!?! Being a student is your job so take some responsibility for it!”

That’s when honest, no-filter kids come in handy. Kids like my 1st grader, who reminded me Monday in the middle of my stern lecture that he does make mistakes sometimes.

Ouch. Time to work my way back up the parenting ladder.


So why do we let schedules and to-do’s stress us into regrettable behavior?

Research shows that unfinished, mental to-do’s use up brain space and focus, meaning we’re so determined to get these daily goals met that they override other brain activities (i.e. rational parenting). But the same research also found that documenting a specific plan for completing goals lets the brain focus on those other activities, even though the original goals remain unmet. 1, 2

So if our a.m. and p.m. routines are both “written” in our brains only, with no concrete execution plan, perhaps we have some improving to do. (I’m definitely part of the “we” on this one.)

Social-Emotional Health

But humans aren’t list-checking machines, and without factoring that in, we’re missing a key part of the solution. If we want to change our BEhavior, we need to change how we’re BEing in the world.

My friend and coaching instructor created sticky notes with a To-Be list on each one. So what if we added—next to our newly minted, detailed plans for our daily to-do’s—a list of to-be’s, with our strategy for achieving those?

Making a thought:

“I need to stop yelling at my kids to get going in the morning.”

into a written statement:

“I want my home to be a source of peace for my kids, so I’ll keep my voice calm when I remind them we’re leaving in ten minutes.”

Well, you’ve finished today’s lessons—I’d hand out gold stars if I could!

And while we do need to set rules, responsibilities, and expectations for our kids, remember what a wise 6 1/2-year-old once said,

“I do make mistakes sometimes.”

And so does every one of us. So when addressing those errors—your child’s or your own—recall this common tie . . . and maybe let “the enforcer” have the day off.

(For tips on how to have these conversations with yourself or another, check out this previous post, “The Best Lesson from the Worst Job.”)

Which lesson made it into your notebook? Leave a comment below!


1 Becher, J. (2014, Mar). The Psychology of the To-Do List. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2014/03/17/the-psychology-of-the-to-do-list/#9326a21cd5a7

2 Masicampo, E. J. & Baumeister, R. F. (2011, Jun). Consider It Done! Plan Making Can Eliminate the Cognitive Effects of Unfulfilled Goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Retrieved from https://users.wfu.edu/masicaej/MasicampoBaumeister2011JPSP.pdf

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