Category Archives: Parents

Parents, you rock!

Parents, thank you for your business, but most of all thank you for allowing us to help out.

Every month as I process payments from parents for A+ Club monthly student support service, I write:

Please find the attached invoice for A+ Club student support. We thank you the opportunity to contribute to your child’s academic success!

We mean it: we are so thankful for the opportunity to help out, to be a part of your children’s lives to help them academically, to support their dreams and your ambitions for them, and to help ease the pains of adolescent parenthood. Continue reading

Should v. Could: setting parent expectations without judgement

Woulda, coulda, shoulda…

“Could you have done your homework” is a vastly different question than “Should you have done your homework?”

Anger is love?

Parents get angry with children because they are scared. Children get angry with parents because they don’t want to disappoint.

The cause of both is love.

When enforcing parent expectations, we need to remind ourselves of that, for we easily get lost in the emotions of the moment and forget that it’s our love that drives our emotions and not the events that are upsetting us. Continue reading

Arguing over grades?

aaaaahYou know the routine:

“Do you have any homework?” : “No.”

“Really? Nothing?” : “Already did it.”

“But you have a math test tomorrow?” : “Oh, yeah. The other kids weren’t ready, so the teacher put it off for next week.”

When the discussions over homework and grades become two-way traffic on a one-way street, the one complaining and badgering, the other deferring and dodging, it’s no longer a functional, working relationship. And all we’ve got left is anger. Continue reading

Finally, a buyers market for college

coins_MH900305770Oh, my, colleges are suffering from low enrollment. At $40K a year, ya think?

The Wall Street Journal ran this article today,

From 2010 through 2012, freshman enrollment at more than a quarter of U.S. private four-year schools declined 10% or more, according to federal data The Wall Street Journal analyzed. From 2006 through 2009, fewer than one in five experienced a similar decline.

The trajectory reflects demographic and technological changes, along with questions about a college degree’s value that are challenging centuries-old business models. The impact is uneven: Some wealthy, selective private colleges are flourishing, while many others suffer.

Schools on the losing end are responding with closures, layoffs, cutbacks, mergers and new recruitment strategies. Many see these as the first signs of a shakeout that will reorder the industry.

Please read this with glee.  I do, especially after paying $45,000 a year for my daughter’s school in Boston. My son started at the very expensive music school, Berkley College in Boston, and decided not to return, telling me “it’s a waste of money.”. You don’t hear that line from your kids very often, but according to him it was. My daughter’s school, Simmons College, also in Boston, she and I both agree is worth every cent. But that’s a lot of cents.

Here’s the ugly truth about college expenses

  1. College costs have risen significantly faster than other cost-of-living increases in the last twenty years.
    1. Why?
      1. administrative bloat
      2. Federal rules and regulations
      3. People have been willing to pay these ludicrous costs, myself included
  2. College costs are subsidized by the wealthy and high school under-achievers who don’t qualify for scholarships or need-based discounts
    1. My uneducated guess is that 20% of students pay full tuition, 40% pay mostly full tuition, and those 60% subsidize the other 40% who are on scholarships or are heavily subsidized.
  3. Undergraduate college degrees do not guarantee a good job
  4. College graduation does not guarantee learning
    1. Our society has yet to decide whether or not college is a “life experience” or an education.
    2. High school education has been so dumber-down that much college education is remedial
  5. Post-graduate success is predicted more accurately by college admission than by college graduation.

Sorry to be cynical here, but let’s speak the truth here. But let’s also be glad that what goes around comes around, and the “college bubble” has hit a top. Enjoy the crash, and make sure you’re taking advantage, finally, of the new buyers market in education.

– Michael

The A+ Club from LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Do your grades Spring forward or Fall back?

clocks_MH900430829Beware the Daylight Saving! Sleep, rhythms and grades

My wife has long held a theory that life gets more difficult for students when the clock changes every November. The early sunset makes it dark and dreary, and the change itself messes up our daily rhythms and internal clocks. Well, it’s true. Check this out:

End of Daylight Saving Time can mean headaches for some

For some, the end of Daylight Saving Time means an extra hour of sleep. But for others it can mean a headache. Doctors say the time change can cause cluster headaches that can last as long as eight weeks.  The portion of the brain that triggers these headaches also controls your body’s rhythms.  Slight changes can throw off the rhythm, which can also happen when you switch time zones.

Yeah. Researchers have now also affirmed that join pain can predict the weather (How Your Knees Can Predict the Weather: Granny was right: Scientists find link between achy joints and the forecast) and that intuition is rational and often works (Moms know best: Doctors say ‘mother’s intuition’ is real).

Human beings, it seems, weren’t invented along with Edison’s light bulb or Al Gore’s internet. We’ve been experiencing and adapting to time, weather, seasons for, well, for a long time.

With the end of Daylight Saving (here for the Book of Knowledge, I mean, Wikipedia, entry; oh, and it’s “saving” not “savings”), we’re moving the clock back to the “normal” time that is supposedly lined up with the path of the sun. Actually, time itself isn’t made up by humans, but we need some way to measure it, thus sundials and clocks. High noon literally means when the sun is at it’s highest point in the sky, so that means that high noon is different across time zones. High noon here in Washington, DC, isn’t the same as high noon in, say, West Virginia, even though both are in the same time zone, both showing 12:00 noon at the same time.

Time zones were created by the railroad industry in order to coordinate train schedules across places with different actual times. So these, essentially, arbitrary “zones” were created so that passengers and shippers could know that the 5:00 am train from New York that arrives in Chicago at 7:00 pm New York actually took 14 hours, even though it arrived at Chicago at 6:00 Chicago time. Confusing enough? The point is that it’s all made up.

We could leave the clocks alone, but in order to interact with different places, we kinda need to know what time it is there. I think we should all just be on the same time, but that would mean that, if morning in New York is 5am, then morning in London would be a midnight, which would mean we’d have to change midnight in London to Noon. People would still get up when it’s light, or go partying when it’s dark, whether that’s 4:00, 16:00 or whatever. Instead, every local time follows the sun, with morning being morning by and midnight at midnight on the clock.

The reason for it is that humans need sleep. And when we mess with sleep, well, bad things happen.


Sleep is a fundamental part of those “cycles” of life that we experience on this planet. We go around the sun every time the earth spins 365 and a quarter times. And during every one of those spins of the earth we experience a certain amount of sunlight. Since the beginning, human beings have followed these natural, physical patterns of the earth and sun. A fundamental interaction to it is sleep.

Then along comes Thomas Edison and his light bulb. Now we can get more than a flickering flame to light our streets and homes, and we can remake the natural clock of the earth. A cost of this defiance of time, is sleep, and it can really mess with people. Please check out this site from the NIH: Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep, which explains the importance of sleep, its rhythms and cycles and some of the harm in messing with it.

Sleep and Grades

I write all this to remind our students that sleep matters, and sleep can make or break your grades. Adults are always telling kids to “get some sleep,” and kids are always rebelling against that advice and staying up late. So many of the students in our program tells us about sleep issues: have too much home work to do, can’t get off the computer, and then falling asleep over homework or in class.

Sorry, kids, the science is working against you on this one. Electronics mess up your sleep cycles, the “need to text” or Tweet misplaces your priorities and cuts into your productivity. There are a thousand websites with advice on this, but please know you are impacted by your choices. Just this week, here’s another warning about how electronics can destroy a child’s sleep

Pediatricians Set Limits on Screen Time: The American Academy of Pediatrics’ New Guidelines on Children’s Use of Internet, TV, Cellphones, Videogames

Parents should ban electronic media during mealtimes and after bedtime as part of a comprehensive “family media use plan,” according to new recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The influential new guidelines are being spurred by a growing recognition of kids’ nearly round-the-clock media consumption, which includes everything from television to texting and social media. “Excessive media use is associated with obesity, poor school performance, aggression and lack of sleep,” said Marjorie Hogan, co-author of the new policy and a pediatrician.

It may seem like parental nannying, but are you sure it’s not hurting your grades?  Yes, sleep does matter. Please be aware of your habits and needs, and please do what you can to make them match.

– Michael

The A+ Club from LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Parenting for Student Success with Dr. Kimberly Bradley

parenting_MH900442199Parenting for Student Success with Dr. Kimberly Bradley

Show Notes
Student Success Podcast No. 6, Oct 30, 2013

Today’s Guest: Dr. Kimberly Bradley

Dr. Bradley discusses strategies for successful parenting of successful students. Dr. Bradley shares her personal experiences as a parent of three students, as an involved parent in her children’s schools, and her professional advice as an educator.

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or find us on iTunes


Guest Biography:

Dr. Kimberly Bradley proves the old adage that the busier you are the more you get done. With a doctorate in Christian Education, a consulting firm focusing on technical training for industry and government, a pastor husband and three kids, Dr. Bradley served as President of the Parents’ Association of Archbishop Carroll High School.

Dr. Kimberly Bradley
Dr. Kimberly Bradley

It all started with one question: “How can I help?” Looking around, she concluded that Archbishop Carroll was much more than “just a school on a hill” — colleges and universities needed to learn more about students graduating from ACHS, and the students, in turn, needed to find out more about the world of higher education. So in 2007, Dr. Bradley was a founding member of a group that established a college fair at Carroll, inviting representatives from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and opening it to all local schools. Two hundred seniors attended. Three years later, the college fair has expanded to include a diversity of national universities, including Harvard, MIT, Dickinson, West VA University, Hood, Mount St. Mary’s and North Carolina A&T. Over 500 students from grades 9-12 attend from throughout the Metro area. Dr. Bradley is not surprised. She says, “Basically, we need to give our kids opportunity and we need to get our students to think about their future now.”

Dr. Bradley believes fervently in what Archbishop Carroll offers students. First is the academic experience. “Dr. Stofa and the educators here believe that the kids they teach can learn and they must be held to a high standard,” she explains. “The academic community at Carroll believes our children can do it, so they do.” Dr. Bradley also believes in the nurturing aspects of the school. “They love our kids, they support our families. They will assist in any way they can. Carroll has created an environment where all kinds of kids can thrive and grow.”

Dr. Bradley and her husband have three students in the Carroll family. Their son Daniel graduated in 2010. Second son Jeremiah graduated in 2011, and daughter Abigail is a member of the Class of 2014.

Topics Discussed

  • Congratulations to Abigail for making “Principles list,” the highest honor roll status
    • why?
    • Stays on top of h/w deliberate attention to her studies
  • At recent College Fair: students walking around hearing from colleges that demand a certain gpa
    • the limits of the gpa
    • parents always say it, but this is real!
    • Connecting long term goals to short term choices
    • long term rewards parents assisting:
    • taking kids to college fairs
    • Bromley insists that what parents say to kids matters Kids to listen
  • Have to prove what you know
    • can’t just get by being smart
    • have to do homework
    • Parents need support
    • Community raises children
  • Helecopter parents flying in to save life
  • Kim doesn’t do the over attentive mom:
    • the hard lesson child independence
    • don’t’ want 45 year old stay at homes! empower and equip our children to deal with their sistuations
    • Holding one’s own child accountable face your issues even a teacher that doesn’t likey mom won’t always be able to fly in to save you
    • trust but verify
  • Holding back letting children learn coping skills on their own
    • Imagining your child in 10-20 years: are you reinforcing that vision?
    • keeping that standard we hold for young children as they grow older
  • Relationships with schools and teachers
    • parents seeing themselves as consumers in relationship with schools
    • parents are picky when selecting daycare for young children why not the same concern for K-12 schools?
    • holding schools accountable as consumers partnership in child’s education demand rubrics
  • Holding your child accountable
  • See Dr. Carson’s book on his mother’s accountability for him growing up
  • We have a tendency to protect little kids more than older kids
  • “Preparing a child to learn”
    • parent job to prepare a child to learn
    • not to be confused with the child’s job to do the learning
  • Teacher responsibility
    • clarify expectations
    • students need to ask questions
    • good teachers want students to succeed
  • Parent communication
    • must be positive productive of what children need to be doing, and not excusing
    • parent involvement in communication but leave child to fulfill expectations
  • Teachers should not be on trial
    • has seen teachers crying after parent conference: not okay
    • making good on what teachers have to deliver
  • Students owning failure: if it is failing to meet expectations
    • some teachers can’t communicate expectations, but students and parents still need to figure that out
    • schools need to hold teachers accountable
    • failure not always the teacher’s or the kid’s fault: can be both, or one or the other
    • parents can advocate on both sides Parents can clarify expectations

Additional Resources and Links


Host: Michael L. Bromley
Original Music by Christopher Bromley (copyright 2011, 2013)
Background snoring: by Stella
Best Dogs Ever: by Puck & Stella

Happy Halloween from Puck and Stella!






Here for Puck & Stella slideshow

The A+ Club from LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Lather, rinse, repeat… Gaming on & on

gaming_MH900422295Got gaming obsessions?

We heard last year from several of our parents worry that their child’s incessant video game playing was getting in the way of school, so we got busy trying to figure it out. A friend in the psych community offered some suggestions, which are most illuminating. This is not professional advice, which you should seek if you are seriously concerned for your child’s gaming obsessions. Nevertheless, common sense affirms what we learned, including that gaming is not necessarily a bad thing.

Adolescence is “a stage of life given over to passions,” we were told, and nicely put!  So the question for any obsession is whether it has breached enthusiasm and is inhibiting healthy development. Concerns with gaming arise as the standard tasks of adolescence, including academic responsibilities, go unmet and the gaming itself takes over from other, healthier coping skills. It is a very serious concern that if children do not mature with certain social and emotional skills during adolescence they may have difficulty dealing with the responsibilities and interactions required of adults.

So, yes, there are “unhealthy substitutes” for a normal life, and gaming can be one of them — but not necessarily. (Think drugs, sexual promiscuity, and violence.)  The psych trade itself is divided on the subject of gaming, although there can be no doubt that it can become a poor substitute for other coping mechanisms. It is when children “isolate themselves” in gaming that we must be concerned. In psych terms we’re talking about the gaming becoming “pathological” and “obsessive compulsive.”

Lather, rinse, repeat

Many adolescents, males especially, respond to repetitive tasks as their minds and bodies journey into adulthood. It is not necessary for healthy development, but it can be productive of it. Studies show that in boys (and not in girls) repetitive, concentrated tasks — including gaming — are calming. Doing the same thing over and again relieves anxiety and assists normal development. In this sense, gaming can be a perfectly healthy activity. Until it gets in the way of other tasks and functions.

And that’s the trouble. Figuring out the line between healthy and unhealthy behavior is not easy, not for anyone, especially adults. If moderation is the key to health and happiness, why is it so hard to discern and follow?

The gaming will seem excessive if the child won’t do anything else or if it is getting in the way of grades and other responsibilities. Yet, that doesn’t make gaming the issue. We should first ask that if the gaming were not available what other behaviors would we see? Excessive, obsessive activities are not necessarily problems themselves, and may instead be masking other anxieties or issues that the child is attempting to reduce or resolve. So we might think of excessive gaming as a symptom and not a cause.

Normally, gaming is just more fun that some other things, and if it is masking anything it’s likely mild. The larger, unhealthy side to gaming is that in children who lack maturity and focus or who feel isolated, gaming offers a sense of accomplishment that is easier to gain than through more difficult or demanding tasks such as academics or other social activities. Unlike sports, which offer repetitive tasks (practice, practice, practice!) and whose rewards accrue over time, gaming gives instant gratification, which can be hard to let go. For a child in this situation, our friend says, “Finding healthier substitute or moderation can be challenging.” On the other hand, the gaming might just be the only activity available to a child, so the problem isn’t gaming so much as an absence of alternative activities.

Kids are… well, kids

There is also the matter of adolescent social interactions to which gaming can be another piece. Kids who game talk about it with their friends, they use it for status, and the enjoy sharing it with each other. And, as our friend reminds us: it’s fun. They like it.

Concerned parents need to think about how to properly address potential gaming obsessions. What alternatives do parents offer their children? Is the gaming a message from children, such as a call for help or for alternatives? Will clamping down on the gaming merely become a punitive measure that the child takes as personally critical and that leads to coping difficulties with more difficult tasks? Children hate to disappoint parents, so avoiding failure, or, worse, embracing it, can be an unhealthy coping mechanism designed to avoid responsibility and the disappointments in not meeting them.

Our friend reminds us that there will always be failures in parenting, so we must stay positive, stay patient, and maintain expectations.  Again, if you fear that your child has breached healthy lines in gaming or other obsessions, please seek professional advice.

In our student support service, we want to listen to kids, to hear their own goals, and to offer them opportunities to be honest with themselves and those around them. Kids have the same goals as parents, they just don’t always want to recognize or admit it, especially if walking away from those goals becomes easier than trying hard to accomplish them.

– Michael

The A+ Club from LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Parents, helicopters & angry kids: how to successfully manage a teen’s academic struggles

parent-and-student_MH900399329So what is a parent supposed to do?

You get in their face too much, and it’s “Back off!” You back off, and they do everything but what you want ’em to do. There’s no better way to go crazy than to be a parent. I know, I’ve gone crazy twice. Well, make that three times, since I was a kid once, too, and the only way to go crazier than by being a parent is by being a child.

To be the perfect parent is impossible. Kids disagree, because they’re always full of advice on how we could be doing our jobs better as their parent. And, of course, the perfect child doesn’t exist either. And here is a real problem: when kids assume they can’t please us, they just drop all of our expectations. Some call it “rebellion.” When it comes to school, we call it “trouble.”

Then we get angry parents

Think about how quickly your child runs home with a good grade on a test, waving it in front of you, demanding your congratulations and praise. Of course they do, because they know you’ll be so happy with them.

Then think about how they defer, hide, and try to get away with not showing you the low grades. They do it because they think you’ll get mad at them, and they’d rather not deal with that. You know, yelling and grounding and the like. Much easier to put off your anger for later than deal with it now. Deferment of pain is a natural and rational human choice.

But what kids don’t get is that that’s not what’s really going on. Sure, you’re going to get mad, and, yes, yelling and grounding may follow. But it’s not because of the low grades. You’re angry because you’re worried. Kids don’t realize this. They just think you’re mad because you’re like that.

Kids want to please parents

Kids want to please their parents. They want to meet parent expectations and to be that perfect child they know they’re parents want them to be. Reality gets in the way, and disappointment and anger may follow. But it doesn’t have to go that way, and real trouble can result if we parents don’t handle it well ourselves.

When I work with students, I ask them why they don’t tell their parents about the bad grades at school. It’s always, “because they’ll get mad.” Okay, I say, but you know they’re going to see it eventually and then get even more angry. No answer. Now, do you show your parents the good grades? “Sure.” Why? Smiling now, “It’ll make ’em happy.”

Parents don’t get angry with the low grades. It’s the impact of those grades that scares parents into anger. And when kids bring good grades, it’s not the grades we parents applaud, it’s our joy at a bright future for our children that those grades represent that makes us happy.

Children are deathly afraid to disappoint their parents, and they will make up all kinds of excuses for negative outcomes. If you listen carefully, all of those excuses are designed to deny having disappointed parents: it’s always someone or something else’s fault. And in the face of parental anger, kids then further excuse themselves from having caused that anger by blaming it on the parents’ own anger.  Yes, there is a logic to it, however unproductive it may be.

Parents are motivated by fear

Kids readily perceive parental anger over bad news but not the love that stands behind it.

We parents are afraid for our children, and we see danger at every turn. When they were little and starting to walk, everyday objects around the house were like daggers poised to kill our precious children. So we padded the sharp corners of the table, put those stupid plastic covers into the outlets, and blocked off the stairs. As children grow older, our fears turn to new dangers, also very real, such as popular culture, the internet, drugs and alcohol, teen driving, and, of course grades.

Children don’t get that our fears are motivated by love. When I ask kids if their parents would get angry if they didn’t love them, they go blank. Of course not, since if they didn’t love they wouldn’t care. It is helpful for kids, at least conceptually, to know that parental anger over poor grades is an act of love. We parents need to remind them of it, especially when we are angry.

Helicoptering & other forms of oversight

Sometimes I hear about the old school, hard-knocks way of parenting: let ’em fall, brush off, and get back up again on their own. There’s a lot to be said for this, as it develops independence and ownership of outcomes by children. But it doesn’t always work, and how can it truly work all the time? Kids do need help sometimes.

We also hear about the “helicopter” parent who hovers over every little thing the child does, making sure it’s all perfect. The danger here, of course, is the opposite of the “hard knocks” school of parenting in that the child will never develop independence and ownership of outcomes. Plus, sometimes that helicopter runs out of gas, and then what? You can’t be on top of everything that goes on in your child’s life.

So the question is balance: what can we do for our children that is productive, healthy, and promotes the values and independence and ownership of them we want out of our children?

Honesty, Love, and Trust

But verify.

Honesty is a two-way street, and when that traffic is coming at you hard, it’s easy just do dodge it with a little lie. But we must face things as honestly as possible, for without honesty we can never fully trust. It’s most difficult for kids to be honest with their parents, because they don’t want to disappoint them. The best we can do as parents is to remind our kids what our expectations are and how they are built from love and not anger. Let our children know it’s okay not to be perfect, but remind them of the values and hopes we hold for them.

This is really hard to do, and no parent can every fully reach it. So we must also verify.

Help when needed

I can’t tell you how many times we hear from parents, “He always says he did his homework already. How am I supposed to know?”

When it comes to schoolwork and grades, schools are supposed to assist parents with timely assignment and grade notifications and communication between teachers and parents. It is impossible, of course, to know everything all the time. (My mother had me convinced that she was “the fly on the wall” in my elementary school.) Ideally, the information flow is sufficient for parents to know what teacher expectations are so as to be able to verify workflow with their child. Worse, however, in the schools we have seen in our student support service, effective teacher feedback is not the norm.

Well, when the grades come back you’ll know for sure.

Until then, the question is if the child is deferring responsibility or actually fulfilling it. In our student support service, our ideal is for students to account for themselves without parent or teacher oversight, and we provide the HomeworkTracker to our clients as an effective tool for it. But we’re not always working with kids who have that ability to be on top of everything all the time, so more tools are needed. We support parents and students by monitoring their teacher pages and progress reports and encouraging teachers to provide direct feedback for our students.

The most powerful tool we provide, however, is a simple, honest conversation. And an ongoing one. We speak with our students at least once a week in order to help them think through what’s going on in school, verify what we see, and to problem solve. The very first and the most powerful thing we can do with a student is to help them remove those self-imposed barriers that they use as easy excuses for not meeting their parents’ and their own goals. Once a student articulates a goal honestly (a goal to get all A’s is less honest than a goal to improve on existing C’s and D’s), then those self-imposed barriers becomes problems to solve rather than excuses.

It is a huge the first step for students who have been in the process of denial and deferring to be honest and realistic with themselves. When parents and students are in a cycle of denial and anger, that honesty is difficult to find. Some of the greatest successes in our service have been to restore that trust between parents and students over school work. Then they can argue over more important things, like chores and what movies they’re allowed to see. Getting there takes patience, consistency, honesty and love. We’re one tool available to parents and students to get there.

In an upcoming post, I will cover the feedback process more carefully and offer some suggestions for parents and teachers on how to up that game. Meanwhile, we wish students and parents all a happy, positive start on the new school year!

– Michael

The A+ Club from LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.