Dear Mrs. James,

My husband and I have started to reward our kids with toys, money, etc. for good grades, but my mother-in-law seems to think it's a form of bribery and not necessarily a good idea. What is your opinion as a teacher and a former nanny?

Sincerely,
Heather Lewis
Powell

Hi Heather!

I think it is absolutely fantastic that you have tried to connect something positive to your children's good grades! However, as much as I hate to agree with anybody's mother-in-law, I must say that I don't necessarily think that rewarding good grades is the best idea. I always suggest celebrating good grades instead of rewarding them. Celebrate! Make a big deal about it! Call Grandma and Grandpa and gush about how awesome your child is while your child is listening. Make your child's favorite meal, leave a note on their bed or in their lunchbox saying how proud you are of them. Let them pick out the movie for family movie night or have the special seat for the day. Just make a BIG deal about it!

Think of creative ways to celebrate your child's success and save the tangible rewards for extras. Reward your child with the object(s) of his heart's desire when he completes a book he wasn't required to read, or for consistently practicing his multiplication flash cards. Reward your children tangibly when they successfully keep a homework log or agenda book for a sustained period of time. Reward your kids when they go over and above your standards; celebrate when they meet them!

Keep up the good work!

Love, Mrs. James


Dear Mrs. James,

I'm a bad parent. My oldest child is struggling in school and I know it's my fault. I don't really have the time to work with him like I'd like and half of the time I don't even understand the stuff he brings home. I learned Algebra when I was in high school. I was barely paying attention then and that was over 15 years ago. He gets frustrated with me, I get frustrated with him-it's no fun. What do you suggest?

Sincerely,
Ambrielle Coleman
Dublin

Girl! Don't make me come through this article and slap you! YOU ARE NOT A BAD PARENT! You have got to go easier on yourself. The fact that you even wrote to me lets me know you care about your son and that's all that matters. You may not have the tools you need to help him with his school work right now, but that doesn't make you a bad parent.

First of all, thank you for having the courage to ask such an honest question. You may not know it, but you are truly speaking on behalf of so many parents out there who e-mail me daily with the same frustration. I could give you study tips. I could give you websites. And I could give you some of the coolest games you've ever seen in your life. However, I don't think that's going to help your situation.

My advice to you is simple. Like so many others, you and your son are frustrated with each other. I'm sure your frustration comes from your strong desire to see him succeed and your lack of understanding of the material. His frustration comes because at the Algebra age, most kids are totally over their parents anyway and even though he may act like you're the biggest dork around, he is frustrated because he really wants to please you. I totally suggest finding someone else to help your son with his homework-especially Algebra. Some teachers offer extra help during lunch or for a short period after school. Check with your school or with his Algebra teacher to see if that's offered. Or, you could have a private tutor come to your house or meet your son at a local library a few times per week. The things that may be causing you to pull your hair out may be a cinch for a highly qualified tutor. To find an awesome tutor, check out www.MrsJamesLearningClub.webs. com. Your child's tutor may very well become your family's new best friend! Keep me posted on your success! Until then...

Keep up the good work!

Love, Mrs. James