Michigan Family Institute Newsletter

Back to School 2013
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In This Issue
WHY STUDENTS DON'T FIND SCHOOL REWARDING
IT'S BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!
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SEE NEW THERAPY AND EDUCATIONAL GROUPS FOLLOWING THE BOOK OFFERINGS BELOW

 
 

BOOKS 
 

(Guilford Press 1996)
Jerome A. Price
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(Impact Publications 2011)
Margerum J, Price J, and Windell J 
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(Impact Publications 2007) 
Gaulier B, Margerum J, Price J, Windell J 

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(Zeig-Tucker Publications 2003) Price J, Margerum  J 

CLINICAL AND EDUCATIONAL GROUPS

 

  

Take Control of Your Divorce

  

Learn to manage the conflict in your divorce

  

with Dr. Judith Margerum

  

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Circle of Friends

  

A middle school aged social skills group

 

with Lynn Ernst

Margolis,  MSW, LMSW 

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The Right to Be the Grownup

A parent skills training program for difficult teens and pre-teens 

 

with Jerome A. Price, MA, LMFT, LMSW 

 

 

 

SPEAKERS' BUREAU 


As a courtesy to the many trusted professionals who refer to us, we offer presentations for staff development and for parents in schools or treatment programs at no charge.
Subjects are many and varied and can be coordinated with your program's needs.

Just call or email us




info@mifamilytherapy.com




 

WHY STUDENTS DON'T FIND SCHOOL REWARDING

 

Jerome A. Price, MA, LMFT, LMSW

 

In the Introduction to Psychology class I teach at Wayne County Community College there's a section in the textbook on learning and reinforcement. What reinforces learning and enthusiasm for learning?

 

According to the authors, and those of most psychology texts, the concepts of primary reinforcers and secondary reinforcers explain a great deal. Primary reinforcers are things that come to us as rewards that meet a biological need. Reinforcers such as food, water, sleep and pleasure are the most immediate and powerful rewards. Secondary reinforcers are those rewards that we can use to obtain a primary reinforcer. Rewards such as money are secondary reinforcers because they can be used to purchase primary reinforcers. A student can be paid for good grades and go to the store to buy something he or she wants. Secondary reinforcers are not as powerful as primary reinforcers because they aren't as immediate.

 

Now...let's look at grades. Our students come to class and work toward a letter written on their paper or test. These earn them a letter written on a piece of paper or on the internet at the end of the semester. These letters are accumulated over four years netting a number on a piece of paper known as a grade point average and a diploma.

 

After four years of effort this grade point average earns the student the right to go to college or away to a university. There, they work for another four years earning letters on pieces of paper. After between two and nine years of college that accumulation of letters on paper and grade point averages finally earns the student the right to get a job that they might enjoy.

 

They work on that job and earn a piece of paper called a paycheck or numbers on their bank statements if paid by direct deposit. That check or bank balance can then be traded in for money or a balance on a debit card. That money or balance on the debit card can finally, after years, be traded in for a primary reinforcer.

 

I don't think I can count how many steps removed grades are from a student's ability to earn a primary reinforcer. Certainly parents can give rewards for grades. However, the amount of work necessary to get those grades is usually not a fair trade for the size of the reward. It takes weeks and weeks of focus and effort to get a single reward.

 

No matter how you look at it, there are only certain personalities who can keep their eyes on the prize for years with little or no payoff other than letters on pieces of paper. Some of these good students are rather obsessive and compulsive or anxious so they feel immediately relieved when school work is completed. That's an immediate reward....the removal of emotional pain. Others may love the process of learning...but these are a very limited group. The rest find school to be a huge piece of drudgery with no payoff in sight.

 

The one immediate solution that's available is for students to find social activities that are part of school as early as possible. Activities such as band, vocal, drama, sports and clubs make school part of a student's social world. It also keeps them in relationship to adults. It's okay for parents to insist that their child or teen participate in a school-based activity every semester. They don't have to be given a choice if this activity will keep him or her sane and connected to schoolwork as rewarding.

 

Hopefully schools will continue to expand their programming for more alternative students. Funding for schools is always an issue limiting what they can provide. Other than financial limitations, I don't understand why extreme competitions in skateboarding, rollerblading and BMX biking aren't varsity sports. Why isn't there a half-pipe behind every high school next to the football field? If we want a wider range of children to attach to school, it's time for parents to step up and develop fundraising to expand programs that intrigue a wider range of students.

 

                

 

    

  IT'S BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!

                               

                   Judith Margerum, Ph.D.

 

                                                                Summer break is over and it's time for the kids to go back to school. What a relief until you recall all those arguments and struggles from last year. You could wait and see how the year goes since your child has promised (once again) that they know what they need to do. Better yet, decide ahead of time if you think there is an unresolved problem and come up with a plan. Don't just wait and see unless that is part of your plan because otherwise you will end up being surprised when Johnny has missed 16 assignments and you will react rather than respond.                                                                                                                                    Maybe the problem will have been resolved over the summer. Have you seen any evidence that Sally takes more responsibility for herself, follows through with expectations, is more compliant or concerned with her future? If there was an academic or ADHD problem do you see evidence that your child has increased their skill level over the summer, improved their attention or ability to sit still? First decide if you have enough information about the problem to solve it. Does your child need educational testing to establish their capability? Do you need input from the school or another professional about the reason the problem persists?                                                                  

                                                             Step 1 may need to be Get More Information. If you feel that is not necessary you get to decide if you want to take charge or allow your child to take responsibility. Many parents think they put the responsibility on their child when in reality they flip flop between asking and nagging about school to not being involved. That only makes it worse.    

                                                                  Step 2 is Decide whether you will take action or not. If you choose not to you need to stick with the plan for at least a semester and if the problem is long standing the entire year without being angry, resentful or making  negative comments. If you decide to make a plan that is Step 3.                                                                                How are you going to get the homework completed, turned in or decrease acting out at school without getting in a power struggle or becoming negatively engaged with your child? Keep your plan simple and clear. Make sure all adults (parents, school other adults if necessary) are on board. Do something different than you have done in the past. If you have said in the past no electronics until homework is completed but your child never complied, take all the cords, get the phone when it comes in the door (or turn it off if it is an argument) and don't return the items until you have verified that the homework is complete (without an argument).  

 

School problems are fraught with emotion because parents do not want to see their children fail at something that we view as a stepping stone to their future success. Consulting with a professional may help parents take a step back from the emotional precipice to manage things differently. Sometimes just removing the emotional reaction can make a huge impact -- so be prepared!

 

    

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