Positive thinking the focus of first Parents Matter event

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 4, 2012

SALISBURY – LeAnn Nickelsen’s mantra is “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”
How people respond depends on their mindset, she told a group of parents gathered at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA on Wednesday.
“I don’t have the perfect mindset yet. I’m going in that direction though. I’m trying to change and I’m growing,” she said.
Nickelsen, a former teacher turned national public speaker who focuses her presentations on brain research topics, talked about the importance of positive parenting during the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s first Parents Matter event Wednesday.
“Our thoughts are very powerful,” she said. “Every cell in your body is affected by every thought you have.
“That’s why when people are upset, they can feel nauseous, get headaches or even weaken their immune system.”
But Nickelsen said those who have a negative mindset can transform their thinking, and they should because it impacts their children.
She said parents should strive to have a growth mindset in which they examine the situation and respond by asking reasonable questions before jumping to negative conclusions.
Nickelsen gave an example from her own life. She said when her son made a C on a math quiz, a subject where he typically excels, instead of impulsively questioning why he didn’t do better she asked what was going on. After he explained that he didn’t know what material was going to be on the quiz, she suggested he check with the teacher the next time.
“Be downright honest …you want to make sure you don’t look at your kids and say ‘You are so smart, you are amazing,'” she said. “Believe it or not, psychology says that is not the type of feedback we should give them.
“Praise the effort and the achievement of your kids versus his or her personal ability and attributes.”
Nickelsen said part of the growth mindset is embracing mistakes.
“If you change one thing tonight, I hope you’ll change how you look at your children’s mistakes because guess what, they are going to keep making them and so are you,” she said. “When you make a mistake go and say sorry.”
Encouraging practice and mastery of a skill also fosters a growth mindset, Nickelsen said.
She said getting rid of ANTS is important. ANTS stands for automatic negative thoughts.
“Stop your brain from going there,” she said. “Laughter sure does work. Whenever you want to spew something out of your mouth that you know is negative, smile.”
Parent feedback
Parent Rhonda Farley said Nickelsen’s presentation was so good she wished it would have lasted longer.
“It was just awesome,” she said. “The one thing I’m going to take away is that fact that sometimes you don’t realize if you have some other negative things going on in your life that your child is absorbing it and you need to try to stay positive,” she said. “Sometimes that is hard to change, but once it sort of clicks you can stop that pattern.”
Evelyn Medina, who has two children who attend Granite Quarry Elementary, said Nickelsen’s program about positive parenting wasn’t completely new to her, but she didn’t mind.
“It’s always good to hear it again and be reminded,” she said. “Some people have probably never heard it.”
Medina said she wished the school system would’ve had a Spanish translator on hand during the presentation.
“There were a lot of Hispanic parents here and I’m not sure how much they understood,” she said. “I hope that the Hispanic population doesn’t get discouraged and decide not to come to the other events.”
Kelly Feimster, media director for the school system, helped organize the event. She said there was no translator because they were afraid it would be distracting, but that doesn’t mean one can’t be present in the future.
Jerri Hunt, the district’s director of English for Speakers of Other language, also helped in organizing the event. Hunt said it’s possible that Spanish captions can be added to the video footage of the presentation that will appear on the school system’s website.
Parents are the students
The school system launched the Parents Matter series to increase parental involvement, foster networking between parents and empower parents to become effective advocates for their students.
Medina said the initiative is a great idea.
“If we want our kids to succeed, it starts with the parents,” she said. “Some parents are not equipped to help students succeed. They don’t come with a handbook. We’ve got to learn it.”
Evelyn Tyson, whose son is a freshman at West Rowan High, said positive parenting was a good topic to begin the series with.
“Positive thinking can help get children through elementary, middle and high school,” she said. “It will help them go further if they have good parents with good parenting skills.”
Tyson said part of being a good parent is being a good role model.
“That’s the hardest part,” she said. “That means you have to keep learning.”
Carie Fugle, a science teacher at Salisbury High who has a son at Granite Quarry Elementary, said she came out Wednesday for personal and professional reasons.
“I think the kids in my classroom need this just as much as my son at home,” she said.
Future sessions
School officials gave parents a survey Wednesday to see what topics they might be interested in learning about during upcoming Parents Matter sessions.
Included were everything from social media to texting while driving to career paths.
Amy Epley, whose children attend China Grove Elementary, said she’d be interested in a session on homework strategies.
“I’d like to know how to make homework more fun instead of being so dreaded,” she said.
Tyson said she’d like to find out more about planning for college and how to help her teenage son land a part-time job.
Bullying was a topic of interest for Farley.
“My child doesn’t necessarily get bullied, but she observes children being bullied and I would like to know how to direct her in addressing than situation,” she said.
Medina said she wants to know how to improve her children’s study and reading habits
“I have this vision of my kids going to bed with a book in their hands, but it’s still just a vision,” she said. “I’d like to know how to encourage a love of reading.”
The survey also had questions about what times and dates would be preferable for the events.
“I work while my daughter’s at school but I imagine it was difficult for parents who work until 5 or 5:30 p.m. to get here by 5:30 p.m.,” Farley said.
The district plans to host four other sessions at various locations throughout the year.
Find out more about Parents Matters and the schedule by visiting the school system’s homepage www.rss.k12.nc.us and clicking the Parents Matter tab.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Twitter: twitter.com/posteducation
Facebook: facebook.com/Sarah.SalisburyPost

Tips for positive parentlng
• Model a growth mindset
• Praise effort and achievement rather than ability or personal attributes
• Encourage intrinsic rewards versus extrinsic rewards
• Know, celebrate and encourage every child’s personal strengths
• Play down competition among others
• Embrace mistakes
• Encourage practice and mastery of what interests the child
• Provide and encourage new opportunities to try out an activity or hobby
• Create plans for improvement and growth 
Source: LeAnn Nickelsen