Monthly Archives: November 2013

Tips for Encouraging Thankfulness

With Thanksgiving but a few days away, we focus on gathering with our families and being thankful. In preparation for the holiday, children are encouraged in school to think about what they are thankful for, and often families will encourage everyone around the table to say what they are thankful for as they sit down to dinner. But what can parents to do help our sons (and daughters) be more grateful and feel less entitled on a regular basis? Here are a few Tips for Encouraging Thankfulness:

Explain Why Gratitude is Important. Children can tend to believe that people (especially their parents) are supposed to help them, rather than recognizing that they should be grateful for assistance. When you go out of your way for your child, make sure he understands that it is a choice you are making, and that he should be thankful for that choice. Explain that everyone who helps him (especially his parents) is doing it out of the kindness of his or her hearts, not because it is the law of the land. This message will be heard more clearly if you deliver it with lightness and humor, rather than in a tone which tries to make your child feel guilty for not saying thanks.

Stay Vigilant on the Hand Written Thank You Notes. As soon as he can write, insist that your son send a thank you note whenever appropriate. In the early school years, if your son has any big birthday parties with lots of presents, make sure he writes a thank you note for each present he receives from his friends. You can buy “fill in the blank” thank you notes if necessary. Sit with him (or on him) until he gets them done. It is important to get him into the habit of thanking people for their gifts and kindnesses. Resist the temptation, even as he gets older, to sanction thank you notes via email. Hand written notes take more time, and more effort, but it reinforces the importance of gratitude far more than a quickly dashed off email. Besides, people still really appreciate the effort of writing and mailing a note.

Volunteer with your Children. Working side by side with your children to help others brings out the best in everyone. Helping others makes you and your family feel purposeful and good, you experience the gratitude of the people you help, and your children are bound to be more thankful for what they have in their lives when they help others who are less fortunate. We at GCP know a mother and daughter who have been spending Sunday mornings delivering Meals-on-Wheels for many years. The daughter is now a teenager. We marvel that regardless of whatever friction may exist between them in any given week, their Meals-on-Wheels time together is friction-free. Investigate how you and your children can volunteer to help others in your neighborhood.

Model Grateful Behavior. Gratefulness begins at home, and it begins with parents demonstrating gratitude by thanking people (including our children) for their help. Showing your children that you are thankful motivates them to act and feel the same way.

Be Patient and Consistent. Vigilance is key when trying to grow grateful children. Do not be discouraged when despite your best efforts, your son demonstrates “ungrateful oaf” behavior from time to time. Just keep working with him, and remember to be grateful when he remembers to say thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all from GCP.

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Holidays, Parents

Thoughtful Thursday: Margaret Walker

This is a stressful time of year for parents who are focused on the application process for their sons’ schooling. Whether our sons are applying to pre-school, elementary, junior high, high school or college, we parents are intimately involved in the process, and trying desperately not to freak out about some aspect (or all aspects) of it. Getting your son (and yourself) through this process in good shape requires planning, patience and perseverance, and is the subject of a series of articles coming soon. Since it is Thoughtful Thursday, however, the day GCP focuses on creative inspiration, we set out to find poetry and quotes to help get you through.

In the midst of our search, we came across the poetry of Margaret Walker (1915-1998), an amazing American poet and writer, and decided to focus on her work rather than the original quest. Walker was born on July 7, 1915, to a well educated minister father and a music teacher mother in Birmingham, Alabama. Walker completed her B.A. at Northwestern University (Illinois) when she was only nineteen. While living in Chicago, she was affiliated with several important writing groups, including the South Side Writers Group, where she was a close colleague of Richard Wright. Walker completed her M.A. at the University of Iowa by writing “For My People” in 1937, a work for which she later became the first African American to win the Yale Younger Poets award.

We found Walker through her poem “The Struggle Staggers Us”, but her most well known work is “For My People”. Both are below. Find out more about Margaret Walker here. Enjoy!


For My People

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
dragging along never gaining never reaping never
knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
and playhouse and concert and store and hair and
Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
people who and the places where and the days when, in
memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
were black and poor and small and different and nobody
cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
marry their playmates and bear children and then die
of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and
land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
the dark of churches and schools and clubs
and societies, associations and councils and committees and
conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
rise and take control.

The Struggle Staggers Us

Our birth and death are easy hours, like sleep
and food and drink. The struggle staggers us
for bread, for pride, for simple dignity.
And this is more than fighting to exist;
more than revolt and war and human odds.
There is a journey from the me to you.
There is a journey from the you to me.
A union of the two strange worlds must be.

Ours is a struggle from a too-warm bed;
too cluttered with a patience full of sleep.
Out of this blackness we must struggle forth;
from want of bread, of pride, of dignity.
Struggle between the morning and the night.
This marks our years; this settles, too, our plight.

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How To Let Boys Be Boys

Any parent of a boy and a girl will quickly tell you that there are many developmental differences between the sexes that are evident almost from birth (apart from the obvious physical ones). We recently ran across an interesting article from Eleanor Reynolds, author of a series of books on guiding young children, which suggests that mothers should acknowledge these differences and “let boys be boys”. Ms. Reynolds has spent 25 years in early childhood education, and is a strong proponent of the “problem-solving” child-centered philosophy of education and care. The problem-solving approach encourages “kids to do what kids do” as they learn to take responsibility for their words and actions.

In the article “The Problem Solving Parent: Boys Must Be Boys”, found here, Ms. Reynolds offers suggestions to parents (mothers especially) of ways to enrich the lives and futures of their sons:

Boys need intimacy as much as girls, but boys must learn intimacy; it doesn’t always come naturally. Baby boys may not seem to invite as much cuddling as girls, but they still need it. Hold, carry, rock, make eye contact, sing to, and coo with your baby boy as much as possible.

Teach your boy by showing him how to do things. When putting away his toys, be his partner and do the task together. Get down to his eye level, take his hand, and guide him. Don’t assume he’ll respond to verbal cues.

Help your son learn how to express his feelings in ways that are natural for him. Boys take their time expressing their feelings, sometimes repressing how they feel which leaves them with only one acceptable emotion: anger.

Encourage your son to take risks, not only physical risks but mental and emotional risks as well.

Boys prefer to take charge and solve problems. Learn how to use the problem-solving approach so you can help your son make the most of his innate skills. When there is a dispute, ask both kids to think of ideas to solve the problem. This helps children to use their thought processes and verbal skills in place of physical force.

Accept your son’s level of physical activity. Give him space to run, jump, wrestle, make noise, and be a boy.

If your boy is in child care, choose your provider cautiously. Search for a warm and nurturing setting that offers numerous physical activities when children are indoors as well as out.

While many of Reynolds’ suggestions are applicable to girls as well as boys, she is focused upon encouraging parents to embrace the “boy” in their sons, acknowledging that this may not always be so easy to do. What do you think, GCP readers? Is this helpful information? Does it paint a too stereotypical picture of boy behavior? Do you find her suggestions valid? Let us know your thoughts.

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Filed under Ages 0-5, Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Resources

“Is My Son in Trouble?” Tips for the Tough Parent-Teacher Conference

Navigating those parent teacher conferences for our sons in the lower grades can be really stressful if there are behavior issues to discuss. We ran across these helpful tips for a successful parent teacher conference for parents of younger children with behavior issues from “What Did My Son Do Now?”, an article in Early Childhood News, and want to pass them along. The article, found here, suggests that successful parent teacher conferences require both the teacher and the parent to work as partners and be well prepared and skilled at communicating and solving issues, especially when there are behavioral issues to address.

Here are the tips, annotated by GCP in italics:

1. Bring the other parent or another relative with you for support, feedback, and strength. Make sure he or she knows to stay calm cool and collected during the conference.

2. Ask the teacher to describe your child’s best qualities before she describes the problems.

3. State your own concerns about your child; they might be different from the teacher’s concerns. Let the teacher know how you handle any non cooperative behavior at home.

4. Ask the teacher to be specific about your child’s problems and to limit your discussion to the three most important problems. This avoids a lot of vague and petty complaining.

5. Ask what strategies the teachers use to set limits or help your child negotiate with other children.It is highly likely that they have encountered some of these issues before and they should have a plan to deal with them.

6. If the teacher asks you to change your parenting strategies at home, be open-minded and cooperative, but also ask how it will actually improve your child’s behavior. Take notes and agree to consider the suggestions.

7. If needed, ask the teacher for a referral for medical, psychological, or cognitive evaluation.

8. Thank the teacher for her concern and the extra time and effort she has contributed to have this meeting with you.(Teachers need your support!)Plan a followup conversation before you end the conference.

Any other tips? Please share them with us.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Poems for Students

This being report card and mid term season, students are likely to be buried in their books. On this Thoughtful Thursday GCP offers poetry to console, encourage, amuse, and inspire the student in us all.



Take one’s adversity
Learn from their misfortune
Learn from their pain
Believe in something
Believe in yourself
Turn adversity into ambition
Now blossom into wealth

Tupac Shakur


Because you love me I have much achieved,
Had you despised me then I must have failed,
But since I knew you trusted and believed,
I could not disappoint you and so prevailed.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar


“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more–that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut–my eyes are blue–
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke–
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is–what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”

Shel Silverstein

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

Author unknown

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Veterans Day Activities for Your Children

Today is Veterans Day, a day to thank and honor all who served (or still serve) in the military. Whether your children have the day off from school is a function of your state or local school district (with no legal requirement that schools close on Veterans Day, individual states or school districts are free to establish their own school closing policies). Here in New York City, the public, Catholic, and many charter schools are closed, but independent schools are open.

If your son is in school today, odds are some Veterans Day activities will be included in his school day. But what if he has the day off? Here are some activities you can steer him to or do with him:

VA Kids: The Veteran’s Administration has developed a series of websites designed to teach children about veterans. VA Kids K-5 has games and “Cool Facts about Veterans” for the younger set. VA kids, 6-12th grades includes games, VA volunteer programs and scholarship information.

Veterans Day Crafts and Activities: Pinterest has collected Veterans Day classroom activities from hundreds of followers, and presents them all here. While many of these are just inspirational examples of what others have done, included are some activities that you can do with your children.

Punctuation Tip: Did you know that today is “Veterans Day”, not “Veteran’s Day”? According to the VA, this is because “it is not a day that ‘belongs’ to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”

All for now, GCP is still searching and will add to this list. Be sure to tell your kids to Thank a Veteran for his or her service today!!

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 8-12, Holidays, Parents, Resources

GCP Briefing

Here are a couple of issues we at GCP have been thinking about lately:

Report Cards and Parent Teacher Conferences: You should soon be hearing from your son’s school about how he is doing thus far in the school year (if you haven’t already). Parent Teacher conferences will be coming soon, and you need to be prepared for them. See our tips in the previous post “Getting the Most Out of Parent Teacher Conferences”, December 2, 2011, and check out the helpful grade specific parent teacher conference guides we focused on in “Education Nation: Parent’s Toolkit”, October 8, 2013.

American Promise: GCP has been posting about this film, which follows two African American boys’ educational journeys from K-12th grade, since its fundraising days. We had the chance to see it recently, and urge everyone to see it as soon as possible. This is a riveting film which presents interesting, complicated and difficult issues for parents and teachers to think about and discuss. Much more to come on this, but for now be sure to go to and find a screening near you.


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Thoughtful Thursday: Autumn Poems

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday is brought to you by Autumn. It was a blustery late afternoon here in New York City, and the swirling leaves remind us that fall is truly upon us. A childhood favorite about the wind, which should be shared with all little ones, joins another poem and a few quotes about this lovely season. Enjoy!!!


Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I.
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Christina Rossetti

November Night

With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.

Adelaide Crapsey

Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.
Albert Camus

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
George Elliot

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
John Muir

Autumn asks that we prepare for the future —that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go—to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness. Bonaro W. Overstreet

Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.
William Cullen Bryant

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November is Hip-Hop History Month

Did you know that November is Hip-Hop History month? Whether you are a huge fan, a mild enthusiast, or would prefer to hear anything else when your kids are controlling the music, you can’t deny that hip-hop has had a significant influence on modern culture. Harvard University’s Hip Hop Archive, which is devoted to the serious study of hip hop music and culture, has recently announced the establishment of the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellowship. This fellowship, generously funded by an anonymous donor, is named for the rapper Nas, a lyrical poet who is a widely recognized leader of hip-hop’s “Knowledge is power” movement. You can read more about the Hip Hop Archive here. And as you may recall from an earlier GCP post, hip hop artist GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan has joined forces with educators to use hip-hop to encourage children’s interest in science. (“Hip Hop Science Teachers Spreading the Word”, November 18, 2012)

Check your local papers and local websites to see how Hip-Hop History Month is being celebrated in your town. Consider attending an event with your son or daughter (provided they are fans, of course). If you live in the NYC area, the New York Public Library is offering a series of events celebrating Hip-hop History Month that night be of interest:

Hip-Hop Education Think Tank III: Legacy Building – Cultivating a Global Cipher from the Streets to the Classroom

Hip-Hop History Workshop for Teens: B-Boy & B-Girl Dancing with Kwikstep and Rokafella

Hip-Hop History Workshop for Teens: DJing with DJ Wiz

Hip-Hop History Workshop for Teens: Graffiti/Aerosol Art with James Top

Whether or not you like the music, it is a good idea to know something about it, especially if your son or daughter is obsessed with the latest hip hop hits. A secret weapon to understanding current hip-hop music is Rap Genius. Rap Genius gives you annotated lyrics to all the latest songs. They call themselves “a hip-hop Wikipedia”. We at GCP call them a fast and easy way to figure out what the rappers are saying and what it means. Do you really want to know, you might ask? Yes. Gives you insight as to what your children are hearing and thinking about and enables you to determine whether they are mature enough to handle the material. And it actually gives you a better appreciation of the poetry behind some of the songs. Check it out, and enjoy Hip-Hop History Month!

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Tell Your Sons and Daughters: What To Do If You Are Stopped by the Police

As a follow-up to the recent GCP post about the young Black man who was arrested at Barney’s department store(“Tell Your Sons About Trayon Christian”, October 31,2013), here is, courtesy of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s website, a list of instructions of what to do (and what not to do) if you are stopped by the police for any reason:


Stay calm and in control of your words, body language and emotions.

Don’t get into an argument with the police.

Never bad-mouth a police officer.

Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you.

Keep your hands where the police can see them.

Don’t run.

Don’t touch any police officer.

Don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent.

If you complain at the scene, or tell the police they’re wrong, do so in a non-confrontational way that will not intensify the scene.

Do not make any statements regarding the incident.

If you are arrested, ask for a lawyer immediately.

Remember officers’ badge numbers, patrol car numbers and physical descriptions.

Write down everything you remember ASAP.

Try to find witnesses and their names and phone numbers.

If you are injured, take photos of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you get medical attention first. Ask for copies of your medical treatment files.

Good information for us all to remember and especially good for our teenaged and young adult children to have as they travel on their own. This information is a subset of a longer discussion on the NYCLU’s website found here, which includes information on what to do if you have a police encounter, are stopped, questioned and frisked, stopped in your car, if police come to your home, or if you are arrested. As the website notes, “We all recognize the need for effective law enforcement, but we should also understand our own rights and responsibilities — especially in our interactions with the police.”

Thanks to GCP Paris correspondent Albert Pettus for directing us to this website.


Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, College Bound Students, Parents, Resources, Saving Our Sons