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Six Steps to School Success
Episode 529th August 2021 • Raising Confident Teens • Murphy Solutions, LLC
00:00:00 00:34:21

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On today’s podcast we chat with Miranda Lamb about steps parents can take to set their teens up for school success. Miranda’s mission is to help moms of tweens and teens create an emotionally healthy home that is vibrant, full of respect and laughter. Miranda is a city girl living in the country. She is a wife, mom to a blended family and blogger at The Reluctant Cowgirl. She has worked with hundreds of teens and their families as a group facilitator for court ordered groups. Miranda is also the author of two books for parents of teens: Responsible and Resilient Teens: 10 Secret Parenting Solutions That Work and When Teens Hate School: 10 Smart Strategies to Overcome School Refusal.

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Miranda 0:02

A lot of times if I give my kids room to think things through. They will come to the same conclusion that I was, or they'll come up with something even more clever, but it doesn't feel as forced on them, and I think most teens want to feel respected and want to feel like they have some control over their.

Jenna 0:31

Welcome to the raising competent teens podcast where we share life and leadership skills. I'm Jenna.

Rachel 0:38

And I'm Rachel and it's back to school time. Are you ready for school Jenna?

Jenna 0:42

I don’t know.

Rachel 0:45

Should you probably out of all the other kids like school. Yeah.

Jenna 0:49

Boy, I feel like it shouldn't be starting yet.

Rachel 0:56

Like he this summer went really fast. Well, on today's podcast our special guest is going to help us get set up for school success this year. Our guest Miranda lambs mission is to help moms of tweens and teens create emotionally healthy home that is vibrant, full of respect and laughter. Rhonda is a city girl living in the country. She is a wife, mom to a blended family and blogger at the reluctant cowgirl. She has worked with hundreds of teens and their families as a group facilitator for court order groups, Rhonda is also the author of two books for parents of teens, responsible and resilient teens 10 Secret parenting solutions that work, and when teens hate school. 10 smart strategies to overcome school refusal. Welcome to our podcast Miranda.

Miranda 1:40

Thanks so much for having me here, Rachel, I appreciate it.

Jenna 1:43

You're called The Reluctant Cowgirl, What is the story behind that name.

Miranda 1:49

Well as I, you mentioned, I am a city girl so I grew up in Cincinnati and I married a country boy. And we have been living in the country ever since we've been married, and he's always like grain propped and so I was kind of used to that. But about six years ago he decided that we were going to start buying cows, and now we have up to almost 100 Cows, so that was a little bit of a bumpy transition for me to get into the cattle business. So, around our house that was kind of my nickname was the reluctant cowgirl, because I just wasn't sure about, really, all of this, owning cattle and everything that comes with it which is it's satisfying, but it's a lot of work.

Rachel 2:38

Yeah, you like can't take a day off.

Miranda 2:41

I, Well, at least they're not, they're not dairy cattle, but yes there is a lot to upkeeping and especially during the summer, make, you know, mowing and raking hay to get ready for all the hay that they're going to eat come winter. So, so what crops, did you guys grow. We do soybean and corn around here mainly, and then we do grow a lot of our, you know, make our own hay and straw, too, so that kind of helps balance, you know all the, all the hay that the cows are going to get to eat so

Rachel 3:17

when I was a kid, we lived in Nebraska, Nebraska for a while and just just the seeing the rows of corn, there's something so satisfying about that for me, like, I don't know it's, it feels like summer piece. Yeah.

Miranda 3:36

It isn't me, living in a farming community and I think that is one thing that finally kind of got me on board was that, it's really been good for our kids. It kind of grounds them a little bit, you know, having to do like day to day work and having to see just how much you're dependent on you know you can work hard and then you kinda have to depend on God to breed the rain and that kind of stuff so I think it just kind of grounds the kids and helps them be great workers too

Rachel 4:08

so yeah when we have when we were raising pigs and bees and stuff, we really noticed that our kids - responsibilities good for him.

Miranda 4:18

Yes, yes, exactly. And I enjoyed bees too. Until they escaped and attacked as well .

Rachel 4:25

no, I feel like there's a great story there. So, how did you get into working with teens and their families.

Miranda 4:37

I have always enjoyed teaching groups like from the first time I taught a group I was like, Oh, this is amazing I love teaching in a small group setting. And so, about 12 or 13 years ago I had the opportunity to start working with parents and teens that were struggling with truancy and attendance issues. So I started doing that and we have like a four week program where families come in. And it's nice because we get the parents and the teens. And, you know, we work with them, you know, communication skills, setting up routines and household, study skills, looking at how we're interacting with one another, how, you know, what kind of goals we're setting, so I really enjoy that and I enjoy interacting with the courts to.

Rachel 5:32

I bet when they come in, nobody wants to be there.

Miranda 5:35


Rachel 5:38

They're all angry and no one wants . . .

Miranda 5:39

Yes, Yes, most of the time, parents don't want to be there, they don't understand well why do I have to be here. My. A lot of times my teen is the one that, you know, didn't want to go to school. So yes I do find some satisfaction and trying to get everybody a little bit excited about the class and by time they leave, pretty much, 90. You know, 98% of the people are glad they came there because they just got to, you know, a moment in time or they had to stop and just focus on one another. Listen to their teen, we have the teens do like fun exercises you know kind of like, you know guess when your parents graduated and try not to make them too old. You know so it's fun. Just getting to sit down and you're not doing anything else because there's so many distractions in the world, you're just focusing on communicating with one another and talking and laughing and so by time they leave, I would say most of people, they may not want to return but they were glad for the group.

Rachel 6:42

That's awesome. So you talk about how to set your kid up for school success in the coming year. And you talk about doing a school agreement with your teen, How did you come up with this idea?

Miranda 6:55

I guess I started looking at okay what was helpful for me, what was it that in interacting with our teens because we've got two that are grown and out of the house and we've got a 15 year old still at home. So I always try to kind of think okay, would this work with my teen would this be helpful. And then, like I said I've been doing this groups for so long that you kind of see some of the same themes pop up and you realize a lot of it is just, we're not talking to one another. And when we are talking, we're not talking when we're calm, we're talking during an argument, and a lot of times, all we're doing is venting, we're, we're, as parents, sometimes we're not even being clear on what we really want. And so I came up with this idea of like, okay, let's sit down before the year starts, or if the school year has already started that sit down when we're calm and just kind of listen to our teen and then, as a parent, I need to think through, like, what is it that I want my kid to do. When I see say do well in school, you know, what does that even mean what, you know, because what I say, do well in school means something different than what you mean, right. So that was kind of how I came up with the school contract to kind of work through the different steps that may be areas that are true tripping up the teens like not going to bed on time, or not having a good routine in the morning or not knowing how to study.

Jenna 8:31

Can you give us the steps.

Miranda 8:35

Yes, so for the back to school contract steps. So, one, as I mentioned, discuss school expectations, you know, an expectations are not, like, right or wrong, it's just what I'm thinking is going to happen. And so, sit down and talk with your teen and listen to them like, you know hey when the. How do you feel like the last school year when, what do you want to do differently. What's something you're excited about, what are you worried about what maybe is like stressing you out already that maybe I can help you with, in the, in the upcoming school year so the first one is just sitting down and talking and discussing expectations. The second one is, I've seen that it's super important to create some kind of evening routine and bedtime routine. A lot of teens I work with are not going to bed on time. And, and, like, you know, there I am being vague again, going to bed on time, you know, trying to decide what is a good bedtime, because a lot of teens are going to bed at like one, two in the morning, and then they're trying to get up at five thirty or six the next morning and that's, that's not gonna work very well. I don't know how, you know if you have a set bedtime for your kids. With time for bedtime channels. Well, can't go to bed at 10 because, okay, I just want to sleep enough. Yes, yes. Yeah, I hate being tired the next morning, I can see how this could be a real problem for a lot of teens. So, yes, I think there's so much going on like their friends are still up sometimes texting. There's always something to watch on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu. And so, and there's always YouTube. And so a lot of times, helping your kids create an evening routine where they have things that they enjoy doing, but they also have the things that they need to get done, and then a bedtime routine, and I split those into kind of different categories because a bedtime routine is like, to me right before you're going to bed so like 30 minutes before you go to bed. What are some things that will help you calm your body down. What are some things that will help you unwind that are maybe like screen free activities, right. So that's number two.


Yeah, I love that. I love that because, I mean you could even start like right after dinner, you could like, you know, let me lay on my clothes, let me pack my lunch, the less anxiety you have in the morning, the less decisions you have to make right Jenna loves to Chyna less Jenna is my organized one she loves to do all that stuff.


Yes, and it is funny, I had my women at home, you know, She's more of a creative spirit and kind of resisted some of the routine stuff, but as she kind of got into the habit of doing it more and more and I was kind of like, okay, we need to work on this, we need to work on that. Now she's probably way more routine, than even I am. But I think like you said you kind of some kids are naturally more organized, but I think most of us appreciate good habits that we can kind of get into the routine, then you can kind of like almost shut your brain down


and just do it, rote, yes, like brushing your teeth, you don't really think about brushing your teeth because you do it so much but if you could automate more of your habits. Yeah, it takes less of your brain.


Yes, and that's what I always tell parents I was like, this isn't about like creating a whole bunch of things for you and your teen to do, it does take effort to create good habits and routines, but like you said, Once you get them going there automatic, you're working way less, you don't sit there and think, should I brush my teeth should I not brush my teeth. You just go and brush your teeth and it's, it's like,


Yep, it's done and it's stuff that's gonna have to be done anyway. Yes, you just don't have to contemplate all the time. Yeah, we're when am I gonna do, yeah.


Yeah, so I always tell parents, this is about helping you work out of a job. Instead of putting things off so that you have a bigger job at the end when your kid is, you know, an adult or they've got kids and they've come back home. This is about helping you work your kid to a point where they've got great habits so that they're ready to launch when the time comes, bro about that right Jenna. She's laughing. Yeah, of course, then there's like that last one and you're like way Don't leave. Stay with me. I know, I know my husband given me the side I like No, they've got to all go. Really, it's my husband I think he's gonna struggle more with the last one. The boys though he was like okay it's time for you to get out and your last two reports so maybe that's why. And the last one is like 10 years away, we got. Yeah, so he's just trying to get some, some out of the house right lighten the load a little. Okay, so what's the next. Alright. Number three is understanding the school policy. If you know we were talking earlier before this show started was, you know sometimes we've moved sometimes you're living in a different area. Sometimes, your kids are going from middle school to the high school and the rules are slightly different, so make sure you understand like if your school goes by hours if they go by days. How late, makes a tardy how many tardies add up to an absence, because a lot of times people have moved or they've shifted schools and so they're not even aware of that. and then also make sure that your kids understand that, you know, Hey, you can't stay home today because you've got the sniffles because you've only got eight days and you struggle with, you know, having days where you have such bad migraines, you really can't go to school. So, help your kids kind of understand how many days total they have, what is an absence, you know how many tardies, you know what is the tardy, so that we're just all on the same page, it may be just review or it may be like, Oh, I didn't realize that.


So when you say, hours. See, we've always gone by days so hours, what does that mean


hours is something we've switched to up here, and I know it was. So sometimes, like if the kids were doing. I work with kids that do you know that are in traditional school settings and then sometimes they're online. So if they weren't getting online, it can add up to the hours if they weren't going to school. If they were tardy or truant. It'll add up to hours and you have to have a certain amount of hours, and so I think that gets even, it may make it easier for the schools but I think for parents, I know I feel a little confused sometimes like will you know how many hours in a day and so but that is something that here in Ohio that we use so interesting. Yeah, so just, I mean if you moved from, we did have a family, we had a family. I worked with last summer they moved from Florida to Ohio and they, they got all kinds of kinds of tricked up because I guess they were allowed to be like an hour suit so late to school, whereas ours like if you're late, a minute, you're considered tardy. For a long time an hour. I go, I was like wow man I would, I would have trouble getting to school on time because I'm in a pool I still have an hour. Everybody would be coming in late. Okay, number four, is create home school homework and school goals. So a lot of times kids will be like, well, I'm going to do better in school, and I'm like okay well that's think of one class that you would like to do better. And can you tell me what grade that is. And then can you tell me, maybe two things you could do differently. Like sometimes, sometimes it's basic like show up to class. Sometimes it's show up to class and turn in all my homework assignments. A lot of times kids will pull their grade down like a whole letter grade but just not turning in things on time. Right. So, we just want to get a little bit more specific. We don't need to do this for every single class because that would just overwhelmed your student, but when we do set some school goals, try to think about the areas that maybe we need the most improvement. Do we need a tutors help. Do we need to take notes in class. Do we need to maybe bring the book home, and the notes home and read them, you know twice during the week. So help your kids kind of think through that. Number five is, make a list of stress busters. I know for a lot of kids anxiety causes a lot of school avoidance, they don't want to go to school, they feel anxious, and then they'll avoid going to school and then they feel more anxious because then they don't, they're not ready for the test that's coming up. So we just kind of encourage the kids to think ahead, like it's okay to be anxious. It's okay to be stressed, but kind of think through how can I plan for the stress, what causes me the most stress, how can I recognize that I am stressed and that nothing unusual is going on, per se, or nothing wrong is happening here, I just need to figure out how to manage that.


Right. Yeah, that's a good skill to have, because I think even adults. A lot of times we don't realize we're stressed, yet and then we turn around and we've gained five pounds.


You know, or we're picking a fight with each other and our house, or we're just irritable and realize, you know, hey, I think it's just, I'm stressed right now. Yeah, especially nowadays. Everybody's on edge. Yeah, I think, I think every Yeah, we have so much input coming in, that I think we have so many different little feelings popping up in our teens, especially if they're on social media, they're getting all that input and sensory stuff they've got school stuff activity staff jobs. So it is a lot. We don't want to like hide our kids, but we just want to help strengthen those stress muscles, right. And then lastly, make sure that we're clear as possible about how much time your teen’s allowed on social media. When does Netflix need to be turned off at night. How much screen time are they like just be sitting on their phone. Now I know this can be really hard. It was much easier with my older kids because there wasn't as much. But, wow, it is, there's just so much out there and there's so many different devices, it's not just like the computer anymore now it's the tablet, and the phone and, but the more we can kind of clarify, and I do encourage parents to utilize technology themselves, whether that be an app that monitors their what their kids doing on their phone, or the Wi Fi router that you can just turn off the Wi Fi. I'm always surprised by parents I'm like well, you know, why don't you just turn off the Wi Fi, you know, in the house, so that they can't access some of this stuff. So technology can work for us, as the parents too.


Right. Yeah, we have Disney circle. Okay, yes. I don't I don't handle all that my husband does, but, but I know it lets you pick what they can get on and, yeah, the time it goes off and stuff.


Yes. And that could be super, super helpful. and it's not in I know sometimes parents and teens. My teen. You know they can get upset like oh you don't trust me or you know I'm like no it's just about accountability healthy boundaries, it's for myself as well, you know, I try to monitor what I'm on and, and how often I'm on and so it's just helping you create good boundaries in the home, it's not like I don't trust you, but I don't trust you because you're a teen but, but just you know like, I want to help you be able to do fun things and have fun time on internet, but not feel like at the end of the day, you feel yuck cuz you wasted your day. So it's kind of that healthy balance of fun, but yet, and then also just monitoring, who has access to your teen, you know, I definitely am very wary of that.


Yeah. Yeah, cuz sometimes kids don't don't realize how bad it can be out there.


Yeah, how dangerous the world is right.


So exactly what do you do when you get pushback with a teen that doesn't want to do this.


So, two things that I kind of look at one is how you're approaching it. Sometimes we can forget to shift, I think especially with our, our first teen that comes along, I know I struggled to shift how I was talking to them. So sometimes it can be our approach, if we're getting pushback from our teen when we're trying to sit down and create a plan for the school year, you may need to look at. Am I coming in the room like my kids a six year old and saying hey, you need to put down what you're doing and we're gonna do this right now, That's not gonna work with a 16 year old. So you want to be respectful in your approach and to say hey, I want to get on the same page with you before school starts, I want to create some goals I want to hear what you're excited about what you're worried about. And just so that we can kind of talk it through and create a plan, so that we have a great school year. So sometimes we just need to back up and kind of think through our approach, allow our kids time to have input allow our kids time to think through what they want to do. And then sometimes if we are butting heads on it, you know just backing up and kind of going, Okay well that's, You know, let's take a break. Let's think about it you think about it, and a lot of times if I give my kids room to think things through. They will come to the same conclusion that I was or they'll come up with something even more clever, but it doesn't feel as forced on them and I think most teens want to feel respected and want to feel like they have some control over their life. So this is about, you know, them having more control over their life we're just creating a plan, and then we both have input into it. So that's the first thing so if you're getting pushback from your kids just kind of think through, you know, am I approaching them in the right way where they feel like they, that this is something that helps them gain more autonomy and control, not something that they feel like they're just being told what's going to happen.


Right, yeah. So what kind of feedback have you gotten from people in your class who have done this contract with their kids.


Well, that see, oh, well, one other thing I did want to point out Rachel if you'll let me back up just a measure. So the other thing is that sometimes I do see that when parents try to put some boundaries, some goals and rules down, that they will get a lot of pushback because they realize that, that it's that the household is more kid directed than parent directed that it's more kid controlled than parents kind of guiding the kid. So a lot of times when parents run into this they're like well, Nothing works, this doesn't work, nothing works. And I'm like okay well let's just back up and get to the bare minimum of what we need to have happen first in the home. And so that, like sometimes the kids are like I mentioned, they're staying up at all hours, they won't get up. It's for school and the parents are just kind of at their wit's end, because basically the kid has been allowed to do whatever they want for so long, that if they don't want to go to school, they just don't go to school. So I used to kind of encourage parents okay let's just back up and kind of work on one area, and, you know, I kind of choose a basic evening routine and bedtime routine, that's kind of, you know, decide what is an appropriate bedtime, you know, with some a little flexibility, but let's get them on that page, and that's kind of create maybe a few roles at home. And then some of this school stuff will work itself out a little bit better. Does that make sense?


Yeah, baby steps.


Yes, exactly. So you don't have to fix everything at once if you kind of run into that resistance like really strongly, and you're like, oh my goodness, this isn't working, and then just pick one area to really focus on and let go. Some of the other stuff for a few months and then then work on that other stuff so it makes sense. Yeah. Okay, so you were talking about what kind of feedback have you gotten from your group that have done this. Well, most the time, they're just like, glad that sometimes parents just need a little encouragement, and permission to sit down and do this, they feel like well you know I've raised my teen, they should know all this and I'm like wow, you know, they're still learning to in high schools and new experience. So a lot of times they're just glad that somebody has kind of structured it and given them permission to go ahead and, and, you know, do things like, you know, create a bedtime. Yeah, they're not they're not kids anymore, but you could still say hey you need to be in bed by 1030 I know how that looks, you have a little leeway. but you know I want lights out by 1030 So sometimes parents are just relieved to be given permission to do it. And then a lot of times parents are just very thankful to have an opportunity to just sit down and work things out with their teens, to hear their teen like you know I didn't realize that was so important to my teen or a lot of times they'll tell me I didn't realize that this was bothering my teen so much. And so by sitting down and kind of creating a plan when you're calm and helps both parties feel a lot more like in control. And that, that their relationship is, is mostly positive. It's funny, when we split the parents and teens and have them do different things. A lot of times they want the exact same thing. We have a communication exercise and they have something that they, they work on creating eye statements, and so they have to pick something to talk about in the eyes statement. And it's so funny how often they'll come back and it's the exact same topic. So that same topic, our same area of conflict is bothered both of them, they want to solve it. So a lot of times just helping parents see that hey you guys even though your teen is going about things differently than you and you're going about things differently than your teen once. You guys are on the same page about the fact that you care about the same thing. And so, just hearing one another and saying, Okay you know what, we both care about this problem we both want school to be better. So how can we listen to one another and use our both of our great ideas and kind of come to an agreement so a lot of times it's just the eye opening like, oh, you know, even though we're going about it differently, we really do care about the same things, right, it kind of puts you on the same team. Yes, yes, we're working together, we're not we're not necessarily opposed.


Right. I love this whole idea because it's so proactive instead of like, we wait until a problem starts and then we react, you make it clear ahead of time, these are my expectations. This is what we have to do to help you. And so they know these are the boundaries, and you should and you show me what to help them reach their goals.




yeah, I love it


exactly, I think, to once a parent realizes, once it is clear to, if, if they do need to clarify it later or they need to put a consequence down, it's a lot easier to do because you've been clear on what the role was right, so it's a lot easier if you walk in the room and your kids still on their phone and it's 11 o'clock and you told them lights out at 10, it's clear what needs to happen, you take the phone and walk out of the room. We don't need to yell about it, it's just, Okay, well, this is what we agreed and it just gets a little easier on everybody,


right, expectations, make a big difference.


Yes, Yes.


So do you have anything else you want to add about this.


I just encouraging parents to, to feel like they can direct their kids that our teens want to know the best way of doing things they want to be young adults they want to, to be headed the right direction and feel like they kind of got some of this stuff figured out. And so, we as parents just need to be a clear voice. It doesn't mean we're going to be the only voice, you know, but we do need to be clearly leading them. So a lot of times parents like I said, they just kind of hesitate a little bit, and it's like your kid wants, wants that leadership they want to hear from you they want to spend time with you. It's gonna look a little different than it did, you know, five years ago, but they still want you to help them decide some of these things and help them lead as they're making all these little decisions so just encouraging parents to, to feel like that they're such a vital role still in their kid's life, even though their kids can do a lot of things on their own.


Yeah. What do you think about this contract Jenna, what are your thoughts on this?


I don't really know, because I'm already doing a lot of stuff.


Yeah, but I can see how it would be helpful, like, oh, what's a good goal this year let's just work on one goal, you know. Yeah, give you a little bit more focus on like,


Yeah, and there were some sections like when I went over it with my daughter. The last year, like that we didn't need to worry about as much, you know, like she said like Jenna said, you know, I feel like I'm doing pretty good in this area. And so it can just be like, is there anything else you want to work on, or you just skip that section and that's what's nice about it is that you can tailor make it to meet your needs.


It could be like a once a year checkup, you know like you go take your car in for a checkup or whatever, or your body to the doctor for a checkup. But here let's do a little checkup right before school starts, do we need to work with any of these areas where we haven't tried.


And I know with my daughter, we've already been talking about the upcoming school year and I was like, Okay, what did you like about last year. What didn't you like, just so that when we do get started. The expectations are a little more realistic. You know, because, because high school, especially the school contract can be used with tweens and teens but when kids get into high school things do change a little bit. So, that can help kind of clarify those, right.


So where can someone find this contract.


Well, yes. So you can find my the contract. The Back to School contract on my website if you go to thereluctant, and up top, you'll see it says resource library if you just click on that and drop your email in there you'll get the password sent to you. And that has my library freebies. And then I also just wrote a book, when teens hate school 10 smart strategies to overcome school refusal, if you get that contract and you're like okay this is great, this is what I need, but I need the next level, like I need someone to kind of walk me through the steps that book is kind of 13 years of experience packed into a book that you can sit there and read in about two settings, because I know parents are busy, but it'll give you lots of actionable tips to kind of help you walk through that and kind of give you a lot more meat to how to do that so a lot of parents are finding that helpful


can we find you anywhere else. Are you on Instagram or Facebook.


Yeah, so I'm on Instagram at the reluctant cowgirl. And then I'm also on Facebook at the reluctant pilgrim. So, yep, those are my two main social media, places that I'm on.


Thank you so much for coming on today and chatting with us Miranda.


Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.


Alright, we're gonna put the link to her website in the show notes, go check it out. She has so much good Info and Resources there on her website. If you're a parent, grandparent or mentor, we would love to have you join us in our free private Facebook community. You can find it by searching for raising confident teens community. We would love to have you there. Have a great week.