Parenting involves intention. I am excited to share with you one of the best evaluation tools for your kids. I started this tradition with each of my kids when they reached kindergarten. While it looks a bit different today, we do continue the tradition.
What is this amazing evaluation tool, you ask? It is called our ‘special day’.
Special Day evaluation instructions
For one day out the year, take your kid out of school for the entire day. Of course make sure it is a day when there are no key tests or projects due. And confirm your child communicates with teachers about missing class and making up the work before or after the special day.
Typically, Spring semster seemed the best time for us and the least disruptive to life between sports and school demands. Fall may work better for you, but again, pick a day that is the least troublesome for school and sport.
Disclaimer for rule followers: taking your child out of school for a day to spend intentional time with you will not hurt your kid. Those of you who ‘abide by the rules’ may think your kid needs to be in school every day the door is open. Or, maybe your kid is the one who is afraid to miss school for a day. But I promise you, this intentional time spent with you evaluating their year and working on goals for next year will pay back tenfold.
If you have more than one child, then you need to organize your calendar to find a special day for each kid. Do not do this with all your kids on the same day as that would defeat the purpose of intentional time with each child. Drop off your other kids at school and reserve the special day for the chosen kid for the day.
The first agenda item for the special day is breakfast. I encourage you to do your research and find a neighborhood place rather than a chain. Upgrade yourself for the day. Choose some place with healthy offerings and a place where you can hear your conversation. This is so important because you will spend each year at this same restaurant to establish the tradition of this cherished evaluation time.
During the meal, review your child’s prior year. This is your chance to learn about what is important to your child, what they struggle with, and gain insight into their interests and friends. Have around five or six evalution questions ready. You can ask some of the same ones but as they get older, the questions may change.
Sampling of Special Day evaluation questions:
- Tell me about your favorite activities
- What kinds of things generate happiness, or you get excited about?
- Tell me about something you did you feel really proud about?
- If we could take a vacation somewhere in the world, where would you want to go and why?
- What is your favorite book? Movie? TV Show? Musician? Website?
- Tell me about your best friend
- What have been the most challenging parts of this year?
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be and how would you use it?
- Tell me what you think you are good at and want to continue to get better?
- What would you like to try or learn about that you haven’t?
- If you could change something about your life, what would it be?
- Tell me about a time you helped someone
- What do you enjoy doing the most with mom? Dad? Siblings? As a family?
- Who is someone you look up to? How come?
- If you could invite five people over for dinner who would ask? (including famous people, historical figures, alive or dead)
- What did you feel good about this year? Your wins? Victories? Successes?
- Where did you struggle this year? Criticisms from coaches, friends, teachers?
- What is a dream you have you want to pursue?
- If you had an idea for any business, what would do? What ideas do you have to earn money?
The goal is to enjoy the conversation and establish a comfortable environment for your child to be vulnerable and share their opinion, ideas, and feelings. Actively listen and show them by paraphrasing back what you hear. Engage with their responses and probe for more when appropriate. Direct them with questions to solve their own problems if some come up. You do not need to fix challenges directly unless it is a situation that warrants adult intervention.
One final Special Day question
Now there is one final evaluation question I always asked on our special day, ‘How can I be a better mom?’
It is important to humble yourself with your child to find out how you can be better. You may find out some things you did not realize you do. This evaluation day process is for you as much as it is for your child.
My son once told me I was very effective at delivering the ‘guilt trip’. Ouch! I did not like hearing that passive aggressive side of me, but I knew he was right.
Goal setting for the following year
The next part of your conversation centers around goals for the following year. Help them pinpoint at least three. You want to set them up for success and three goals is a good number.
Make sure each of the goals are 100% in their control. For example, ‘I want to make the baseball team’ is not a goal that works. It is not in his control. Find the process goal to give him the best shot at making the baseball team.
Another example, ‘I want the lead in the school play’. Again, this outcome is not in your child’s control, but signing up for voice lessons and improving voice projection by committing to 3 months of lessons is a doable goal and gives your kid a better shot at achieving the lead.
Second part of the Special Day
After breakfast, you get to spend the rest of the day having fun before picking up other kids! Over my years of special days, we have played golf, gone to the movies, horseback riding, surfing, disk golf, hiking, working out, and always shopping for the one item we would get to commemorate the day. My son often went for athletic shoes and Nike socks. My daughter and I would find twin shirts, hoodies, shoes, or dresses. We always took pictures to make sure we captured the moments of cherished memories.
Go have a special day! Enjoy the evaluation process with your child. It will make your child better and it will make you better!
Parenting athletes is hard work. There's an entirely new and different set of dynamics at work. You have to be mom, dad, or mom and dad, coach, counselor, EMT, equipment manager, engineer, and seamstress all before dinner! You're not alone and maybe, just maybe, we can help each other navigate this never-ending path to glory. Hey, what's your biggest challenge with your athlete?