What We Learned from Dr. Michael Thompson

Angi Evans
I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.~ Abraham Lincoln

Dr. Michael G. Thompson, the author of many widely read and highly regarded books such as Raising Cain, Best Friends/Worst Enemies, and The Pressured Child, assured all of his audiences last Tuesday that we can stop working so hard. He reminded us, since most of us really know this deep down, that our children are smart and strong and experiencing typical stages of growing that will serve them well in adulthood.

Dr. Thompson first spoke with parents at our popular “lunchtime topic” event. He titled this talk “Best Friends/Worst Enemies: friendship development, popularity, and social cruelty in childhood.” In this talk, he reminded parents that although children may complain about upsetting daily interactions with their peers, 85% of the children are socially all right and don’t need their parents, teachers, or other adults in their lives to either intervene or worry about them. Most children recover from ordinary meanness by their peers quickly; their parents stew over these injustices much more and longer than their children. Dr. Thompson urged parents to avoid meddling in their children’s social lives and allow their children to work through problems with their peers independently.

In the afternoon, Dr. Thompson spoke with students in two groups, grades 4 through 6 and 7 and 8. In these talks, he asked the students to tell him what makes a child popular and to define friendship. The student-brainstormed attributes of popular people had an “I know it when I see it” quality. They included “nice but not always nice,” cool, pretty, athletic, “come up with good ideas,” funny, mean, and “their parents let them buy lots of video games and cool stuff.” The students described a good friend as someone who “has your back,” “will laugh with you and cry with you,” makes you happy, does fun things with you, doesn’t judge you, and “will never betray you, no matter what you do.” After the two sessions, Dr. Thompson shared with the faculty that he thought our students had great audience skills.

Dr. Thompson finished his day speaking to Harbor Day parents and members of our greater community on The Pressured Child. In this talk, Dr. Thompson shared with the parents how difficult a school day can be for students, both academically and socially. He reminded the adults of the tiresome aspects of a school day that include both monotony and challenge. He encouraged us to judge a child’s success by three criteria; connections, recognition, and developing a sense of mastery. He shared an example of a boy at his school who was failing his academic classes and on the verge of being withdrawn from the school. Dr. Thompson met with him in his capacity as school psychologist. The boy confirmed that he had friends, he was seen as a strong athlete, and he was working hard in school and learning something. Therefore, Dr. Thompson recommended the boy stay at school, as he was succeeding based on the three criteria. Dr. Thompson finished his talk by urging parents to set the pace for their children and walk a half step behind their children. From that location, parents can support and push their children in appropriate measure.

Thank you to Parent Council’s Parent Education/Student Enrichment committee, chaired by Kelly Callaghan and Andrea McCardle, for bringing Dr. Thompson to our school. We are wiser now.

Harbor Day School

3443 Pacific View Drive
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Harbor Day School is a co-educational private independent K-8 school established in 1952.