ETL Kids are Hungry for Praise: Let’s Feed Their Need

I hope that by now you’ve seen our announcement that books 2 and 3 in the “Easy to Love” series are in the works. Book 2 will be titled: Easy to Love but Hard to Teach, and will focus on the many challenges involved in getting our ETL kids educated, from the perspective of adults involved in their educations—parents, teachers, school administrators, advocates, and so on. Adrienne and I arrived at the decision to focus on education because in our many interactions with parents, both online and in person, problems with ETL kids and school seem to be incredibly prevalent, possibly the most prevalent of all ETL parenting issues. We hope that Easy to Love but Hard to Teach will illuminate the depth of the problems our ETL kids face regarding school; offer potential solutions, big and small; and encourage alliances between parents, educators, and others for the sake of our ETL kids. 

I have my share of worries about how my daughter, Natalie, gets along at school, but I’ve also learned, through many of you, how wonderful our local school system and individual teachers are in comparison to some others around the country. You’ve helped me see how lucky we are to live in Ames, Iowa; to truly appreciate Natalie’s teachers and school. So, in the spirit of sharing solutions, big and small, I thought I’d brag about Mrs. McCasland, the special education teacher Natalie has worked with in fourth, and now fifth, grades.

For background, read this post (Don’t All of Our Kids Deserve Teachers Like This?) about Natalie’s recent surge in anxiety, and the resulting urge to avoid going to school. One of Mrs. McCasland’s ideas for helping Natalie (and me!) through this rough patch was to schedule a 10-15 minute meeting on Wednesdays, just before the start of school, with Natalie, me, Mrs. McCasland, and Nat’s general ed classroom teacher, Ms. Trautmann, in attendance. The only item on this meeting’s agenda is heaping praise on Natalie for everything she’s doing right at school. We’ve met twice so far. I think this plan is brilliant, in so many ways:

  • Our kids tend to be told “no,” corrected, and criticized way too often. Why not schedule a regular time to “catch them being good?”
  • Parents too often hear only what their child is doing wrong in school. We need to hear what our kids are doing right, just as much as they do.
  • In my search for solutions to the problem of ETL kids & school avoidance, the best advice I found was to 1) make the child go to school, and 2) reinforce that they were successful, that things were okay once they got there. This is a structured way to do just that, and to keep doing so on a regular basis.   
  • A before-school meeting gets the day off to a positive start. A mid-week meeting allows this to be a check-in about how the week is going, in addition to a cheerleading session to keep a child on a positive track.

Can you imagine suggesting this strategy to a super-negative teacher, and then role-modeling how to do it? Just think what an impact that could have, not just on your child, but on that teacher’s future students.

What do you think the reaction would be if you asked your child’s teachers/school administrators to commit to this kind of meetings? I dare you to try it!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, despite all of Natalie’s struggles, it’s easy as pie to fill 15 minutes with nothing but good!

For more information about books 2 (Easy to Love but Hard to Teach) & 3 (Easy to Love but Hard to Treat) in the “Easy to Love” series and to see the complete call for submissions, visit


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One thought on “ETL Kids are Hungry for Praise: Let’s Feed Their Need

  1. I found that I was very appreciative of the teachers that helped Cory out the most and made time to help him with his special issues. I made sure that they knew how much we loved them and how grateful we were for their support. It was a really good thing to maintain that relationship with his teachers throughout high school. Not all rose to the occasion but I found that my making an effort to be a team player really smoothed the road for Cory.

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