Saturday, November 28 , 2015, 5:40 pm | Mostly Cloudy 60º

Advice from Parenting Expert Michael Thompson Well-Received in Talk at Marymount

Marymount Head of School Andrew Wooden, left, with guest speaker Michael Thompson.
Marymount Head of School Andrew Wooden, left, with guest speaker Michael Thompson.  (Marymount of Santa Barbara photo)

By Molly Seguel for Marymount of Santa Barbara |

It is rare to see an audience as rapt as the audience was when Michael Thompson, Ph.D., spoke at Marymount of Santa Barbara earlier this week to a packed house on the school's Riviera campus.

Dr. Thompson spoke as a part of the Marymount Speakers Series, an event Marymount puts on annually with the intention of serving the community and helping parents, educators and school administrators improve the lives of children.

This year, Marymount and the Santa Barbara Public Library System partnered in a community read of Dr. Thompson’s work in order to reach more people in the Santa Barbara community; many of those people were in attendance Tuesday. Last year’s Speakers Series featured author Paul Tough, whose groundbreaking book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character, also drew a packed house.

In addition to being a bestselling author of books such as Raising Cain and Best Friends Worst Enemies, Dr. Thompson is a renowned school psychologist. In Head of School Andrew Wooden’s words, "It is rare to get to hear from, talk to and ask questions of the leading expert on child psychology,” but that is exactly what the assembled crowd was able to do on Marymount’s campus this week.

Dr. Thompson’s discussion of his latest book, The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and Life, appeared to resonate with all in attendance. His talk was focused on children’s development and on the crucial understanding that teachers and parents need to help children succeed.

Dr. Thompson’s talk and book The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and Life makes some key points for parents:

» Wise parents prove again and again that nothing takes the place of being a model for your child.

» Wise parents ask the question: Is school working for him/her right now?

» Wise parents take their child’s schooling one year at a time, one day at a time.

» Conversations between parents and teachers can make a huge difference in the school life of a child.

» Parents need to understand that they are “not in control of their child’s development and learning” and remember that “their child and his/her teachers have made amazing things happen for him/her at school.”

» Speaking as a parent himself, Dr. Thompson writes, “As parents, it is our job to advocate for schools that will foster for the miracle of children’s growth and development, create loving homes with ample time for learning and sharing with family, and be present at the many moments when their new growth becomes apparent.”

Parent reactions were positive to Dr. Thompson’s Marymount visit. One father wrote in shortly after the event, "I cannot tell you how much Dr. Thompson’s talk affected my thinking on parenting and education … and on my own strengths and weaknesses as it pertains to learning. It is rare to hear a speaker that changes the entire way you look at things, and I feel like Michael Thompson's talk did that for me today. I feel like I have had a paradigm shift in how I will view my kids’ education going forward. Thank you so much for bringing Dr. Thompson to Marymount, it was a fantastic program and an incredibly enriching experience ...”

A mother of a sixth-grade boy felt similarly: "Thank you so much for bringing Dr. Thompson to Marymount and helping parents hone their skills. Personally, I walked away with several pearls.” Some of these pearls were very practical in nature. When asked what some of them were, she responded, “I learned not to ask my kid, 'What happened at school today?' Dr. Thompson explained so well what a child's world at school is like with so many aspects of personal growth swirling around in their heads: educational, social, emotional and physical. As parents, we don't take all of this into account when asking about what went on at school.”

She then added, “Every child does not reach his or her potential at the same time: For some, everything clicks in elementary school, for others it’s in high school, and for others it’s even later in life … and that’s perfectly OK!” Another parent then chimed in, “I learned that parenting is more about listening than talking.”

Dr. Thompson’s parting words were especially powerful and several people in attendance commented on how the image they evoked would stay with them. A mother in attendance described Dr. Thompson’s parting remarks this way: “I liked it when Dr. Thompson described that we need to parent as if we were running with our kids. If we get too far ahead, we aren’t helping them. If we are too far behind, we aren’t helping them either. We need to run at their pace, not our own. We need to stay a quarter step behind, but close, so they can hear and feel our presence, and know that we are all in it together.”

Dr. Thompson’s visit to Marymount included a question-and-answer period with Marymount’s middle school students and faculty professional development. He was a hit with students and faculty in the same way he had been with parents earlier in the day.

According to one Marymount middle school teacher, “When Dr. Thompson’s said, 'What hooks children on school is a sense of community and adult investment,' we knew he 'got' what we do here. … It was an incredible experience to get to talk to and exchange ideas with an educational leader of Dr. Thompson’s experience and insight. Dr. Thompson's visit was a great reinforcement of why I love what I do.”

Marymount is an independent coeducational school, junior kindergarten through eighth grade, on a picturesque, 10-acre campus nestled on the Santa Barbara Riviera. For 75 years, Marymount has prepared young people for the academic challenges of high school and college, while laying the foundation for lifelong character, achievement and love of learning.

For more information or to schedule a tour, contact the Admission Office at [email protected] or 805.569.1811 x131.

— Molly Seguel is the director of admission for Marymount of Santa Barbara.

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