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Bill Cirone: Starting the Year with a Can-Do Spirit

As a new year begins, we often advise parents to consider starting off with a clean slate, erasing anything contentious that might have happened with their children since the beginning of the school year.

If children faced challenges with studying or with homework, and if that had been a source of conflict, it can make a difference if parents and children simply agree to let those memories fade. It really helps to start fresh.

Coming at a challenge from a different perspective can lead young people to better performance and, more importantly, increased motivation to do even better. With the old “baggage” eliminated, it’s much easier to focus on how to move forward.

It helps, too, if parents remember to love their children for who they are, not who they want them to be. Children need space to grow, to succeed and even to fail. Sometimes learning from failure is the best lesson of all because it strengthens resilience, a trait that is very difficult to teach but often makes the difference between success and failure in the future.

If discipline is necessary, it’s important that children know their parents disapprove of what they did, not who they are.

These approaches help redirect negative behavior and channel energy in a far more productive direction. Plus, time and again it’s been proven that fear and despair can sap a child’s ability to do well, and that a positive attitude can enable a child to stretch to higher levels of performance.

Much like their children, adults can benefit from letting go of negative experiences that drain their energy. Starting over with renewed enthusiasm and a can-do approach can apply to dealings with schools and teachers, and even with school district policies and procedures. It can also improve the outcomes of future interactions. Think of the powerful energy a positive approach can send to all involved, helping forge better relationships and stronger partnerships.

There is a feeling of renewal that comes from letting go of problems from the past, and making peace with the challenges that lie ahead. For both young and old alike, in all sorts of circumstances, it’s an approach that can make real progress possible.

So as a new year begins, let us all resolve to move forward together, in partnership, to help create the best possible outcomes for our children and families. It’s well worth the effort and can help make 2014 a very good year for all.

— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools. The opinions expressed are his own.

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