Help Answering Your Kid’s Tough Questions

Every parent has dealt with tough questions from their child. And they often pop up unexpectedly—when you’re tucking them into bed or when that little voice pipes up from the back seat. National Public Radio (NPR) has partnered with Sesame Workshop’s child development experts to create a podcast called Parenting: Difficult Conversationsto help you answer those tough questions.

The podcast has three episodes so far:

The podcasts bring all the care and child appropriateness you expect from the folks who have been behind 50 years of Sesame Street. NPR has distilled some of what they’ve learned so far from the podcast to create five tips to help you handle whatever question pops out of your child when you least expect it.

  1. When you get a tough question, listen for what the child is really
  2. Give them facts, but at a pace they can manage.
  3. “That’s a good question. Let’s find out more together.”
  4. Reassure them that they are safe and loved.
  5. Take care of yourself, and don’t be afraid to share your emotions.

The NPR articledigs into each of these five tips with more information to help you answer your child’s tough questions.

5 Tips to Get Your Volunteers to Follow Through

Running a PTA is not an easy job, and managing your volunteers effectively is one of the hardest parts. As a PTA leader, you can do everything you can to make your volunteering for your PTA a pleasant experienceand thank your volunteerswhen they’re done, and still sometimes struggle with that volunteer who doesn’t get the job done when they said that they would. Here are five tips to help you get your volunteers to follow through.

  1. Create the plan together.We often come up with a plan for an event, break down the tasks, and then ask for folks to sign up for specific jobs. That approach can work for events that your PTA has been doing for a long time where you know what jobs need to be done. When trying something new, however, include many of your potential volunteers in developing the plan. Doing so helps everyone feel they have a stake in the event’s success. Even your long-time events could benefit from this treatment every few years to keep the event from getting stale.
  2. Break down the tasks to provide small wins.When you’re creating your plan, be sure that there are several milestones along the way that your team can celebrate. Those small wins help a group learn to work together, and the little victories along the way help to reenergize everyone and prevent burnout. Be sure to provide micro-volunteering opportunities for those who don’t have a lot of time available but want to help.
  3. Set clear deadlines and track your progress.Now that you’ve created your plan and broken down the tasks, have those handling each task set a specific deadline for themselves (within the time requirements for steps that depend on that task being completed first) so that they own it. Deadlines should be as specific as possible—not “the first week in May” but “May 3” or even “May 3 by 5pm.” If someone misses a deadline, follow up with them immediately to see if they are waiting on information from someone else, need some support or assistance, and have a new deadline for when the task will be done.
  4. Have everyone partner up.People tend to follow through more when they know that someone else is there to help them pick up the slack if life makes it difficult to get a job done and that they’ve got someone else’s back as well. Having folks pair up on tasks makes it less likely the ball will get dropped.
  1. It’s okay to fire a volunteer.We all feel grateful that people are giving their time to our PTA and understand that sometimes life gets busy in ways you didn’t expect. But a volunteer that is unreliable or isn’t following through does no one any good. Yes, they’re good people (maybe even one of your best friends) or they’re just really busy, but these days, we are all really busy. It’s okay to send an e-mail saying, “Hey, I saw you missed the last two deadlines for [task]. As you know from our plan, if we don’t have [task] done by [deadline], [these other people] can’t do their [other tasks]. If it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to get this done by [deadline], please let me know so we can take this off your plate. Thanks!” And if the deadline is missed, follow up with “Since you’ve missed the second deadline for [task], I’m going to assume you are no longer wish to be part of making [event] happen. Please let me know if this is not the case, and I’ll add you back into our group communications. Thank you so much for the time, talent, and ideas you’ve shared up to this point. Our PTA appreciates the work you’ve done.”

Remember that your role as a PTA leader is to help your volunteers be successful. It’s not about your title or you looking good. If you focus on their success, then you will look good.

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Talking with Your Tween

Middle school is a challenging time for kids, and talking with your tween about what’s going on in their life is especially challenging for parents. Dr. Atilla Ceranoglu, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, explains the challenge with pets. Infants and toddlers are puppies—you can cuddle and hug them endlessly. But teenagers are like cats—they avoid you most of the time and only occasionally seek out your attention, but when you try to touch them, they run away.

Great Schools details the top three mistakes parents make when they try to talk to their middle schooler.

  1. Waiting for a Crisis:When there’s a crisis, tensions are high and your teen is less likely to open up to you. Instead, talk early and often before there’s a crisis so you have built some trust and rapport into your relationship already when a problem arises.
  2. Taking Too Direct an Approach:Even adults are not likely to respond well to “Let’s sit down and talk.” Spend time with your child doing something they enjoy and use that opportunity to let conversations happen in a more relaxed atmosphere.
  3. Letting the Opportunity Pass:While tweens and teens tend to push their parents away, that doesn’t mean they don’t want you involved in their life. Be ready to drop what you are doing when they want to talk—giving your child genuine interest when they want it helps build a relationship that will allow them to approach you when the conversations are tough.

Avoiding these mistakes won’t eliminate the grunts, “fines,” and “nothings” that your middle schooler responds to questions with, but they will help you build the foundation for the occasional meaningful conversation throughout their teen years.

Parliamentary Procedure for Beginners

As a PTA leader, you probably know that you are supposed to use parliamentary procedure in your meetings, but looking at the more than 800 pages of Robert’s Rules of Orderin the PTA materials the previous PTA president passed on to you might have you thinking, “Really?” Yes, really, but parliamentary procedure isn’t nearly as scary or intimidating as that copy of Robert’s Rules of Ordermake it appear. Here are the basics you need to know as a PTA leader.

Why Parliamentary Procedure?

Henry Martin Robert was a military engineer in the US Army. In the early 1860s while recovering from a tropical fever he had caught in Panama, he was asked to chair a meeting at his local Baptist Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The meeting did not go well, erupting into open conflict over abolition, and Col. Robert decided he needed to understand parliamentary procedure better before leading another meeting.

In looking at the existing manuals of parliamentary procedure, he found them to be often useless or in conflict with each other. He continued to attend meetings that ran out of control, and the guidelines each group was using were poorly written and often contributed to the chaos and rancor. So Col Robert set out to write his own rules for parliamentary procedure.

Robert’s basic premise behind his set of rules was that the voice of the minority be heard, but that the will of the majority prevail. The rules aim to keep the meeting attendees focused on the matter at hand and help them make decisions. The rules are also more important to follow as the size of the meeting gets bigger in order have business proceed smoothly, which is why you’ll see parliamentary procedure used much more formally at the Illinois PTA Convention than in most PTA meetings. As a PTA leader, if you remember that parliamentary procedure is there to make sure all voices are heard and to help your meeting run smoothly, you can avoid some of the nitty gritty details that might get in the way of those goals.

Basic Principles

When using parliamentary procedure, these are the basic principles to keep in mind:

  • Only one issue is discussed at a time.
  • The chairperson is impartial. (That means that as PTA president, you are running the meeting, not influencing the debate.)
  • All members have equal and basic rights to vote, to be heard, and to oppose.
  • The rights of the minority must be protected.
  • No one can speak until recognized by the chairperson.
  • Every member can speak to an issue, but no one can speak a second time as long as another member wants to speak for the first time.
  • A majority vote decides an issue (in all but a few special situations).

The Agenda

As PTA president, you are responsible for preparing the agenda for your PTA meeting and ensuring that it is followed. It is always a good practice to ask your fellow PTA officers, committee chairpersons, and membership if they have items for the agenda. Once the agenda is prepared, distribute it to your members prior to the meeting.

The typical order of business on an agenda is as follows:

  • Call to Order
  • Approval of the Minutes
  • Reports from Officers and Committees
  • Unfinished Business (from previous meetings)
  • New Business
  • Announcements
  • Adjournment

Note that in order to conduct business, you must have a quorum. The quorum for your PTA meetings are listed in your PTA’s bylaws for general membership meetings, executive board meetings, and executive committee meetings. Without a quorum, no official decisions can be made.

Motions

Motions are how business gets done in a meeting, and requires two people—a “mover” and a “seconder.” Motions coming from committees do not require a second, because the body has essentially already seconded the issue by referring it to the committee.

Strictly following Robert’s Rules, a motion must be made and seconded before any discussion of the issue can begin. However, as chair, you can decide to depart from strict parliamentary procedure and allow discussion to occur before the motion is made. This is often done to get opinions from the body so a more precise motion can be made and time isn’t wasted tweaking the wording of a motion. However, if you use this approach, it is important to make sure that the discussion does not wander from the issue being discussed. As chair, it is your job to keep the discussion focused.

After discussion, vote on the motion that has been made and seconded before moving on to the next item of business. A motion must receive a majority of votes to be approved (with some specific exceptions like approving bylaws amendments, which require a two-thirds majority). If there are an even number of votes, which means that the motion must receive 50% of the votes plus one. A motion that is tied is not approved. The secretary should record the exact wording of the motion in the minutes and whether it was approved or not. The secretary does not have to record all of the discussion on the motion.

Debating Motions

When chairing a meeting, it is your responsibility to ensure that the discussion sticks to the issue being debated. Don’t hesitate to bring the group back to the issue if you feel the conversation is wandering off topic. Everyone has been in that meeting where the chair didn’t do so, and the meeting dragged on and on without coming to decisions.

Make sure that everyone is recognized by the chair before speaking. This will help you control the meeting and keep the discussion focused. Make sure that everyone who wants to speak has the opportunity to do so. If as chair you sense that the discussion has come to consensus, don’t hesitate to state what you are hearing as the group’s decision and then ask if they are ready to vote.

You may have a member “call the question,” which is an attempt to end debate and vote on the motion that is on the floor. As part of Robert’s Rules to protect the voice of the minority, a motion to “close debate” or “move the previous question” requires a two-thirds majority to pass. If it does, then you move to vote on the motion on the floor without any further discussion.

Note that discussions can get out of hand and run long. As chair, you can keep the debate moving by making sure everyone has the opportunity to speak once before anyone can speak a second time. If necessary, the group may also vote to limit the amount of time any one person can speak or limit the amount of time for debate on the issue. Since the group imposes those time limits on itself, it can also extend those times by voting to do so.

Amending Motions

Under strict parliamentary procedure, your meeting body will change the motion on the floor by amending it by:

  • Inserting extra wording to the motion
  • Striking existing wording in the motion
  • Striking some wording and inserting additional wording to the motion

In practice, as chair you may allow informal amendments to be made to clarify the wording, provided the maker of the motion accepts the recommendation.

The Role of the Chairperson

When strictly following Robert’s Rules of Order, the chairperson does not participate in debate, and if they want to do so, they must temporarily give up the role of presiding officer until the motion on the floor is voted on. The chairperson also does not vote on a motion. The reason behind these rules is that the chairperson is supposed to be impartial while controlling the meeting. There are some exceptions to these rules.

  • The chairperson can vote if their vote will either make or break a tie. Remember that a tie vote on a motion means that it is not adopted.
  • The chairperson can vote if the vote is by ballot.
  • If the group is small (e.g., a committee) and operates informally, it is okay for the chair to participate in debate and vote.
  • If the members of the group have been chosen to represent specific areas, groups, or interests, the chairperson may participate in debate and vote so their constituency is represented properly.
  • For executive boards, executive committees, and standing or special committees, the chair may have the same privileges as other members to make motions, debate issues, and vote.

Keep in mind that if you as chair decide to participate in debate, you should not abuse the privilege and should avoid dominating the discussion. After having taken a side, it is vitally important that the chair continue to run the meeting impartially.