On motivating students, childhood obesity with COVID-19, and the exercises that help you sleep

Unmotivated students won’t learn much at school, but researchers found that this approach can help instill motivation.

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What 144 studies say about motivating students

It’s common sense that an unmotivated student won’t learn much at school, but there are so many different approaches that parents and teachers can take to instill motivation. Rewards? Prizes? Bribes? Threats?

The surprising answer is actually none of those. Motivation that’s driven through rewards or to avoid punishment are the least effective way to influence behavior, according to a 2021 study.

A team of researchers went through 144 studies involving 80,000 students from elementary school through college to find out what works.

There were two big conclusions:

  • First, teachers are much more influential than parents in motivating students. Although the parents were important, they’re not enough alone. The teachers have more tools to work with students on motivation.
  • Second, children and young adults who foster an internal or intrinsic motivation are far more likely to succeed in their academic pursuits. It turns out that teachers and parents can foster internal motivation by satisfying three psychological needs: competency, belonging, and autonomy.

In the category of competency, in addition to confidence, students need to believe that they are capable of learning it. There has been much research on the benefit of a growth mindset, where children who believe that their hard work and practice leads to better outcomes.

Julien Bureau, associate professor at Université Laval in Quebec, said, “We’ve proven which kinds of motivations are the most important and now we can try to educate parents and teachers to have more of an impact on them.”

“If you start doing a task,” he said, “and it’s a new task, and you feel competent in it, and you feel connected with others, and you feel autonomous in doing the task, you’ve chosen to do it. You’ll have fun doing it. You’ll want to do it more. And you’ll be interested in learning.”

CDC says it’s “urgent” pregnant women get vaccinated

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a call for “urgent action” for women who are pregnant to get vaccinated. The health organization said that immunization rates have lagged among pregnant individuals and covid-linked deaths among pregnant people have reached the highest levels during the pandemic.

In the health advisory released Wednesday, the CDC recommends coronavirus vaccines “before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks.”

Pregnant and recently pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of severe illness, death, and pregnancy complications.

Fighting childhood obesity during COVID-19

With fitness facilities being closed and many people working from home during the pandemic and lockdown periods, many people have seen lockdown weight gain. But weight gain hasn’t only affected adults but obesity rates among children have risen, too. In this quick tip episode, we will explain what the research has shown and how parents can combat and prevent the rise in obesity among their children.

Researchers at the University of Michigan evaluated pandemic-related changes in weight in school-aged youths. The data from the 190,000 children studied found that obesity rates rose among all age groups during the first year of the pandemic. Significant weight gain occurred among youths, especially among the youngest children. Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that pediatric obesity increased from 13.7% to 15.4% during the pandemic.

Karsen and I went deeper on this topic in this week’s Quick Tip episode:

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The exercises that help you sleep

If you’ve had a hard time sleeping, there are three simple exercises to sooth your body and calm your mind.

The first two poses are cat-cow stretch (Chakravakasana). It involves moving the spine from a rounded position to an arched one. Each movement is done while inhaling or exhaling your breath, linking your breath to movement. You can start the pose on your hands and knees, placing your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

Take a deep breath, and start with the Cow Pose by tilting your pelvis back so your tailbone sticks up. Drop your belly down while keeping your abdominal muscles hugging your spine. Then, gently gaze up towards the ceiling without cranking your neck.

Cow Pose
Then, exhale while moving into a Cat Pose. You’ll tip your pelvis forward and tuck in your tailbone. Then draw your navel toward your spine and drop your head.

Cat Pose
You can repeat this simple movement between the two positions as you inhale and exhale. After 4 cycles of breathing while alternating between the Cat Pose and Cow Pose, move into the last position as you get ready to go to bed.

The last restful pose is Child’s Pose (Balasana), which centers on creating a moment of rest. It involves bending forward over the knees and compressing the body on the mat or floor. Child’s Pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. It relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported. Balasana also calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue.

Child’s Pose
If you’ve been tossing and turning at night, studies have shown that exercise can reduce the amount of time that it takes to fall asleep. This simple routine can be done right before bedtime. 💤

Weird parenting wins, dinner, and family screams

Sometimes the best parenting advice can come from out of nowhere. These “weird parenting wins” were born of moments when the traditional advice wasn’t working.

Every parent and kid is unique, and as we get to know our kids, we can figure out what makes them tick. Because this is an ongoing process, Weird Parenting Wins covers children of all ages, ranging in topics from “The Art of Getting Your Kid to Act Like a Person” (on hygiene, potty training, and manners) to “The Art of Getting Your Kid to Tell You Things” (because eventually, they’re going to be tight-lipped).

Listen to this week’s 10-minute parenting book summary from author Hillary Frank.

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Links we like

The parenting content we’d share if we were in your group text.

Play kitchens: Toddlers everywhere are getting fully functional play kitchens with working faucets, mini-fridges, and kid-friendly utensils to encourage real food prep.

No backpacks: Many schools are banning backpacks following incidents with guns, which is forcing students to improvise with a range of random items.

Over-diagnosed: Research published this week showed a 787 percent increase in autism diagnoses, which leads to the question whether doctors are diagnosing autism too readily.

On Vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech submitted data this week to the FDA from its clinical trial for children, but there’s still a long road ahead of us before kids get vaccinated.

Eeeek: Even though the Pfizer vaccine appears to work in children ages 5 to 11, many parents will wait to get their kids immunized, if they do at all.

$#%@: The TV show “Ted Lasso” can be profane, but one dad says it’s just the right show for his teenage boys.

Scrolling: For kids, developing a healthier relationship with social media can be tricky. Here’s how to help.

Let’s keep the conversation going. Follow us on YouTube or Instagram for weekly parenting tips. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered in a future newsletter, just reply to this email or write to me at hello@parents.club.

See you next week,

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