Develop a growth mindset and reframe mistakes as learning opportunities — Parents need to better equip their children on how to deal with mistakes and criticism. Rather than negatively disciplining a child for mistakes or emotional outbursts from teacher criticism, support your child in re-framing these challenges as learning opportunities. We need to normalize mistakes and teach our children that mistakes are a necessary and important part of the learning process.
School is really not easy these days. Many students have been out of school for a long time because of the pandemic, and the continued disruptions and anxieties are still breaking the flow of normal learning. What can parents do to help their children thrive and excel in school, particularly during these challenging and anxiety-provoking times?
To address this, we started a new series called ‘5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Thrive and Excel In School.” In this interview series, we are talking to teachers, principals, education experts, and successful parents to learn from their insights and experience.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure to interview Jayme Derkson.
Jayme Derkson is a mom of two young boys, ages 7 and 3 and co-founder of an educational children’s brand, My Starry Chart. She has extensive experience in children’s products and entertainment, having worked at Spin Master, the makers of PAW Patrol and Hatchimals and Sky Zone Trampoline Park. Jayme’s 16+ years in marketing and passion for building brands has led to the start of her own business, combining her passion for helping parents and children alike. Her desire to become an entrepreneur stemmed from a challenge she faced as a parent herself, with her 7-year-old son, Sam, as he was experiencing behavioral issues during the start of kindergarten. In her work, she collaborates with a team of child health and development experts, including her husband, Dr. Phil Derkson, who is a family physician and co-creator of My Starry Chart. This pre-Covid startup has now helped hundreds of families across North America. Visit mystarrychart.com to learn more.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us a bit about your “backstory”?
It’s such a pleasure to be a part of this, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my knowledge with other parents and caregivers. I’ve always been interested in the educational space. If I didn’t get my business degree, I would have liked to become a teacher. I’ve been working in the children’s entertainment space for over 7 years in Marketing. I’m also a mom to one highly sensitive and highly energetic boy. Like most moms, I was excited for my smart, daycare-loving kid to enter Kindergarten, but ignorance was bliss. It was a lot more challenging for Sam than me or my husbanded expected. We also just had a baby and there were many life and developmental changes going on for Sam. At the same time, my husband Phil and I were also figuring out what type of parents we wanted to be. It was at this time that we both took a deep dive into child development research and parenting styles. Many times, the notion of using chore charts to motivate children in a positive way came up. So, we decided to test it out ourselves but with a more functional and interactive design that offered more educational and connection opportunities between parents and children — and the prototype for My Starry Chart was born. Not only did My Starry Chart help Sam, it also helped us practice mindful parenting, which improved our relationship. It also helped build his confidence and empowered him to make healthy choices and develop new life skills, without us having to nag him constantly. Once my friends heard about the functionality, effectiveness and eco-friendliness with our reusable stickers, people started asking me to make them one. And here we are, helping exhausted parents and children connect daily in a more positive way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is a story that happened just before the start of the pandemic. I was at New York Toy Fair, one of the largest toy tradeshows in North America, which many famous kid YouTubers attend to get a preview of the latest and greatest toys for the following holiday season. I spotted one famous Minecraft YouTuber that my son watches frequently and thought to ask to get a picture (I wanted to impress my 7-year-old). This thought was interrupted by said YouTuber engaging in a full-on meltdown about a toy he didn’t get. I could very easily judge this little boy and his parents for “giving into” the child and rewarding him with a toy. However, having just learned about mindful parenting approaches, I instead felt a lot of empathy for family. Maybe he was overwhelmed? Or maybe he was tired from a long day of walking a tradeshow. I then thought about my own son, who looks up to this boy and I immediately empathized with the parents, because I’ve been there…many times. This parenting thing is challenging, to say the least. I ended up getting that photo and my son thought I was the coolest mom on the block. At the same time, being at Toy Fair made me realize how much “plastic crap” is on the market and how parents are increasingly searching for functional, educational toys that educate both academically, behaviorally and emotionally.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This is a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt and I feel that it speaks a lot to a person’s self-worth and confidence. And I truly believe that self-love, confidence and kindness are some of the key traits that lead to resilience. And as a parent, there is nothing I would want more for my children than to be resilient through life’s ups and downs. I feel as parents, this is our responsibility and more important than ever, given the growing mental health concerns among children. My Starry Chart is a fun and educational tool that helps parents facilitate empowerment and confidence-building. It’s also important as a parent to be aware of your inner critic. Don’t sit with negative self-talk. Be a role model for your child and work on your inner confidence as a parent.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Determination: My Starry Chart was launched 2 months prior to the pandemic. It was a successful launch, but the start of the pandemic put our growth plans on hold. As a mom with 2 young kids at home with no school or daycare in sight, I needed to prioritize my children. That meant the business took a back seat, but I still kept it going because I knew how helpful My Starry Chart would be for families, especially in these current uncertain times.
- Humility: This trait helped me in a couple of ways. Navigating the unknown of entrepreneurship, I made a point to frame every “failure” or mistake as a learning opportunity. In addition to that, being humble means considering other people’s opinions, feedback and insights. That is why we collaborate with so many child health experts. Over the course of the design process, they have provided invaluable feedback that we’ve implemented into the final product of My Starry Chart.
- Patience: This is an important to trait to possess in business as well as in parenting. When you are a startup, it’s very tempting to scale as quickly as possible. But in these uncertain times, it’s essential to stay patient and grow thoughtfully. Patience means more validation of your brand, more credibility and used cases of various families successfully implementing My Starry Chart.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Why, yes we are! We recently launched personalized coloring puzzles on our website, mystarrychart.com. They are a creative coloring activity that doubles as a puzzle. We are a big puzzle family and as someone who has anxiety, puzzling and coloring are two activities that really help temper stress and keep the house connected and calm. There are also some other fun products cooking, including a children’s book with reusable stickers.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority about how to help children succeed in school?
First and foremost, I am a mom with a child in the public school system. Ever since my son began primary school, we’ve often encountered some sort of challenge. Whether it was a teacher who didn’t understand how to connect with my spirited child or the pandemic that disrupted the critical first few years of school, I’ve often had to creatively advocate for my son, ensuring he continues to succeed at school academically, socially and emotionally.
Secondly, over the last few years, my husband and I have been passionate about child development and parenting research. We’ve met and collaborated with many child psychologists, behaviorists and child development experts for our business and learned many strategies that foster a connected, supported and loving home. In fact, what I’ve learned is that how parents nurture in the home has a significant impact on how children can be set up for school success.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Can you help articulate the main challenges that students face today that make it difficult to succeed in school?
One major pain point for students is that the current education system is outdated and built for one type of individual. There is little to no energy put in making learning accessible to children who find traditional methods of learning a challenge. This cookie-cutter education was developed by an industrialized system that has existed for close to 200 years. This outdated system also does not strategically consider the digital economy. Schools have adopted these new technologies like smartboards, tablets and learning Apps, but the overarching system has yet to adapt to the needs of students given the varied implications of the digital age.
Adding to this, is the lack of empathy in the education system when it comes to different personalities, and external stressors that children face today. In the early years of education, social and emotional intelligence needs to be nurtured. However, there is little to no effort in the current system to help build up children and foster the traits that lead to higher social and emotional intelligence.
Can you suggest a few reforms that you think schools should make to help students to thrive and excel?
Schools need to improve upon supporting and celebrating individuals through self-expression. For example, there is evidence that supports the mental health benefits associated with journaling. Classrooms can implement a daily journaling practice to help foster children’s’ creativity, introspection and self-expression. Another reform that schools should consider is fostering a stronger classroom community. This would be an environment where children are encouraged and recognized for helping each other, which inherently minimizes competition and divisiveness and builds upon kindness, empathy and confidence-building — traits necessary to build resiliency.
Here is our primary question. Can you please share your “5 Things Parents Can Do To Help Their Children Thrive and Excel In School?” Please share a story or example for each.
- Create routine and structure — this is something many child development experts have recommended time and again to me and other parents. Routine and structure help reduce children’s anxiety because they know ahead of time what they can expect to happen in a day. The formal psychology term is called “frontloading.” This is a lesson I learned first-hand, when Sam was having some challenges in his first year of school. As a 4-year-old in kindergarten, it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to self-regulate and it had a lot to do with control (or his lack of control). This was a main reason why we developed My Starry Chart. We implemented a consistent and predictable visual routine that he could continuously refer to. And for me, it was a positive way to remind him of the tasks that needed to get done each day. By having a fun calendar with stickers, it made our routines predictable and fun, which made our relationship stronger and set him up for success at school each day.
- Promote early literacy at home — Through our research with child development and parenting experts, time and again I would hear that learning happens when children feel calm and positive. That’s why it is so important to establish positive literacy habits at home. Whether it’s reading before bedtime or reading as a family while cuddling on the couch, it’s important to foster a positive association with reading that is habitual so that children feel confident and motivated to continue developing literacy skills at school.
- In the early years, focus less on academics and more on social and emotional skills — From my experience, kindergarten to grade one is much more about developing social and emotional regulation and less about academics. So long as your child knows their ABCs and 123s, parents should support their children’s social and emotional needs ahead of academics. Encourage play-based learning, exploration and curiosity.
- Develop a growth mindset and reframe mistakes as learning opportunities — Parents need to better equip their children on how to deal with mistakes and criticism. Rather than negatively disciplining a child for mistakes or emotional outbursts from teacher criticism, support your child in re-framing these challenges as learning opportunities. We need to normalize mistakes and teach our children that mistakes are a necessary and important part of the learning process.
- Model the behaviors you want to see in your child — This one is easier said than done, but it’s one of the best ways to encourage any behavior that parents want to see. If you want your child to read, then you should read. Does your child need help focusing on homework? Sit next to them and work or read to be there for support. If they are having a hard time speaking with teachers respectfully, parents need to mindfully talk respectfully and calmly to their children. And when parents make mistakes or fail, it’s important to model ownership, acceptance and the positives of the learning experience in order to help guide children through their own challenges.
As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?
Being a teacher is one of the most important jobs today, and especially challenging given the pandemic. Teachers need the proper resources required to effectively connect with their classroom community. Parents, governments and decision-makers need to show teachers adequate appreciation and support. And of course, to attract any top talent, budgets need to be considered. I’ve heard so many educators say that they’ve had to pay out of pocket for classroom resources to foster a positive, inclusive school environment. That needs to be addressed — teachers should not be penalized for being passionate about creating a positive learning experience in their classroom.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I would love the opportunity to have a conversation with leading parenting advisor, Janet Lansbury. She has been a support to me and millions of parents worldwide, I would love her take on how best to support families through educational and interactive tools like My Starry Chart.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can visit us at mystarrychart.com or follow up on Instagram @mystarrychart
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
Original blog post