The Parent Handbook:


How to Keep Your Kids Out of Your Hair and Make Them Smarter at the Same Time


By Mary Ann Carr




You’re a parent and you adore your kids.  You want them to be as smart and successful as they possibly can. 


Of course, you do.  But, you’re also busy.  Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or work outside the home, you have little spare time.  If any.  In fact, the days aren’t long enough to do all that you need to do.  And, you’re exhausted.  It’s difficult, therefore, to make the time to sit down and engage your kids in constructive activities.  It’s so easy to turn on a T.V. or a computer and let electronics do the job, giving you a few minutes of peace.


Consider this scenario: It’s 5:30 p.m.  You’ve had a long day at the office and you’ve picked up your kids from day care.  You’re headed home.  Great.  Except for the accident on the highway.  You inch along in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  The kids are tired and cranky.  They’re picking at each other.  “”Mom!” one yells.  You’re tempted to scream at them to be quiet and turn on the T.V. in the SUV.  But, what if you consider this time to be an opportunity rather than a curse?  And instead of relying on electronics, you ask qwerky questions?


·        How many different ways could you use this steering wheel?

·        How many things are inflated other than a tire? 

·        If we could go anywhere in this car, where would you like to go?  Name all of the places you’d like to see. 

·        Had you rather ride in a car or a boat?  A submarine or the space shuttle? 

·        Tell me a story about this car from a tire’s point of view. 

·        What if Jack from Jack And The Beanstalk had owned this car?  How would it have changed the story? 


Your kids are out of your hair.  And you don’t feel guilty about it because you’ve motivated them to think tall, which means thinking analytically, critically or creatively.


If you engage your kids frequently in thinking exercises like this, thinking tall will become a habit.  Unlike many habits, this one is constructive in that your kids will need to be creative, analytical thinkers, problem-solvers and effective communicators if they are to be successful in the 21st century workplace. 


Not only that, your kids love to have your attention.  When you take time to ask them a question, you’re implying without even saying it, “I care about you.”  You’re giving them the attention they need.  At the same time, you’re giving yourself a break from fussing and whining.  “Are we there yet?”  Instead of allowing their restlessness to get on your nerves, you can turn the table and challenge them to think. 


You can ask these questions anytime, anywhere.  No preparation is needed.  All you have to do is choose from the multiple lists of qwerky questions/activities in this book whenever you need them whether you’re in a waiting room, in the car or at home on a Saturday afternoon.  The questions were designed not only to generate thinking but to foster discussion and family interaction as well.  They’re appropriate for kids in grades K – 5 and are grouped according to grade levels:  K – 2 and 3 – 5. 


Different questions generate different types of thinking.  Prior to using the suggested questions/activities in this book, I invite you to become familiar with the types of questions used and the thinking skill each type elicits.  These are discussed in The Parent’s Guide found in the book’s appendix.


So, sit back, relax, and engage your kids with questions and activities that will get them to think tall.  You’re happy.  They’re learning.  It’s a win-win for everyone.


Look Inside Chapter 1: Sample Pages

Annotated Table of Contents






People typically consider time spent in the car, in a doctor’s waiting room, at an airport, or waiting for a meal in a restaurant, a waste of time.  This chapter provides a guide for you to recycle this time and use it productively to challenge your kids to think. 


The chapter is divided into four different sections, each one containing lists of qwerky questions/activities appropriate for a specific setting.  The lists are divided into two different categories:  Qwerky Questions To Discuss and

Clip-Board Activities To Draw, Write, Figure Out.





Though a family excursion can be an exciting activity in and of itself, it still provides an opportunity for kids to engage in thinking.  Field trips to museums, zoos and historical sites are more meaningful if kids are giving a purpose for their visit. Questions can spark family discussion during the visit and on the way home as well.


Visiting family members is a great opportunity to motivate kids to dig into their family’s history.  Not genealogy, but history in terms of family stories and traditions.  The questions/activities in this section will guide kids to interview family members; use photography/video to record family events; and create family albums.




Studies indicate kids spend six hours a day sitting in front of a T.V. or computer screen.  As a result, they’re used to sound-bytes, thrills, action.  Many of them have difficultly adapting to the slower pace of a classroom and turn out during lessons.  To them, learning is a drag, boring.  To avoid this, they need to discover that learning can actually be fun. This chapter lists qwerky questions/activities to motivate your kids to turn off the T.V. and turn on their minds.  It is divided into four sections.  Each one focuses on activities appropriate for specific locations in the home.


Kids who grow up in “library” homes become excellent readers.  This chapter features a parent’s guide to promote reading adventures at home.  It includes questions for family book discussions and reading activities which challenge kids to explore a story beyond the ‘who, what, when, where and why.”


It’s important for families to spend time talking together.  Years ago, a study was made to determine the factors leading to student success.  Merit scholars across the nation were surveyed.  The results were surprising in that these students had only one thing in common:  everyday, their family sat down together for the evening meal.  And, sitting around the table, they discussed the events of the day and things they had learned.  This chapter includes qwerky questions designed to elicit great family discussions about current events and things that happened during the day.


  Chapter Four:  QWERKY QUESTIONS/ACTIVITIES Pertaining to



Kids frequently come home and announce they have a school project due the next day.  Though they had known about the assignment for weeks, they had never bothered to mention it.  This chapter focuses on school projects and how you can effectively help your kids with them.  It also includes questions you can use when helping your kids review for tests.


In the 21st century, creative thinkers and problem-solvers will be the ones who find success in the global marketplace.  Yet, in this era of high-stakes testing, schools have shelved creativity, considering it “fluff.”  This chapter provides a guide to help you develop your kids’ creativity and problem-solving skills. 

The guide identifies four skills associated with divergent thinking and includes questions designed to develop each one.  In addition, this chapter provides an introduction to SCAMPER, a fun strategy for creative thinking, along with ideas how to use it with your kids.  


Writing is actually thinking on paper.  This chapter includes questions you can ask your kids when working on each step in the writing process.  It also features a guide to set up a publishing center at home where kids can write and publish their own stories.


Chapter Five:  QWERKY QUESTIONS About The Six Selves


In working with your kids on school projects and various learning activities, it’s helpful if you’re aware of the six “selves:  self-control, self-discipline, self-confidence, self-reliance, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.  Like the pieces of a puzzle, all of these “selves” fit together to make the whole child. 


This chapter contains groups of questions you can use to guide your kids to think about the work (activities, assignments, projects) they are doing in terms of these six “selves.”  The questions focus on the task they are doing; how well they are doing it; problems they are encountering; how they feel about doing it; and their reaction to the final product.




A PARENT’S GUIDE To Questions And Thinking


Questions are the key to critical, analytical and creative thinking.  This guide defines the different kinds of questions used in this book and examines the thinking skill that each type generates. 


Parents Handbook: Coming in 2014

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