Parenting middle school children is kind of like a close encounter with an alien species: suddenly the child who was calm, collected, and fairly responsive to parental intervention is an expert on imitating The Blob at one moment, and a raging tiger the next.

Of course, as parents we know to expect this, but somehow I think most of us get caught out in the rain on this one. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

It’s not that we don’t want our children to grow up to be happy, successful adults who can handle pretty much whatever the world throws at them – it’s more like we’re hoping we can skip the vegetables and cut right to the dessert.

For those of you who insist on eating your green beans before the chocolate mousse pie, here are some tips that will help you understand why that hulking stranger in your child’s bedroom sometimes acts like they do:

1) Sleep deprivation

Teenagers are fantastic at the great denial: the insistence that they are not tired, and have too much to do anyway to possibly even consider sleeping.

The fact is, however, that your teenager is growing at a rapid rate. Both boys and girls can add an extra 8-9 cm a year to their height. Toss in added muscle mass, bone density, and the general increase in hormones and you’ve got one heck of a stone soup.

All of that growing means that teenagers need a lot of sleep- at least 9.5 hours a night. Since studies show that the average teen gets only about 7.4 hours of sleep a night, you can probably guess the result: a cranky, grumpy teen who acts a lot like they did when they were three and needed a good nap before they were human again.

If you do the math, you can easily see that a teen who gets up at 6:00 am for school would need to be in bed by 9:00 pm in order to get the right amount of sleep. Unfortunately, studies show that many teens aren’t able to fall asleep that early, because their brains aren’t ready for bed.

You can help your teen get the sleep they need by encouraging a regular bedtime (the body can’t easily make up missed sleep), encouraging your teen to participate in some form of exercise during the day, and eliminating caffeine.

2) Hunger

As a parent of a teenager you may have noticed the rapid disappearance of foodstuffs in your house, and so hunger would usually not be on your shortlist of why teens can get out of control.

Unfortunately for your food budget, growing teens really do need a lot of extra energy. Plus, it’s quite common for teens to fill up on junk or fast food, depriving their bodies of the protein they need for long-lasting energy.

You can help your teen by providing low-fat, high-energy protein snacks, such as peanut butter, beef jerky, cottage cheese and fruit, tuna, protein bars, and believe it or not – oatmeal.

3)Time with you

It may seem hard to imagine, but your teenager really does want to spend time with you. Most teens do want a relationship with their parents; they’re a lot like toddlers, who want to be independent while reserving the right to monopolize your attention.

If you take a look at your teen’s day and see that most of your interactions were on the order of “are you ever going to take out the garbage” or “turn down that music-not all of us want to go deaf,” then you might want to consider taking some time off to spend some quality time with your teen.

Sometimes teens are wary about spending time with their parents because they imagine it’s merely a cover for “the big talk.” So you don’t have to plan a night out on the town, if that will raise your teen’s hackles. Instead, make an extra effort to be fully “there” when your teen comes home, or sits down with you at the table.

It’s easy to be so focused on socializing online that we forget the people in front of us.

Instead, put away the ipod, the Blackberry. Shut off the TV, and send your PC to sleep. Try something novel and old-fashioned instead: Talk to your children. You might be surprised at what they have to say.

Originally posted 2011-02-14 02:08:36.


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1. Get your child back on a normal schedule about a week before school starts. It’s natural to let things slide a bit during vacation-heck, that’s part of the fun. But if you want your child to be functional during the first few days back, then you’ll need to make sure that they go to sleep on time, and wake up on time.

In order to do this as painlessly as possible, try pushing back your child’s bedtime to about 15 minutes earlier, every evening for one week. By the second day you can also start pushing back morning wake-ups by about the same amount of time. Your child will be more rested and you will feel less stressed, (hopefully) not having to wake up exhausted kids.

2. Buy everything they need BEFORE school starts. Okay, this one seems obvious, but how many of you have pushed off getting an item from the school supply list, either because didn’t have time to buy it, thought it wasn’t so important, or had no clue what the teacher really wanted?

Not only is this stressful to children, but unfortunately some teachers get really annoyed at your child because they are not prepared. Do yourself and your child, do whatever it takes, but get everything your child needs, and put it away until school starts. Your child and his teacher will thank you for it.

3. Talk to your child about what the new year will be like. Every child has concerns and fears about what the new year will bring. Sometimes children might not speak directly about how they are feeling, but you might notice your child becomes more hyper, moody, or quiet as the first school day approaches.

Try and find a peaceful venue alone with your child, and try and bring up the subject.Your child may or may not admit to having worries. That’s okay; you can still make this a “bonding moment” by sharing some of your best or worst first day of school experiences.

4. Talk to your child about what your expectations are for the year. You probably remember getting this talk from your parents – uggh! But there are ways to present this that are positive, hopeful, and not preachy.

Why not focus first on specific goals that you know your child wants to work on? For example, if this is the year your daughter gets to try out for the soccer team, you can show your support and interest in this new step. At the same time, you can bring up your expectation that she maintain good grades, and continue to help out at home.

5. Send something small but special with them for the first day. In this case, smaller is better. A short note on a napkin in his lunchbox, a cute drawing on a stick-um on the first page of one of her notebooks; these are easy to do, and a prime example of actions speaking louder than words.

Originally posted 2010-08-12 02:50:26.


So you’re feeling like the loser of the century because you forgot to do your child’s therapy exercises – again. Or maybe your child had a bunch of homework you just knew she needed to do NOW, and you told your kid to tell the teacher your mother lost the assignment sheet. And those sensory diet exercises? Yeah, I guess I’ll get to that- tomorrow. I hope.

We all face moments – dare I say days? – when we know we should be doing more for our kids but just can’t seem to get our heads or our hands around it. Somehow the job seems overwhelming when put next to the all the other demands a mother faces.

It’s easy to get so backed up that you can’t even look the job in the eyes again without feeling like a complete screw- up. Ashamed of ourselves, and carrying enough guilt to feed a third world country, we drop the task with the excuse that it can’t be done.

Take a look at the video I posted yesterday. Then read these tips that will help you ditch the loser tag and rock your child’s world.

1)  Just try it. How many times have your kids moaned they couldn’t accomplish some minor (or major) feat? What did you tell them? Yeah, that’s right – classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

It’s easy to let the desire for everything to be perfect stop you: you want to have the right time, the right place, the right materials, etc. But let’s face it, you’ll probably never have the right combination of perfect all at once. Instead of obsessing, make some effort to get the job done. It doesn’t matter if you it’s only a token effort – some attempt is definitely better than none at all.

There, you see? Nobody popped out of the closet and arrested you for impersonating a responsible parent now did they?

2) Bigger is NOT better. A lot of us tend to look at the whole enchilada. Who wouldn’t be depressed? I bet if most first graders realized they had 11 more years (at least) of sucking up to the teacher there would be a lot more tears on the first day of school.

But kids take things one day at a time – and so should you. Stop obsessing about whether or not your child will be President of the United States. Start thinking about what you can do tomorrow that will help your child do better than he did yesterday.

3) Take it where you can get it. Help, I mean. Most moms have gotten over the supermom syndrome. I mean, if you live any sort of life at all with a child who has any issues at all, you get over that nonsense real fast.

But what does happen is that we know need more help, but it’s just too much of a pain in the neck to get the ball rolling. We can’t face the thought of trying to rally up more help – more stuff to do – so we just do it ourselves.

That’s a HUGE mistake. Now, not only does everyone assume you don’t need any help, they figure you like doing it all by yourself.

Of course that’s not true, and you’d figure that any sane person would know otherwise, but alas, these are the facts of life. If you want people to help you, you’ve got to let them.

Sure it may take some time until they figure out the ropes, but in the end it’s worth it. Make a list of five things you need help with, and figure out who you can delegate that job to. Then do it!

Originally posted 2011-05-22 21:58:17.


This hands-on learning game is great for improving your child’s vocabulary. A game that is easy to make and fun to play, both gifted children and children who have speech delays will benefit from playing.

Parents whose children suffer from language delays can use this game to help build up their child’s everyday vocabulary, or to teach new concepts.

Often children who have language delays have trouble learning and recalling the names of common objects. This results from a weak auditory memory. They may also speak in very simple sentences, and struggle in general to express themselves.

On the other hand, many children with language delays are great spatially, and have good visual memories. They are often able to find their way around easily, are good at finding lost items. They may also be talented in fields like dance, sports, or building things.

Because this game uses your child’s strong visual memory to help bolster his weak auditory skills, your child will actually acquire and retain what he learns. Seeing the actual object is a strong reinforcer for him, especially if it is something found in his house.

Parents of gifted children will also find this game useful. You can use this game as a springboard for new concepts. If your gifted child is still too young to read, you can use the cards and pictures to teach her the names of various things, such as the parts of a flower, the names of common trees, or unusual parts of the body.

If your child can already read, she can use the game alone as an introduction to material she will read later on.


Index cards with box

How to Make the Game:

If you’d like to teach common household objects, make a card for each object you’d like to teach. All words should be items that you actually have in the house. You can use also use this game to teach transportation, wild animals, parts of the body, names of different types of trees, or practically anything else. For less common items, you can use miniatures, or pictures of the actual object pasted onto an index card.

1) Choose your items. Make a list of about ten items. Write clearly in print the name of the object; the word should be at least 1 1/2 inches long. It’s probably easier and quicker to type it, and print it out on cardstock.

2)Read a card out loud. Choose one card, and read it aloud to your child. Then ask your child to find the object. If the child has difficulty, show them where the object is, and have them place the card next to or on top of the item.

3)Play with no more than 10-15 cards at a time. No more than 20% of the cards you use should be new to your child. If these are all new vocabulary, then start with 5 cards, adding more only when your child knows nearly all of them.

Tip: You can also learn actions this way; read the card out loud, and show the child the action that goes with it. Don’t limit yourself to walk, run, and skip. Try out dribble, slouch, or saunter for a change. If you show your child what you mean, these words need not be harder than any other.

Originally posted 2010-09-13 00:44:47.


It’s almost the end of the school year, and you’re faced with a dilemma. should you retain a child

Your child didn’t do so great this year – in fact, his grades put him towards the lower end of the class. And that was with after-school tutors and in class help.

But somehow you and he made it through the end of the year. In fact, when you look back at the year you can see that your child even made a bit of progress.

(Okay, not enough – but you can see the difference).

You’re happy the year is finally over and you’re hoping that next year will be better somehow. Maybe he’ll have a growth spurt, and finally “get it” like the neighbor’s kid did. Or maybe the teacher will be less demanding.

So things are actually looking pretty good…until you get that call from the teacher. The one asking you if would think about letting said progeny repeat the year again.

[click to continue…]

Originally posted 2012-05-24 15:41:42.


Today’s child is a virtual reality child.

Instead of being allowed to climb trees in order to see the sky, we cut down low-hanging branches lest a one fall and hit someone in the head. A private school child may dine on delicacies such as squash fries, yet be banned from cooking in his kitchen on the chance that he hurt himself.

On the other hand, the same child is allowed to dine on a diet of violent or explicit movies, listen to music whose lyrics would make their grandmother swoon, and dresses in clothing designed for a sex-crazed thirty year old.

Such helicopter parenting is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. This is an age where conscientious parents work hard to make sure their child feels great about everything they do – regardless of whether they deserve it or not.

But is this really best for children? Do children actually benefit from a no-fail, no bad-experiences environment?

The answer is no. Extensive research shows that children who are fed a “feel-good” diet, are actually more likely to experience depression, and feelings of helplessness. Instead of being taught that negative feelings like anger, anxiety, and frustration are an indication that change is necessary, they are told that it’s unacceptable to experience “bad” feelings.

It’s no wonder depression medications are the number one prescribed drug in the U.S.

In order to truly feel good about yourself, you need to do good. You must experience a sense of mastery. You need to experience the frustration, the boredom, and the acute distress of trying to make “it” happen, before you can feel good about yourself. No one appreciates success without the heady feeling of having stretched yourself to the limit, and despite the odds, reached success.

That would be a little like swallowing Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Remedy– smells good, tastes great- but made of nothing more than water and alcohol (and a little cocaine or heroin if you got lucky).

Raising children who feel good about themselves is closely tied to being optimistic. Here are 3 tips you can use to help you raise optimistic children:

1) Help your child view setbacks as temporary. Children who are optimistic view setbacks as temporary. When they fail a test, for example, they tell themselves that they’ll do better next time.  When your child experiences an unpleasant event, whether it’s a failed test or a friend who rejects them, first empathize with their feelings.

When your child is less upset about the incident, help your child reframe the incident. Instead of telling your child it won’t happen again (which may seem false), use questions to guide your child to understanding how this specific situation is only temporary. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to convince them: you are merely planting a seed for the future.

2) Give credit where credit is due. Children who are pessimistic look at failure as being their fault (“I failed the test because I’m dumb”), and view success as a fluke, unrelated to their own efforts (“I did well on the test because it was an easy test”). This encourages a phenomenon called “learned helplessness,” where the child feels there’s nothing he can do to better his situation.

Optimistic children, on the other hand, see things completely the opposite: failures are a fluke (“I wasn’t feeling well that day”), while success is due to their own efforts (“ I really studied hard”). As a result they are more resilient when failure occurs, and more likely to see themselves as successful, competent people.

Monitor how you react to failure. Do you accuse your child of not trying hard enough, or of not being smart enough? Those are global assumptions that encourage pessimism. Instead, when your child fails, view his failure as a step towards success. When your child breaks a plate while washing dishes, suggest calmly. “Hmm, ceramic plates are pretty slippery when they’re wet.” He’ll understand on his own that he needs to be careful next time, instead of viewing himself as a clumsy loser.

Your child will learn to view failure as an opportunity to learn how to be successful.

3) Keep things in perspective. Help your child understand that not everything they do will affect them for the rest of their lives. Teenagers especially tend to overgeneralize, assuming, for example, that a bad grade on one test will doom their college prospects forever.

Instead, wait until your child is less emotional, and then gently remind them of a time when they despite their failure, they lived to see another day.

Optimism is a learned behavior. However, it will take time for your child or teenager to change their mindset, so consider it like the drip method of watering trees: it takes time, but it eventually does the job.

Originally posted 2011-05-15 08:30:35.


Being able to hear the individual sounds in words is a critical reading skill. When experienced readers see a new word, they search the word for patterns that are familiar to them from other words that they know. They know that words with the same vowels and ending letters usually rhyme, and they can use this information to help them decode a new word.

For example, imagine your kindergartner comes upon the word “spine.” She must do several things:

1) Realize that this is a new word, and look at each letter carefully.

2) Ask herself if she knows any other words that are like this one.

3) Think of all the words she know, searching for those that end with the “-ine” sound.

4) Use the new words, like nine or fine, and try and pronounce the new word like those words.

5) Read the sentence again to check if that pronunciation makes sense for their sentence.

This is a pretty complex process, and your kindergartner or first grader might get a little confused at any one of these stages. You can, however, help him be a more efficient reader by giving him a “bank” of rhyming words that he can later use to figure out new words.

This game is great for helping children build up their own personal store of rhyming words. It can be played alone, or with another child if they take turns.


Pictures of various rhyming words .Here of some of the most common rhyming patterns:

-ack         -ap         -est     -ing   -ot

-ail           -ash        -ice     -ip     -uck

-ain           -at         -ick      -it      -ug

-ake          -ate       -ide     -ock    -ump

-ale           -aw        -ight    -oke

-ame         -ay         -ill        -op

-an            -eat        -in        -ore

-ank          -ell          -ine      -ink

Store the pictures for each set of word endings in an envelope with the ending written on the outside.

How to Play the Game:

1) Choose two word endings.

2) Put all the pictures in front of your child, and mix them up.

3) Have your child pick one card, and name it.

4) Instruct your child to find a picture card that matches with the card they have.

5) Continue matching the cards until all cards are used.


-You can make this game harder by adding 3 or even 4 word endings at a time.

- You can make this game even harder by choosing only 2 picture cards for each category.

-If your child is reading, you can add cards that have a new word on them, and have your child find the picture card with the same word pattern.

-You can cut out pictures all together, and use word cards instead. Buy or make letter cards in red and blue. Have your child choose two word cards with the same pattern. Let them build the words: the letters that are unique to that word should be built with the blue letter cards. The letters that are the same for both words should be built with the red letter cards. Each word card should be built directly under the same word.

Let your child continue until they’ve covered all of the word cards. They can also copy the words into a notebook after they build them, using two different colored pens.

Originally posted 2011-03-23 08:27:37.

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Parenting teenagers is definitely not a job for the faint of heart.  Gone are the days when your little one cradled your chin and gave you butterfly kisses on the nose. Instead, parents are faced with disdain, constant criticism, and even downright hostility: you are the “enemy,” the other side, and will probably remain so until your progeny leaves the house in search of waters uncharted.

Until then, learning what not to say to your teenager can make this time period a little more bearable:

1) Don’t take what your teenager says to you at face value. Teenagers are really 2- year olds in disguise. Do you remember how your 2- year old would automatically answer “no,” even when you knew he really wanted to say yes? That was his way of reveling in the ability to say no: a recognition of his new ability to choose. All of the negativity your toddler showed was necessary in order for him to develop his own sense of self.

Your teenager is undergoing a similar process. He now realizes that he can judge, decide, choose, and evaluate. He is heady with his own sense of power. So heady, in fact, that he might say things he doesn’t really mean. Sometimes this is just to get on your nerves, but other times he is afraid, confused, or embarrassed to say outright what he wants to say.

2) Don’t belittle your teenager’s feelings or opinions. How many times have you said to your teenager, “That’s really ugly, ” or “that’s a real winner of an idea,” or better yet, “That’s really stupid.” These are put-downs, and no self-respecting person, including a teenager, will react well to anyone who speaks this way to them.

Yet for some reason parents forget their teenagers are not only not immune to this kind of speech, but are even more vulnerable than adults. They are fighting to prove they are smart, good-looking, popular people, and your words will only make them fight harder.

3) Don’t tell your teenager you absolutely forbid them from being friends with … This is a controversial one for some parents, because legitimately there are times when your teenager’s friends might be negative, perhaps even dangerous influences. You might feel you would be irresponsible if you didn’t say anything about the relationship.

However, you need to realize that you will probably end up speaking very negatively about the other party. This will only serve to push your child closer to her friend. After all, you are on the outside.

The friend in question is a bit of an underdog, and becomes more so each time you criticize her. Your child will be forced to defend her friend, because she perceives herself as an underdog also.This only deepens her sense of identification and her need to stick up for her friend, pushing them closer together.

Your teenager is also old enough and smart enough to see her friend despite your disapproval. A better approach would be to say, “sometimes you don’t seem so sure about that friendship,” and leave it to your teenager to pick up the thread.

4) Don’t give your teenager an ultimatum. Ultimatums are usually your response to what you feel is an intolerable behavior or situation. The problem is that usually you won’t be able to stick to them. Your child might also call your bluff, and then you’ll be left with an empty hand.

Instead, tell your child that his behavior is absolutely unacceptable, and that it had better not occur again. If he pushes you, and asks what you’ll do if he does it again, you can answer, “Do I need to tell you what will happen if you do that again? I’ve already said that I don’t want it to happen again, and I expect that it won’t. In our home this is completely unacceptable.”

The truth is that deep down teenagers really do desire the respect of their parents. If you can find a way to give it to them, on terms you both agree on, your teenager’s path to adulthood will be a little less bumpy.

Originally posted 2010-09-08 01:02:43.

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There’s a war going on in a lot of schools, and it ain’t pretty. Helping your child readBy war I mean the tired argument about the best way to teach kids, especially LD kids, to read.

And while it may be nice to believe that schools have your child’s best interests at heart, experience has shown again and again that schools are institutions that cater to the group, and not necessarily to the individual child.

Maybe you’re lucky, and your child is in one of the few schools that is insistent on making sure every single one of their children learns to read, no matter what it takes. Unfortunately, however, there are too many schools out there who are unwilling to do what needs to be done in order to make sure your LD child learns to read.

If you hear staff at your child’s school spout one of the following lies, take note, and teach your child to read yourself (I’ll share with you in a later post the best way to do that). Here’s the list:

Lie #1: They’re not ready yet.

This is school-ease for: we don’t know how to teach your child to read.

If your child is over the age of 5, they need to be taught to read. Waiting longer than that means it will just take that much longer for your child to catch up with the rest of the class. While the school waits for your child to be ready, they’ll just fall further and further behind, until it becomes almost impossible for your child to catch up.

Research has shown that kids who don’t learn to read well by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers.

You don’t have time to wait for your child to learn to read well.

Lie #2: We’re using an explicit, systematic phonics program – it’s the best way to teach your child to read.

Actually, while research agrees that teaching children phonics is an important component of teaching reading, there is no research that shows which kind of program is best, despite what publishers of popular phonics programs may claim.

Nor is there conclusive research that proves what the best sequence is to teach phonics, nor how often it needs to be taught in order to make sure kids learn now to decode efficiently.

The truth is that different kids learn differently. Of my 8 children, one taught himself to read at the age of 3, another seemed to pick it up intuitively with very little teaching, and one knew only 6 letters while the rest of his class read fluently.

How well a particular learning disabled child learns to read will depend greatly on their learning profile. If they have trouble remembering what they hear, for example, then using phonics exclusively will be devastating for them.

On the other hand, if they have trouble remembering what they see, then sight words will have you both crying at the end of the day.

Lie #3: Kids can acquire good reading skills by reading meaningful literature.

This is only partially true. While children can acquire some reading skills by reading quality literature, they can’t learn to read just by reading. While whole language methods sound great, they are not enough to teach any child to read, much less a child with learning disabilities.

People have been arguing about the best way to teach children to read for more than 50 years. For the moment it’s phonics – until some variation of whole language rears its head again, after test scores from years of phonics-dosed children shows more dismal reading scores.

Statistics show that the best method of teaching children to read involves a mix of everything: good literature, phonics, and whole language.

What difference does it make what schools say?

The fact is that no one method is best for teaching children  – especially LD children to read. We do know, however, that the best methods use multisensory, systematic instruction to teach children to read. But one child may do best with Orton-Gillingham, while another might only catch onto reading when taught the Montessori way.

Instead, some schools insist on using methods that don’t work, simply because that’s the way the wind was blowing that year. That’s unacceptable, especially since we know how critical good reading is for school (and life) success.

Yes, maybe some people have managed without being able to read well, but that’s not a best-case scenario. It may not be exciting, but the facts speak for themselves: no single intervention will work for all children.

If you want your child to learn to read – and ultimately it is your responsibility – you might just have to search and try out different methods until you find one that works for your child.



So. You’re raising a child as best as you can.

One with “issues” as they say.

Raising said child takes up a substantial amount of your time. Between the speech therapy and the play therapy, the sensory diet and the occupational therapy, it’s amazing you and your best beloved even know what the other looks like.

Now let’s imagine that even though you always keep one eye out on the horizon for the one thing that could finally be It – someone, somewhere, somehow, still finds it their duty to tell you how you should be running your child’s life.

And not just one someone – a whole truckload of someones.

Wherever you go, whether it’s the teenage bagger at the grocery store, a “concerned” mom at the local playground, a friend, neighbor, brother, sister, uncle, or goodness knows who else, everyone seems to want to tell you exactly what to do.

Actually, there are a lot of things you have to do. Bathing is one thing. Wiping after you go to the bathroom is another. And there are definitely things you have to do if you want have a particular outcome. Like, it’s a good idea to pay your electric bill on time if you like seeing when it’s dark outside.

You can’t do everything. You can’t even do half of everything.

You know it’s a recipe for failure, but can’t seem to stop yourself.

Here’s why.

[click to continue…]

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