Author Archives: Rachel

Parenting children

3 Reasons Why You Should Say No to Therapy

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.

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Parenting children

How One 4 Year-Old Jumped From a Developmental Level of 18 Months to Top of Her Class

She was like an 18 month old in the body of a 4 year old.

When my daughter came to us, we knew we had our work cut out for us. As foster parents with years of experience in handling kids with special needs, we had already planned out a complete program for her.

Because our daughter came to us with a background of severe neglect, and was so severely delayed, there were people who doubted whether or not she could ever be “normal.” But while in the beginning it was a lot like raising an 18 month old in the body of a 4 year old, we always knew that she was not only smart, but sweet, loving, and determined to succeed.

So when we took her to be evaluated by a psychologist after she’d been with us for 6 months, I looked forward to the results. I was certain they would show at least some of the hard work that had been done with her. After all, here was a child who saw a child with a toy that was just like hers and was convinced it was hers. She had no concept of the child having stolen it – that was beyond her – she only knew that somehow her toy had mysteriously appeared in some other child’s hands.

The tests placed her as "severely retarded."

As I sat and watched her “perform,” I was bewildered and embarrassed to find that she did dismally on the tests. Even more infuriating was the psychologist’s unwillingness to hear what I knew my daughter was capable of. As an educational specialist who also gives didactic evaluations, I am careful to ask parents if the performance of their child compares to the child they know. It’s certainly not unusual for children (or anyone for that matter), to perform poorly in a test situation. Regardless of what I said or did, her IQ tests placed her as severely retarded. The psychologist told me it was progress: last time she was so low functioning he couldn't even test her.

As I left the office, I tried to make some sense of the conflicting information. What I realized was this: I had spent 6 months working on skills, not concepts. When I sat down to evaluate her, it was immediately obvious to me that I couldn’t start teaching her to draw a circle if she didn’t even have a concept of a drawing.

I focused first on helping her learn the skills she needed in order to be ready to learn. That’s because in learning, good skills are critical to a child’s success. However, possessing good learning skills doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll know a lot.

Just like a fork, a spoon, and a knife are necessary if you want to eat in a civilized fashion, but are not food in and of themselves, learning skills are tools that allow you to acquire knowledge efficiently and effectively.

Another important point: the WISC for children, which she’d taken, isn’t a great test for telling you how your child learns, and what her specific areas of strengths and weaknesses are. In comparison to Dr. Mel Levine’s evaluational tests, it’s a lot like comparing a flophouse piano to a Steinbeck baby grand.

Can you tell I hate IQ tests with a passion?

I find them limiting, demeaning, and inaccurate. I’ve met so many parents who lost all hope and faith in their child after seeing the results of a test that was never designed to measure intelligence anyway. Aside from that, I personally know so many children who tested below average, only to be retested later (after receiving the proper intervention), and received a score of average, bright, or even genius level.

I refused to let an IQ test determine my - and my daughter's - reality.

So I returned home, determined to do what I knew was right for my daughter. I continued to focus on skills, generally introducing concepts in the context of learning a new skill. We played games to teach her number sense, and to improve her vocabulary. We worked on improving her ability to express herself, while at the same time building her vocabulary. She learned about where animals live, what people need to survive, and what makes a family – but skills were always first, concepts second.

And you know what?

It worked.

A year and a half after she first walked in our door, she has just turned 6. She knows all of her colors, shapes, numbers, and letter sounds. She wants to know why things are like they are, and how they came to be that way. She is particularly gifted in math, and is already adding numbers in the hundreds. She is also a popular girl in her class, and will hopefully go up to first grade next year.

We call her our “little miracle.”

Update: Since so many of you asked, here's what's happening now. My daughter is now ten years old, and in fifth grade. She is an A student, although she works hard for it! There are still issues that we are dealing is a process, and she (and I) are still growing.


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Parenting children

What’s a Mom’s Work Worth?

What is a Mom’s Work Worth? [infographic]

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Parenting children

3 Little Known Reasons Why Your Teen Acts Up

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.

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Expressive Language

Hands on Learning Games: Use Wordless Picture Books to Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language

Does your child have difficulty expressing himself? Often children with delayed language development have a meager vocabulary to draw from when speaking. They may have a lot to say, but don’t know what words to use.

Being able to speak fluently requires numerous skills. Your child needs to have a rich vocabulary of words, as well as be able to recall those words quickly.  He needs to be able to understand his listener’s point of view, so that he can add important information if necessary. And lastly, he also needs to know how to organize his thoughts so that what he says is coherent and makes sense.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned several ways your child can improve her expressive language skills: creating stories from a fun trip, playing the command card game, -even creating a strategy guide for their favorite video game.

In this hands-on learning game, your child will use wordless picture books to build her vocabulary, improve her memory, and practice her sequencing skills.


Your favorite wordless picture book. There are plenty to choose from, but here’s a list of great wordless picture books to browse.

How to Play:

1) Flip through the book and decide whether or not you will focus on nouns or verbs. This depends on what you want to accomplish with your child, as well as which the book lends itself.

If the book has a different character for each page (similar to “The Farmer in the Dell” or “Brown Bear” –which is not wordless but still a great choice) then you would choose to focus on nouns. If the book has one main character, then you would choose verbs.

2) Assign one word to each page. You can ask your child to think of the word by saying, “What is that?” or “What are they doing?” When your child answers, condense that answer to one word, and repeat it as you point to the picture. If your child has difficulty naming the picture, tell them the correct word.

3) After 2 to 3 pictures, ask your child to name the noun or verb for each page. You can choose to use the pictures as a clue if your child is younger or has moderate to severe language delays.  Otherwise, you can simply close the book and ask them to name the words that they heard.

Don’t worry if this is difficult for them in the beginning; help them out if necessary by giving a hint (first letter, first few sounds in the word). It’s better for your child to be successful with hints than fail with no help at all.

TIP: You can have your child name and remember pictures in groups of 3, so that they never have to remember more than three pages at a time. If this is too easy for your child, you can have your child remember 4 at a time, or require that they remember all of the pages.

You would do this by: first having your child remember the first 3 pages, then add on one page, asking your child to remember all 4. Continue adding on a new page until your child knows all of the pages in the book.



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Parenting children

Parenting Children: The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting Your 3-5 Year Old to Sleep

Are you struggling with a toddler or preschooler who refuses to go to sleep?

Getting children to go to sleep is one of the most talked about issues that concern parents, second only to getting your child to behave. I've had parents in near hysterics, trying to deal with a child who throws huge tantrums when asked to go to sleep.


While I certainly wouldn't suggest you go as far as the cop in this video did (or the mother who called him), lack of sleep has been proven to cause temporary insanity.

At any rate, there are several things you can do to help your 3-5 year old go to sleep without too much trouble:

1)Do stick to a schedule.
It's tempting during summer break to ease up on bedtime routines and allow your child to go to sleep late. If done occasionally it doesn't present a problem. However consistently allowing your child to dodge regular bedtimes creates confusion.

Persistent children will challenge bedtime, since it's their nature to push the envelope. Other children may feel insecure when routines aren't followed, and react with disruptive and unruly behavior.

If you decide to allow your children to stay up late occasionally, schedule it first. You can decide to let your kids go to sleep late once a week, and choose a specific day.

2. Do follow a consistent bedtime routine.
This is an obvious one, and many parents feel that they've got this base covered. The key to this, however, is giving over the responsibility of carrying out the bedtime routine to your child.

Even if your child is as young as three years old, they're capable of following a chart with pictures, putting a sticker on a picture when the action is completed.

The magic of this lies in the fact that many children view bedtime as something imposed from the outside, causing them to rebel simply because "Mommy told me to." Putting your child in charge as much as possible reduces this natural resistance.

3. Don't use incentives or prizes for going to sleep longer than 30 days.

Incentives and rewards are a great way of providing the extra push a child needs in order to attempt a difficult task. The best way to use incentives is in helping your child to stick to a habit.

Since acquiring a habit takes about 30 days, this is the maximum amount of time you should use prizes or incentives for a particular behavior.

4. Do allow your child a crutch, if they need it.

As long as the crutch isn't damaging to your child's health, go ahead and let your child sleep with all 25 cars in his car collection. It won't hurt him, and if he manages to go to sleep despite the space limitations, why not?

Most children discard such unusual sleeping arrangements when they get old enough to be embarrassed about it (usually by the age of 9 or so).

5. Consider using natural sleep aids or remedies.

There are numerous safe natural alternatives that will help your child settle down. Passiflora, for example, is safe for small children. It can be made into a soothing tea, and can help calm an overtired toddler or a too-full-of-energy preschooler. Lavender in a pillowcase has also been shown to promote sleep.

note: This is not medical advice, nor should it be taken as such. Use common sense, and ask your doctor before you give anything to your child.

6. Don't forget to try and make up for lost sleep yourself.

Living with a child who refuses to go to sleep can affect your work, health, and your marriage. While you may not be able to make up all of the sleep time you've lost, do try and "power nap" for 15 minutes or so sometime during the day.

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Hands on Learning Games: How to Help Your Child Learn Word Families

child reading

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.


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Parenting children

Parenting Children: Are We Training Our Children for Failure?

Are we teaching our children to see failure as a learning opportunity, or as a source of embarrassment?

I was speaking yesterday to a close friend of mine, who homeschools her children. Her eldest, who is 15, is now a freshman in college, and has just finished her final exams. My friend, whose blog you can visit at Single Mother (check), explained that her daughter received top scores in all but one class, where she unexpectedly scored a 57.

I groaned sympathetically, remarking that her daughter must have died of embarrassment. “Well, actually,” she replied, “she wasn’t embarrassed at all. “Because my daughter was homeschooled, she never learned to be embarrassed.”

She added that teachers and parents train kids to feel shame when they fail: we write failing grades in big red letters with remarks like, “you can do better than this.” Or when a child comes home with a poor grade, our first reaction is not, “What do you think you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” but, “How in the world did you get this grade?!”

Her daughter, on the other hand, never experienced this. So she was even able to go up to her friends and reveal her low grade. Surprisingly enough, none of her friends’ reactions were especially negative either. Most simply responded, “I’m surprised at you!” and wished her better luck next time.

This conversation got me thinking. How much energy do we expend feeling embarrassed of our mistakes? Even more importantly, how many times do we sabotage our chances of success because we are so afraid of failure? Intellectually we know that failure isn’t that much of a big deal; after all, we’ve had a lot of experience at it, so you would think after a while we would finally learn to accept it and move on. Somehow, though, we don’t.

Instead we wallow in our failure, and lo and behold, others, influenced by our negative attitude, reinforce our sense of shame with negative remarks and discouraging behavior. It’s as if we invite all of that negative energy by the lousy attitude we have about ourselves.

How different would things be if, instead of putting ourselves down, we confidently replied to others, “I’ll do better next time.” I suspect the response would be generally encouraging as well.

If we want to help our children see failure as an opportunity instead of a life sentence, we need to start with ourselves. When we mess up -whether it’s big time or just the little league- our children need to hear us saying,” Wow, I didn’t expect that. What should I do to make sure that doesn’t happen again?” Even if we slip and start condemning ourselves, it makes a world of difference if our children hear us saying, “I shouldn’t be beating myself up about this. I need to think about what I can do to make sure I do better next time.”

Little by little, we’ll begin to break the failure cycle. Maybe one day our children will even remind us not to be so hard on ourselves.

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Parenting children

How to Solve Stubborn and Disruptive Behavior – Part 1

Helping Your ODD Child

Raising kids is a lot like riding on a monster roller coaster. Half the time you’re going up the hill, anticipating the drop on the other side.

The other half of the time you spend screaming your head off and wishing you could get the heck off – and whoever said this was fun anyway?

Sometimes trying to figure out what went wrong feels like Mission Impossible.

Sometimes it’s something that’s popped its ugly head out in the space of a day or so, kind of like the time I woke up and found a massive colony of army ants had invaded the girls’ bedroom. Other times it’s something that sort of crept up on you slowly, like mold in the bathroom shower. One day you wake up and decide that behavior has got to go.

Either way, parents are often at a loss when it comes to figuring out how to get their child’s behavior back on a (relatively) even keel.

In order to help you out, I’ve compiled a series of posts that will help you determine why your child is acting out, what to do about it, and more importantly, how to make sure that behavior doesn’t come back.

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Parenting children

Raising Children In This Brave New World

I've been noticing a disturbing trend among the parenting crowd.

I guess it took me a while to catch on; but it somehow it seems to be seeping up through the fabric of our society like sewer water creeps out from underneath a poorly sealed toilet base.

It's bad enough that we seem to have forgotten that children are not our personal ego machines, prepped and prepared at the tender age of two for Harvard-like preschools. And maybe it's more than the hysteria about our children's imagined inability to take care of themselves.

In Britain, a mother was fined and reprimanded for leaving her 14 year old son to watch her toddler for a half hour. Interesting how teenagers are incapable of watching a toddler but deemed fully capable of having one.

Perhaps I should have caught a whiff when helicopter parenting became the norm, and those parents who dare to treat their children with anything less than kid gloves are not only criticized, but harshly prosecuted.

Do we truly believe our children are so completely incapable? How can it be that parents insist on the importance of raising responsible children, yet deny them any and all opportunity needed to become responsible?

I suspect that there is a deeper issue here.

Although I don't pretend to psyhoanalyze this new breed of parents - that would be like reaching deep down into the infamously convoluted sewer systems of Paris-I have a feeling this is about more than just parents wanting the best for their children.

In fact, I don't think it has anything to do with our children at all. Is it our fears for ourselves in this growing amorphous mass of humanity?

It seems that this new "social connectedness" has in a lot of ways caused us to be more fearful and distrustful of the individual at the same time that we embrace the group.

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