Tag Archives: parenting children

Parenting children

Hi-Ho, Hi- Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go OR How Not to Panic When You Discover Your Child Just Doesn’t Get It


Let's say you just found out your kid is not quite up to where they should be.

Or maybe they're not even close to where They say they should be.

Or heck- let's just go all out. Let's say you knew they were behind, like, a while ago, but didn't do anything about it.

You had your reasons. Maybe some of them were even good, sensible ones. But, like the Road Runner when he realizes he's about to fall off of the cliff, it just hit you that you messed up big time.

So what.

Yep, you heard right. SO WHAT!

Now head to a mirror and sing to yourself, "I screwed up but I don't care!" to the tune of Oh, I'm a Lumberjack and I'm okay. Because life happens. Even the best of us don't get around to doing the stuff they should be doing, when they should be doing it .

So you have two choices: Suck it up, or suck it up. Meaning: you can accept the fact that you were off-track, and get to work, or you can wallow in guilt and chocolate (not a bad plan actually - just kidding). In which case you'll still have to suck it up, but it'll be gooey and lumpy and full of undigested particles.

Believe me, you don't want to do that.

And just to prove that stuff like this happens to be the best of us, I'll share with you the not-so-earth shattering revelation that hit me today:

This evening the kids and I spent some time reading books together. It was almost bedtime, but not quite close enough :), so I decided that instead of having them run around and get wild, I’d do a quiet, focused activity.

As we sat at the dining room table and read, I noticed that G., the 4 ½ year old is still having a lot of difficulty with her expressive language. Like many children with expressive language issues, she has plenty to talk about – except when you ask her something specific. In fact, usually I have to stop her from talking, since (as is also common with hyperactive girls) she often talks around, under, and over everyone else.

I’ve actually been quite concerned about her overall language development. Initially, I decided to go easy on her and let her develop at her own pace. She is very petite, and between her size and her behavior is very much like a child a year younger than her actual age.

I’m not always into pushing therapy on a child unless I have to, and since I had seen steady progress with her, I decided to just let her be.

But this year I’m noticing that her progress in language has pretty much slowed down to a crawl. There are a lot of things she has trouble remembering the names of, although about a third of the time she knows what it is once she’s told. And although her ability to remember what she’s learned in nursery school is a little better, it’s not even close to where it should be.

I could beat myself over the head about this: You should have found time. It doesn't matter that your daughter just got married and before that you moved to a new city, and that you have 2 other children with learning issues, one who just started first grade. You're SuperMom, right?

But I'm not going to. Chocolate is cheaper. And less painful. At least in the short run.

Yes, it does mean that there are now 3 kids that will need help. It will also mean that my gifted son't extra stuff is going to have to take the back burner - again. But that's life.

Anybody want a shovel?


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Parenting children

Parenting Tips: An Easy Way to Teach Your LD Child the Stuff They Need to Know

How to sneak a little learning in - the easy way

Sometimes parents ask how I manage to teach so much to my LD children.

“How do you find time to work with clients, run a house full of 9, and work with your children?” they ask.

The truth is, it’s not easy! I plan topics monthly to learn with the kids, and then break that down into weekly lesson plans. We don’t homeschool, but I do have about an hour a day set aside to do “table work” with them. Those are activities that I want them to do that are either in my lesson plan, or relate to learning skills like auditory memory or expressive language, that they are weak in.

Still, I can’t say that I always cover everything I want to. Some days they get involved with one activity, so everything else gets pushed down. Other times technical difficulties get in the way, like I ran out of ink, couldn’t find the resource that I wanted, or like last Thursday, when I sat down to go through a song with my youngest- the computer speaker died. And sometimes it’s such a beautiful day that we drop everything and decide to go to the park.

That’s why I try and focus on everyday learning as well: whenever I see a learning opportunity, I try and involve my kids in meaningful, hands-on activities that will help them understand what we’re learning.

Today we folded and packed envelopes for my daughter’s upcoming wedding. As I folded and they placed the invitations in an envelope, I explained to them what letters are, and how they get to where they’re meant to go.

I focused on sequencing with the 6 year old, by asking her periodically to repeat the steps the letter takes on its way to its destination. She also learned some new vocabulary, such as “sender,” and “receiver.”

How the Mail Gets Delivered

The 4 ½ and 3 ½ year old learned some new words as well: letter, mailman, post office, address, and mailbox. I don’t expect them to remember everything at once, but since we’ll be mailing the envelopes later on in the day, and working on other activities, they’ll pick it up in a few days.

Then I remembered that we have a song that was a favorite when I was a kid, called “The Mail Must Go Through.” So after we folded envelopes (and put in another load of laundry, tidied up the bathroom, and thought about what to make for lunch – no meal plan, I’m not that organized :)) – I put it on. I let it play several times (good thing I like that song!) until they were familiar with it. Then I stopped it after a key word – “go”- and let them fill in the blank.

After that I used the presentation below to help them improve their auditory memory skills:
The Mail Must Go Through Presentation


Then in the afternoon I read them a book about mail (you could read “A Day With a Mail Carrier” with your child if you like).  We again focused on our new words as I read the story. When I came to a sentence with one of the new words, I stopped, and let the kids fill in the blank. If they had a hard time, I pointed to the picture to give them a clue.

I also remembered seeing this make your own letter box a while back, so even though I don’t have time right now to make it look fancy, I found a hanging file folder lying around and after rummaging in our art supplies (plus I cheated- I printed out some fancy paper), and put those in, adding some colored pencils and a few lone markers. The box will be a great way to store all of our letter making supplies.

It’s not as pretty as I would like, but after labeling it “We send letters” it does the job. The kids were excited to write to their Grandma and Grandpa, and everyone learned a new concept.

Mission accomplished!

Here are some more related hands on learning games we'll be doing the next day or so:

TIP: Here's another game, plus some extra resources you can use if you want to do these activities with your child:


If you have an older child who’s interested in more details about how the mail gets delivered, visit this site, written by a mailman: http://www.mailmantips.com/mail.htm


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Parenting children

Language Development: How to Help Your LD Child Fall in Love with Learning

Can your LD child fall in love with learning?

For most children with learning disabilities, learning is about as enthralling as a nails dragged recklessly across a dusty chalkboard. Day after day, year after year, they are forced to bare their weaknesses to the world, told to “try their best,” and work without an end in sight.

If you’re the parent of one of these children, it seems impossible that your child could grow to love the very thing that is seemingly their downfall.

It is possible however. And it isn’t something that will take years or months to accomplish, either.

Learning and school are NOT the same thing.

When many people think of learning, they think of homework, tests, and surprise quizzes. Of course many children can and do learn numerous things in school. However, it might surprise you to realize that some of the most important learning your child does is not in school.

Let’s take a look at the practical side of things. Before your child entered school, they mastered an enormous variety of skills: that Mommy and Daddy will come back if they go away, how to let you know when they want something, how to walk, talk, and feed themselves, and much more. The fact is, if our children had to rely on us to teach them all of those things in full, most of us would probably be sitting around drooling in our soggy diapers.

If you disagree, think about how much work it is for a therapist to teach your child even the smallest of subskills.

Children are born with a natural drive to learn.

Children are naturally hard-wired to learn. And not only are they hard-wired to learn more about themselves and their environment, they are driven to try over and over again until they succeed. Any parent who has tried stopping a toddler determined to take out the covers from an electrical outlet knows what I mean.

So even though a learning disabled child may have a harder time of things, until he enters school (or a school-like environment) the drive to learn is still pretty strong. In fact, it only peters out by about 3rd or 4th grade, when he and/or his parents finally realize what they’re up against. That’s the age of a large number of my clients are when they approach me for an evaluation.

Help your child see learning as a natural thing to do.

One of the most important things for your LD child to understand is that they are learning successfully all of the time. It may not be something as mundane as which three ships sailed the ocean blue, but it may be just as important.

According to http://missiontolearn.com, learning is “the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes.” That means that each time your child figures out how to advance to the next level in his favorite video game, that’s learning. Every time your child considers how he and his friend can get to a football game when you can’t drive them, that’s also learning.

Instead of rolling your eyes the next time your child spends an afternoon plugging away at this favorite game so he can get to the next level, use specific praise to point out an important factor in successful learning: “You are really persistent; you don’t give up! And you figured out how to beat the system too.”

Or, the next time your child argues with you about why her curfew should be extended, defuse the situation – and throw in a little specific praise about your child’s use of problem-solving skills: “Hmm, I can see you’ve been thinking about both sides of the situation pretty carefully. Let’s write down what you’ve come up with so far.”

Let your child’s natural interests fuel his learning.

You can encourage your child to develop important learning skills if it’s done in the context of a favorite hobby, or other interest. Help your child find magazines, books, websites, and specialty groups (check appropriateness for children or monitor your child) or forums.

But if your child is into dinosaurs, for example, don’t automatically go out and buy everything a kid could possibly have about dinosaurs. Half the fun is trying to acquire that elusive piece that will round out collection. And the time that your child spends drooling over the 17-inch life size model of a rex and reciting all the relevant facts about its habitat, eating habits, and strength, is time well spent.

Work around your child’s limitations.

Even if your child has significant disabilities, nowadays there’s really something for everyone out there, in nearly every format available. For children who are visual learners, there are YouTube videos on nearly every subject imaginable. And free programs like Natural Reader can be used to give a struggling reader access to material that would otherwise be beyond him.

Don’t forget audio books, podcasts, and even free powerpoint presentations at places like Scribd. Not only is it usually free, but there is often excellent content available for people on all different levels.

Don’t add “school-like” assignments, hoping to get more bang for your buck.

Sometimes parents see how deeply involved their kids are in a particular interest or hobby that they decide to “sneak in” some learning task. They mean well, imagining, “Ahh, here’s a perfect opportunity to get Justin to finally read more. I’ll just pick up a few books and maybe ask him some questions about it…” It almost seems criminal to pass up an opportunity like that when you see your child is anyway sticking his nose into a big encyclopedia anyway.

Don’t do it!

Not only do you introduce a type of learning that is instinctively unpleasant for your child, but you end up essentially taking over something that should be mostly in your child’s hands. Parents who do this will find their child suddenly display a complete lack of interest in something that used to excite them.

And even if you realize your mistake and try and woo your child back, you’ll probably be unsuccessful: your child will always be suspicious that any kind of interest on his part will just be another chance to get him to do more boring stuff.

Show interest in what your child enjoys.

I know your busy, and that sometimes hearing for the tenth time exactly how, where, and what army ants eat may lose its appeal, especially at the dinner table. But by sharing your child’s excitement, you not only fuel his interest in the subject (it’s no fun if you can’t share something you love), but you also build a stronger, closer relationship with your child.



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Parenting children

Tantrums: 3 Must-Know Tips About Your Child’s Meltdowns

sad pumpkins

It’s showdown time, and it ain’t a pretty sight: on one side, stands J. Unior, an expert fighter who can whip out a full-scale tantrum in ten seconds flat. And on the other side, trying to look as if everything’s cool and completely under control (but failing miserably) is…J.Unior’s mom.

Ugghh. I know what that’s like.

I used to think that nuclear meltdowns were for “other people’s kids.” Passing a mom trying to handle her own little nuclear reactor aroused feelings of pity – and perhaps a bit of superiority- that I would never tolerate such abominable behavior. Didn’t they know how to train their kids?

And then our foster girls came.

Suddenly, I had children that wanted everything they saw, didn’t know how to handle a no, and were quite vocal about making their opinions known. And while the older one learned fairly quickly how to handle herself, her younger 2 ½ year old sister took a bit…longer.

So there I stood at my local superstore, holding a child who screamed so hard that not only did she have to be taken out of the store (well, to be honest we’d fled the store long ago) but had people stopping to stare, convinced I must be doing something, even though absolutely nothing was going on. It’s a wonder people didn’t think we kidnapped her.

The truth is, we tried everything , but nothing seemed to work – until I hit on these 3 tips that stop those meltdowns before they hit full tilt:

Some children abhor change.

It took time for me to realize that S. was easily overwhelmed when in public places. Initially I thought her reactions were due to a specific place (that grocery store’s lines are too long, this one has really bright lights, etc.). But after examining each incident, I realized that she used a lot of energy just trying to keep herself together when she left home base.

It didn’t matter how exciting the place was (that just made it worse, actually) or how calm the surroundings were (then we all stood around watching her cry, thankful the place was empty, and wishing we could get home). It was simply the act of leaving a place where she felt safe and knew what to expect that threw her a loop.

Watch out for sensory overload.

There were times, when, surprisingly, our trips in the Great Outdoors fared well – for a little while. Then suddenly everything caved in, and from nowhere-stage 7, red alert.  That’s when I realized that while most children could handle a decent amount of sensory overload, S. couldn’t handle very much at all.

I originally thought I could sweep in and out in a half-hour, a reasonable period of time even for a child with special needs. But for her, 10 or 15 minutes was about all she could take. So we lured her outside while the going was good with offers of bubbles, going to a nearby playground, or a healthy snack. Then we took her to the side where she could have some down time.

Preparation is the key to success

The secret here is not your regular “remember what to do if you feel upset sweetie,” game plan. Because of her history, she was literally unable to remember consequences: she made absolutely no connection between what she did and any reward or negative consequence that came with it.

So instead, I tried a different tactic: backwards chaining. Backwards chaining is what you use when you teach your children to put on their clothing. So the first thing you teach them is how to put on the last item of clothing – usually shoes. Then you might try socks or pants, and then a shirt.

Most parents do it naturally, without realizing how powerful a technique it is.

Here’s what I did:

  • I cut down on the amount of time spent outside to about 5 minutes. This was the amount of time I knew for sure she was able to keep herself together. I also hoped the short span of time would help her learn to connect her actions to the consequences (not necessarily negative).
  • Right before time was up, I told her, “Look how calm you are! No crying!” Then I gave her a small treat after we left the store. I then asked her, “Are you calm? You’re not crying, right?” When she answered me in the affirmative then I told her that because she was calm, she could have a treat( a chocolate chip- you can buy ‘em off cheap at this age if you’re smart J). I then let her take the treat on her own.
  • From then on, I gradually moved back the time I waited until I mentioned the reward. Instead of asking her when we’d already been in the store for 5 minutes, I waited until we were there for 7  minutes. At that point, I only reminded her about the treat, explaining that since she is so calm she will get to have a treat as soon as we leave the store and sit on the bench.
  • We continued this way until I was able to remind her at the beginning of the trip. Then I gradually extended the amount of time we spent at the store and – voila!

A happy, calm child.


Did your toddler or preschooler ever pull a truly epic tantrum on you? What did you do? Tell me about it in the comments below.



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School Tips

What NOT to Tell the Teacher on the First Day of School

Be prepared - not.

Perhaps you believe in the old Scout motto “be prepared.”

So you’ve tacked together a 27 page manifesto on the care and handling of junior, complete with cell phone numbers of everyone from your next door neighbor to the stock boy at the  local produce store (just in case you happen to be out choosing a watermelon when World War III starts).

And while you probably spent a good deal of blood, sweat, and tears – not to mention time – on the Great American Novel, let me give you a piece of good advice: pack it away for a good long time.

Like forever.

"I love your kid, but can't you see I've got something good going on here?"

What it comes down to is this: in the first week or two of school, most teachers are busy enough trying to get their class used to being a class. They spend their time on getting to know the kids, helping everyone adjust to being in school again, and basically trying to make sure that the year gets off to a good start.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence, both as a principal and as a private consultant. And no matter what the age, culture, or creed, one thing holds true for almost every situation: never bother the teacher the first week of school unless it’s a medical issue, or a very practical one (like, Jimmie hates to use other people’s bathrooms).

Why, you ask? Well, although it might seem like a great idea to make sure your child’s teacher knows everything there is to know about your child, the last thing a teacher wants is to receive a manual the size of War and Peace.

Lots of instructions=lots of work

I mean think about it. Ever bought a gadget, only to take out an instruction manual thicker than the packaging the thing came in? How did that make you feel? Did that make you feel like running to the nearest table so you could dive right in and start using your expensive, I –bought-it –because-I –really-need-it thingamabob?

Or did you groan, and put it away until you had more time – like maybe during the next power blackout?

Of course it’s important that your child’s teacher know how your child learns best. I’m all for that- heck, that’s what I do (and I absolutely love it too).

But there’s a time and a place for everything. You’ll have plenty of time in a few weeks to tell the teacher all kinds of good (and not so good) stuff. But when that time comes, you’ll want to do it in a way that builds a good relationship with your child’s teacher. That could mean volunteering your time in the classroom, offering to help cut out turkey feathers for 27 turkeys, or simply catching the teacher during a quiet moment.  There are numerous ways to show gain even the most reluctant teacher’s cooperation (I’ll be writing a post about it in a week or so, so keep your head up).

But for now, take a deep breath, and have a little faith that things will go okay.

And if you absolutely must let the teacher know some important bit of info, jot down a quick note to the teacher. Start off with a friendly greeting and end off with a wish for a great year, and keep the middle short, sweet, and to the point.

And hey, look on the bright side: now your kids won’t have to steal your good printer paper to color on.

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Parenting children

Facing the First Day of School As a Parent of a Child With Special Needs

I can't believe another year is beginning.

I guess if I were like some parents of neurotypical children, I'd be a bit worried about the new school year. Perhaps concerned over whether Cassie or Carson will have an easier time of making friends this year. Dreading math - this year is times tables and that's sure to be hard for Jani.

But since I'm the mom of 3 very definitely atypical children, the new school year brings more than its share of dread and worry along with the sharpened no. 2 pencils and colorful new backpacks:

C. is supposed to start first grade next year. Can she handle it? She often doesn't understand what the teacher says during story time: how will she manage when the teacher explains a whole new unit? But she can't do a "developmental kindergarten": there would be nothing for her to gain there.

And S. will start learning his letters this year in earnest. I know he'll have trouble, and I know why. Unfortunately I've been so busy with life, I haven't been able to do everything I want to do to bring him up to par.

And Y.? He'll be starting junior high. On the one hand he feels proud of himself for having made it this far in one piece. He's in a special program geared to boys with reading issues like himself, and so this year he has a level playing field.  But will it really help him? Will the staff really feel driven to make sure he goes as far as he should?

And for all of them: a year where we as parents will need to step up to the plate, not just once or twice, but constantly. Advocating for your child is a full-time job, even if you're lucky to have sympathetic staff. It can get tiring sometimes.

So at first glance, the new school year seems as bright and cheery and hopeful as a brand new copper penny: looks all nice and fancy in it's paper wrapping but...it isn't worth much.

Key word here though folks, is seems.

Yeah bob, I could choose to look at everything with a jaundiced eye, expecting the worse just to keep myself from losing the best. No one would blame me at all if I sat on my backside and complained about how hard things are.

But I'm not going to give in to that.

I'm going to think about a little girl who at four and a half, was not much more advanced than my neighbor's 18 month old. That little girl - bless her - worked her buns off, and a year and a half later is now a healthy, happy kindergartner who can talk in full sentences, knows all of her letters, and isn't afraid of flies zooming around when she goes to the bathroom.

I'm going to picture in my head the little boy who even I couldn't understand about 80% of the time. Now that same  boy is so determined to be understood, and so wittily eloquent, that he can hold his own.

And last but not least, I'll stand by - for once - and let my teenager handle the bumps and bruises and heartachingly exciting moments of junior high.


Because I refuse to focus on failure. I am absolutely unwilling to define my future by the tragedies of the past.

The days of looking for miracles, cures, or changeling children are long gone. Instead, my goal - and I hope yours will be too - is to keep putting one foot forward, and then one more, day in and day out.

I know we'll get there. Eventually.





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Parenting children

3 Tips on How to Encourage Empathy in Your Preschooler-Parenting Children

Is your child oblivious to how his actions affect others?

Have you ever watched your child at the park, or in the schoolyard, and noticed they just don’t seem to connect well with other kids? For some children, this means that they appear not to notice that they’re hogging all the toys, unwilling to share – while the other children look angrily on.

Others don’t notice when another child has hurt themselves. They’ll often walk right on by, even to the point of stepping over the crying child without a look at whom they’re stepping over.

We’re not born knowing how to empathize with others.

Empathy is a basic trait that can be seen in babies just a few months old. When a baby notices the happy look on her mother’s face, and smiles, or notices a frown and looks worried or upset, that is the beginning of empathy.

But while empathy is an important trait, it isn’t inborn. We learn how to be empathetic through the experiences we go through in life. And as we age, we continue to deepen our ability to empathize on an emotional and intellectual level.

If a child can’t empathize with others, they won’t get along with them either.

Your child has numerous opportunities during the day to show empathy. How will Mommy feel if I touch this glass vase? How will my little brother feel if I take his toy away? Your child uses empathy to imagine how others feel, and react appropriately.

If he can’t imagine how others might feel when he does something, or if his friends feel he is too self-absorbed to care about them, he’ll suffer.

You can, however, teach your child to be more empathetic. Here are some tips you can follow in order to help your child learn to be more empathetic:

Encourage your child to help others.

Even a preschooler has many opportunities throughout the day to help others. Each time your child helps another person, draw their attention to how the other person feels now that they’ve helped. For example, let’s say you’d like your child to bring a toy to the baby.

Before you ask him to bring it, remind him of a time when he needed something and someone else helped him. Remind him how he felt when that happened, “Remember how happy you were when Daddy got the ball out from under the couch for you?”

Then when your child brings the baby a toy, say to your child, “Look how happy the baby is! See how he’s smiling? You made him so happy.” This helps your child learn to recognize feelings.

Teach your child to recognize nonverbal body signals.

Part of being empathetic is noticing the subtle nonverbal signals that we give. Teach your child to recognize some basic ones, like body posture, and facial expressions. You can do this with pictures, or demonstrate it yourself.

Strengthen your child’s ability to see cause and effect.

Noticing that mom is angry is one level of empathy. But realizing that mom is unhappy because something happened to make her upset, is a higher level. You can strengthen your child’s ability to see cause and effect by pointing out instances of as they occur throughout the day.

For example, if you’re feeling frustrated because you can’t find your keys, say to your child, “I’m feeling really frustrated right now. Do you know why? Because (add the emphasis by changing your tone of voice) I can’t find my keys!”

When you find your keys, ask your child to guess how you feel. Suggest they look at your face and your body language for cues (be specific). When they correctly guess “happy,” ask them why. If they need help you can give leading answers “because I found my ---“

Understanding cause and effect is the foundation of teaching your child how to problem solve. And a child who can use her empathetic skills to solve problems is one who looks to make the world a better place not just for themselves, but for others as well.




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Parenting children

Parenting Children: Is Equality Always Fair?

There is an emerging trend towards gender shattering: the so-called obliteration of gender roles, designed to put girls and boys on equal footing. The quest to raise a child unencumbered by society’s expectations exploded into public discussion with the birth of “Storm.”

Storm’s parents have declined to make their infant’s gender public knowledge: only the baby’s parents, siblings, and the doctor who delivered the baby know its gender. Instead, they hope their gesture is “a standup to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime."

At the Egalia preschool in Sweden, the pronouns he and she have been abolished. Instead, staff members use a neutral pronoun, or refer to the children as “friend.”

The preschool makes a special effort to ensure that no particular toy is seen as for boys or for girls. The Lego blocks, for example, were specifically placed next to the kitchen area to “make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction.

In both instances, the assumption is that by giving children the “choice” to choose –whether that choice involves girls playing with Legos or boys wearing pink tutus, will allow a child to develop to his or her full potential.

Free from society’s preconceptions about how things should be, these children will usher in a world where boys and girls not only have equal opportunity, but are equal (read: the same) in every way.

But the issue here is not whether or not it’s healthy - or even possible - to raise a genderless child.

The real problem is that in an attempt to level the playing ground so that everything’s equal, proponents of genderless parenting are actually being unfair to their children.

Let’s think about it this way. When I go into a class and request special accommodations for a child with special needs, some teachers wonder if those accommodations are “fair” to the other children. They understand that the child needs those extra considerations in order to fulfill the basic things that are required of them in class.

And yet, they worry that the other children will think that those children have an unfair advantage. My answer is that being fair means providing the experiences and materials a child needs in order to succeed. If a child needs more than what’s being given, than to provide him with those accommodations is fair.

I give the same answer to my kids at the dinner table. “Why should he get the special yogurt, or a chicken leg instead of the fish sticks?” one of my children asks plaintively. I always answer that this is what he needs, so that’s what he gets.

The point is that it’s not always fair to give everyone the same thing, whether it’s a toy, a haircut, a meal, or an opportunity. Fair is giving your child what they need in order to reach their full potential. Some children need so much help that you’ll always find yourself on call. Others seem to magically putter along on their own, with little intervention needed.

Biologically, socially, and emotionally, we know that boys and girls are different. There’s nothing wrong about that, and everything good. If they are different than, then their needs are patently different. And giving them what they need in order to grow and develop? Well, that’s just what’s fair.

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Parenting children

Parenting Children: What to do When Your 6-8 Year Old Wants to Sleep In Your Bed

You’ve finally mastered the art of helping your preschooler get to sleep – and stay asleep- in their own bed. For several months, perhaps even a year, your 6-8 year old has been pretty good about going to bed on time (relatively) and staying there for the night.

So when your first or second grader suddenly begins asking to sleep with you, you may find yourself asking in shock, “Didn’t I do this already?!”

Actually, a renewed desire to get into their parents’ bed is not uncommon at this age. Here are some tips you can use to help your child settle down in their own bed:

1. Give in for a little while.

Some children have a strong need to sleep in their parents’ bed. If the bed is large enough, it might be easier on everyone to allow your child to sleep with you for a limited time. Even if your child has already started sleeping in your bed for a few nights, you can simply explain to your child that you’ll let them sleep in your bed up to a specific time.

Then mark on the family calendar what day they will begin sleeping in their own, and remind them to mark off each day that has passed. You can plan something special for the last night, like a popcorn and movie night in your bed, celebrating the night they will be “grown-up” enough, or brave enough to sleep in their bed on their own.

This method does NOT work, however, if your child is the type who resists change, is very strong-willed, or who holds onto patterns once they’re started and won’t give them up.

2. Take your child’s fears seriously.

Children of this age can be vivid dreamers. Their dreams may be heavily influenced by frightening things they’ve seen, read, or heard. It’s not until your child is eight or older that she learns how to protect herself by closing her eyes, or avoiding a scary movie or story altogether.

In the meantime, it helps if you take your child’s fears seriously. At this age your child realizes that bad things can happen, and that their parents can’t always prevent them from happening.

Their fears often stem from the understanding that they may be relatively powerless to prevent things from happening to the ones they love. Boys, for example, may dream of fires, while girls may dream of things happening to their mothers.

The best thing to do is to sympathize with the feelings behind the fear. If your daughter says she dreamt mom got hurt in a car accident, the last thing you should do is explain how unlikely a car accident is to happen, or how her mother wears her seat belt every time.

Instead, sympathize how scary that must make her feel, or how sad. Having her fears validated will allow her to let go of them, or at least be willing to let them go for a while.

3. Try incentives.

Often a little incentive plan will be enough to keep your child in bed. For the most part, they are old enough to enjoy sleeping in their beds (and to realize that most kids their age sleep in their  own beds), and simply need a little extra comfort or help dealing with their fears.  An incentive plan will generally be enough to help them get over this temporary difficulty.

Consider helping your child earn a prize that has something to do with bedtime. For example, new books, bedding, or a lamp might be good choices.

Then, decide how long it will take for your child to get the prize. This depends partially on how long the behavior has been going on. If it’s just started (a few days or less) you shouldn’t need more than a week and a half to two weeks at most.

If however this is a behavior that’s been going on for several weeks, then it will take your child at least twice the time that the behavior has been going on in order to allow the new habit to take hold.

First, you’ll need to be very specific about what you expect from your child. It’s not enough to say “will stay in their bed the whole night.” Instead, choose the specific behavior you want your child to do. For example:

-changes into pajamas and brushes teeth when asked

-chooses three books/stories on MP3 to read in bed

-gets into bed when asked (put specific time)

-stays in bed quietly (you can give extra points if the child comes to your bed but goes back to bed when asked; this would be less points than staying in bed, but still worth something)

Then decide how you will reward your child. You can give your child stickers, use points, or have your child trade stickers for points. Then your child can use the points to work towards his prize.

You can also take a picture of the prize, cut it up into puzzle pieces, and give a puzzle piece instead of a sticker. When your child has all the pieces of the puzzle, she gets the prize.

When your child finally completes the incentive plan, share your pleasure with their success. And remember, however rough things get – your child will most likely be sleeping in their own bed by the time they hit their teens.

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Parenting children

Parenting Children: 3 Tips on How to Create Rituals That Bring Your Family Together

When I was a kid I devoured the entire Little House series. There was something fascinating about Laura, who was actually a strong female role model during a time period when most action adventure heroes were boys or men.

Equally appealing were the warm times the family shared together: sitting at the fire telling stories with the winter wind howling outside, turning the little house inside out for a good spring cleaning, or just the simple day to day chores that a pioneer family carried out in the fight to stay alive out on the wild prairie.

Today’s modern families look nothing like those pioneers of yesteryear. Between texting, iPads, MP4s, laptops, video games, chat groups, and online games for preschoolers, families spend less time actually interacting together then they ever have.

Even during times that are traditionally family times, such as dinner or family vacations, parents and children often find that technology is an unexpected guest.

But regardless of whether you are part of the traditional mom and pop family setup, or you are a single mom or dad raising your grandchildren, research shows that children whose families spend quality time together are happier, have better self-esteem, are more resistant to peer influence.

Most people imagine that it’s the big stuff that brings a family together: the trip to Disneyland, the annual camp retreat at Lake Winnebago, or a visit to the Liberty Bell. In reality, while those also have the potential to bring your family together, they can also be a tremendous source of stress, even to the point of making things worse than they were before.

Rituals, on the other hand, are a great way to bring your family together without placing a whole load of stress on your family. Because rituals are predictable, they are something that family members can anticipate, as well as look back upon with fond memories. Plus, rituals usually involve the whole family, so each member can feel special and a part of whatever event you’ve got going on.

Many people think of rituals as occurring only during holiday times. In reality, any time can be a good time for a ritual, if you know how to set things up. Here are 7 tips you can use to create rituals that will bring your family together:

1) Involve the whole family

If you plan on creating a new family ritual, make sure it’s something that everyone can join in and participate. Older children and teens may initially complain about it, of course, but if you make an effort to treat each member’s contribution as equally important, those complaints will eventually fade out.

For example, if you plan on making a meal once a week that everyone must attend, let your children help plan the menu, shop, and prepare the food.

2) Don’t make a huge deal out of it

Of course you want this time to be special and meaningful and all that, but remember that the specialness comes from the event itself-not the hype around it. Plus, too much hype puts a lot of pressure on the participants to make sure that everything goes right. A better choice would be to be low-key about things, and let the success of the ritual speak for itself.

3) Make sure it’s regular

Ever hear of that children’s song called “The Mail Must Go Through?” The words go something like this, “No matter if it’s rain or snow the mail must go through.”

Now your family may not have the same delivery rate as FedEx, and being a family means that things sometimes happen. But it’s important that your children can count on that ritual occurring whenever you say it will.

Whether it’s a special breakfast on the first day of school, or a weekly dinner, make sure you do whatever it takes to keep the flame going.

Creating a family ritual may not be easy in the beginning. You’ve probably got enough things to do, your kids may complain, and your partner might think you’ve been reading a new self-help book again. But if you keep it up, your family will have the pleasure – years later – of remembering those special moments that actually made you happy to be alone with your family.

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