Where's the fire? 

"Mom, but everyone will be going to the party! I have to go."

Since when does our child's emergency become our emergency? Only if you let it...

Kids are notoriously bad at planning ahead. Heck, they have a hard time seeing past the weekend. But many children are very skilled at trying to get their parent(s) to react to their perceived crisis and pass their anxiety onto their parent.

The best thing you can do is to refuse this "gift" and let your child continue to carry the anxiety.

Parent: "I understand you really want to go to the party, but we had already planned to visit grandma that weekend. Perhaps you can attend the next party if you ask ahead of time."

Now they may not like this, but by doing so you can help your child plan ahead or at least stop you from being a dumping ground for their problem. Those who carry the anxiety about a problem are more motivated to find a solution. Keep the anxiety where it should be in this situation--with them.

Show A Little Gratitude!

There is a quote that is attributed to Socrates (469-399 B.C.) that goes: “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”  Sure the words might be a little different, but have you ever caught yourself saying something that sounded an awful lot like that in spirit about your own kids?  It’s hard to believe that Socrates had the same complaints about children over 2,500 years ago that parents have today.  But then again, maybe the nature of the parent-child relationship is timeless.

At its core what parents often feel is that their children don’t show enough gratitude for everything they have or even worse for what their parents do for them.  And beyond the “Back in my day we didn’t have an XBox 360, I played with a stick in the mud” harangues meant to shame kids into writing thank you notes to grandparents and unload the dishwasher, perhaps parents (despite their methods) are onto something.

It turns out that gratitude is good for us.  Scientists like Robert Emmons have studied the effects of gratitude – things like keeping a gratitude journal.  They found that it has positive effects on us physically (e.g. stronger immune systems, fewer aches and pains, lower blood pressure), psychologically (e.g. more and higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, pleasure, optimism, and happiness), and socially (e.g. being more helpful, generous, compassionate, forgiving, and feeling less lonely and isolated.) [1]

There’s more: people who keep gratitude journals have been found to exercise more regularly; report higher levels of alertness, attentiveness and better sleep quality (sure those might go together); and emerging research shows that daily gratitude practice may have some benefit in warding off coronary artery disease.  And for the kids that Socrates was complaining about?  Research shows that people disposed towards gratitude do not measure their success based on the accumulation of material possessions - which they value less highly - and are more likely to share their possessions with others.  They are also less likely to be jealous of other’s wealth.[2]

Gratitude goes beyond good manners.  “Thank you” is an important part of gratitude of course, but there has to be a genuine feeling behind the words.  So, make sure you are cultivating an attitude of gratitude in your home.

  1. Make gratitude a habit. Find time each day to have your children say what they are thankful for that day; then reciprocate by telling them what you are thankful for.  Science shows that this actually helps to re-wire our brains to keep us from automatically scanning for the negative.
  2. Teach your children the definition of “window shopping.” If you avoid a trip to the mall because it either costs money or results in a meltdown it might be time for teaching the concept of delayed gratification.
  3. Help your child practice gratitude – volunteer. There is no better way for your child to understand how fortunate he or she is than by helping those who aren’t as well off.  And it provides an opportunity for your child to focus outside of him or herself in very important ways.



Stop me if you've heard this one

A joke usually isn't as funny the second, third, or tenth time you hear it. After a while you tend to say to yourself, "I've heard this before. I know how it is going to turn out."

Funny, your kid says the same thing when you repeat yourself when making a request or enforcing a rule. While some repetition is necessary to help in learning, most parents make the mistake of  constantly repeating themselves trying to get a point across to their kid.

 Therein lies the problem. Repeated reminders in the same conversation are not helpful. Repeated reminders over a period of time in different circumstances is helpful. The first instance is nagging. The second is teaching.

Are you nagging or teaching your kid?

Looking for a New Year’s Resolution? Think About a “Screen Time Diet.”

Electronic devices have become ever-present in our daily lives, and most children today have access to some sort of electronic device, whether it be a laptop, tablet, smart phone, or video game system. With schools introducing tablet devices and using smart boards, videos, and other multimedia to educate children, it’s easy for children to be exposed to numerous hours of screen time every day. Multiple studies illustrate the impact screen time can have on children, such as reduced social skills/difficulty with peers, delayed language development, irregular sleep patterns and sleep disturbance, hyperactivity, emotional issues, social and/or behavioral issues, and obesity.


Screen time can be habit-forming, and many children love their electronic devices, which can make managing screen time difficult. Following are some suggestions to for a healthy “screen time diet:”


  1. Set limits. Kids needs and expect rules and limits. Usage of electronic devices should have reasonable limits. If your child’s use of technology seems to hinder participation in other activities, it’s likely time to limit usage. If your child is using screens right up until bedtime and having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, it’s likely time to consider scaling back pre-bedtime usage (just a half hour of no screens before bed can have a positive impact on sleep).
  2. Be a role model. Limit your own use of electronic devices and engage in face time away from screens.
  3. Consider co-engagement. Be involved in your child’s use of electronic devices. Not only will your participation facilitate learning and social interaction, but it will also allow you to monitor your child’s media consumption and use of electronic devices.
  4. The quality of time is more important than the quantity. Rather than just setting a timer for electronics usage, consider how you child is spending his or her screen time. Does that “educational app” require more than just pushing and swiping? Is the app, game, or media age appropriate? Organizations like Common Sense Media (https://www.commonsensemedia.org) can help you to find media that matters.
  5. Create tech-free zones and times. Unstructured playtime is important, as it stimulates creativity. Encourage daily tech-free playtime. Encourage family time, healthier sleep, and healthier eating habits by implementing tech-free family meal times and recharging electronic devices outside of bedrooms.


Wish you all the best for a happier and healthier new year!

Put Down Your Phone and Parent!

You’ve seen the signs and bumper stickers: Put down your phone and drive!  Maybe you’ve even said it yourself when you’ve been cut you off in traffic and you noticed that the driver had a cell phone plastered to his or her ear.  And the “Don’t text and drive” campaigns are pretty brutal these days with their images of dead and broken young people whose lives are forever changed because they didn’t wait to send that reply.  But my concern about society’s addiction to the smart phone is outside the automobile.


Mobile devices are changing parent-child interactions in ways that we are only just beginning to understand and the effects are not good.  Pediatricians, educators and psychologists have been warning for a decade or more that children have been spending too much time watching television and playing computer games and not enough time engaging in creative play or getting exercise.  What is now starting to be understood is that parents and caregivers have become so absorbed in their mobile devices that it has markedly changed the way they interact with the children for whom they care.


It’s a familiar scene at any fast food restaurant: a harried parent a cell phone in hand with one, two or three kids of various ages and their special kids’ meals.  The adult’s head is down looking at the phone, finger swiping away, while the kids are variously eating, climbing around in the booth, running back and forth to get straws, ketchup, pick things up off the floor, bicker, and (depending on their age) cause different amounts of mayhem.  Mom or dad will occasionally direct a child to “eat your food,” “sit back down,” “stop bothering your sister!” and all the other things that parents say to their kids in this situation (often with rising volume), all the while continuously swiping at the little plastic screen.  And the kids keep doing what kids do–ignoring what the parent says, because really who is talking to them?


Dr. Jenny Radesky, a pediatrician at Boston University Medical Center, and her colleagues decided to study what happens in exactly this scenario.  In 2013, they observed 55 such interactions between parents, nannies, and children in fast food restaurants; in 40 instances the caregivers became absorbed in their smartphones.  The researchers noticed that in some instances the children increased their bids for the caregiver’s attention: singing, acting silly, even going so far as touching their parent’s face.  The worrisome part–the more engrossed the caregiver was in their smartphone the more likely they were to respond harshly to the child’s behavior–often scolding the child for behaviors that were likely intended simply to get the parent to pay attention to the child rather than the phone.


Catherine Steiner-Adair interviewed more than 1,000 children for her book The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age (2013).  She was surprised to hear the degree to which no matter what age they reported feeling sadness, anger, frustration and exhaustion vying for their parents’ attention against technology.


Children learn everything from vocabulary to emotional control from their face-to-face interactions with us.  So isn’t it time to put the phone away and give them the attention they so desperately need?  Just like the texting and driving campaign says: “It can wait.”  Reviewing your Facebook page, surfing the web, playing Candy Crush, or replying to texts or emails are rarely life or death matters.  Yes, sometimes an email or text is important and time-sensitive.  Sometimes a phone call is important enough that you need to take it in the middle of dinner–or a therapy session.  But those should be the exception to the rule.  “It can wait.”  Your child’s emotional well-being can’t.