Saturday, December 8, 2012

Video Game Violence Upgrade!

An upgrade to my blog is underway.

Nope it's not a computer upgrade.

It's a learning upgrade.  I am very excited by an article (2012)* by Willoughby, Adachi and Good, that studies associations between Video Game Violence and Aggression.   This looks to be a very important study that puts to rest a number of complaints about research in this area.

Unfortunately, it is stretching me to understand their methodology so while I am eager to talk about their research  and compare it to others, I have to go back and refresh my understanding of "Latent Growth Curve Modeling." Sounds fun doesn't it? I am so excited to read it I have cleared 20 other equally highly stimulating tasks off my list to make way for it (e.g., cleaning attic windows, studying the Book of Numbers, and learning about the mating habits of cockroaches to name a few).

If you recall, in the last article I discussed that there isn't really a good ethical way to study causality of violence in children and adolescents.  I gave the example of sticking a hand in a toaster to see if it causes burning.  It would be wrong to experiment this way with children.  It also would be wrong to make children play violent video games over long periods of time, if you think it may cause them to be violent.

The answer is longitudinal studies. Instead of telling 30+ children to stick their hands in toasters, you instead observe 300+ children to see how many stick their hands in toasters over time and then compare the outcomes between the kids that were able to restrain the impulse of sticking hands in toasters and those that couldn't restrain themselves. (My apologies to every impulsive child out there who has ever stuck their hand in a toaster for using this example!) Willoughby, Adachi and Good have done longitudinal research over 4 years on video game violence and aggression among adolescents.  It is a good read.  I still wish you could learn about this by playing an educational video game...oh well.

So whilst I go back and finish my upgrade, have fun Christmas shopping and try to pick educational and social video games instead of violent ones for your kids because it looks like there may be due cause to be concerned that video games cause violence.

*Willoughby, Adachi, and Good. (2012) "A Longitudinal Study of the Association Between Violent Video Game Play and Aggression Among Adolescents." Developmental Psychology. Vol 48, No. 4, 1044-1057.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Video Games and Children (part 1)

There is a ton of research out on the effects of video games and children.  Frankly, reading this sort of research bores me to death.  I wish they had a video game app that explained the effects.  One author caught my attention.  Agne Suziedelyte has written a working paper entitled "Can Video Games Affect Children's Cognitive and Non-cognitive Skills."*   I had hoped I could breeze through it and give a quick summary here.  That is not so likely! She has managed to complicate the thing in a rather serious effort.

 In fact, I have been reading this article and then rereading it. There are a couple of reasons this merits attention.  The first reason relates to the broad claim that "There is no evidence that video game playing increases aggressiveness in children." (pg. 3) In general such broad statements should be taken with a grain of salt.  This is research speak and can be unintentionally misleading.  This sort of statement usually means that the research that has been done is correlational. Correlational means there is a connection but it hasn't proven which causes the other. It's kind of a chicken and egg which came first sort of thing. A statement like this one, can make it sound that there is no relationship between violence and video games. That seems unlikely.   Bushman, B. and Anderson C. wrote in 2002 (*2) that "players who had prior experience playing violent video games responded with an increased level of aggression when they encountered confrontation."

The question is, why would anyone make a broad claim that "there is no evidence of video games increasing violence?"  Well, it just means that researchers need to do a lot more work to really understand the impact video games do have.  That is a warning to us all.  These video games are common and there is a lot of peer pressure out there to buy the lastest offering from Playcenter Five, or to buy the new best Murderer's Creed edition. ( Please excuse the made up names!) That doesn't mean that the games are safe. There is also no evidence that sticking your hand in a toaster causes redness.  We do know that burning yourself causes redness.  I just don't believe that anyone has actually selected a sample of children and a control group to study sticking hands into toasters.  That would be cruel.

The second reason for looking closely at this paper is because this paper comes out of the School of Economics and not the Psychology Department.  I don't know what prompted this Doctoral Student in economics to study video game violence.  The more I dig in to this article, the more I respect the rigor of her methods. It does make sense for this to be an economics study.  You can bet that video games are big business. Forbes magazine(*3) quotes DFC Intelligence (a research firm) as estimating that the "worldwide video game industry will reach 70.1 billion dollars by 2015." Do you think that big business might like to have some research saying there is no proven causality between video games and violence  or that there are positive impacts of video games?

 I'm not suggesting any sort of evil conspiracy.  I am just saying that 70.1 billion dollars is a lot of money.  It wouldn't be surprising if someone who makes their income slicing their piece of the (video game) pie might want to protect that income from research  that would hinder sales. Research that suggested that video games cause children to be more violent could be problematic.

The bottom line is this.  Before you fork out 40$ a game  for Christmas gifts for your kids, take time to ask yourself if you will really monitor their use and play?  Will you really set and follow through with limits? If you will, okay maybe this gift is right for you and your family.  If you won't, I would recommend Santa and his elves should find something else to put under the Christmas tree.

 *Suziedelyte, Agnes. Australian School of Business Research Paper No. 2012 ECON37,  reprinted from the Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection:

 *2 Bushman, B. and Anderson C.(2002). Violent Video Games and Hostile Expectations: A Test of the General Aggression Model. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1679-1686

*3 Rishe, Patrick. Trends-in-the-Multi-Billion Dollar Video Game Industry: QA With Gaming Champ Fatality, Forbes, 12/23/2011.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Help Needed:Video Game update Pre-Christmas Shopping

I heard a parent recently tell me that video games were bad for kids.  At least that is what they were told by a therapist.  That comment is too general for my taste.  In my experience, it has more to do with the supervision of the type of video game, the amount of time playing video games, and whether the child has other outside activities and behaviors.  Common sense tends to prevail on these sorts of things.  

1) Here is a suggestion no one bothers to heed:  Don't put the video games in bedrooms. Get them out where you can see what they are playing and doing. 

2) Do use learning and problem solving software. Unfortunately my repertoire of these is sadly out of date. 
Please help me update this by posting a comment below.  Here are my favorites from days of yore. 

a) Freddie Fish
b) Kid's Chess
c) Pajama Sam
d) Sponge Bob typing.
e) Mavis Bacon typing.
f) Rosetta Stone Language Software
g) Nancy Drew 
h) Google Sketch-up

3) Please limit time on computers and video games. 
4) Please closely monitor any online gaming activity.

I will be doing some research and trying to summarize it in human terms. 

Please, please help me update current learning and problem solving software.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ewoks, Halloween Candy and Post Halloween Fears

My folks didn't let us watch much in the way of scary movies around Halloween   It always seemed like bedtime came really early in October. I wonder if my folks didn't move the clocks ahead of Daylight Savings time, just so we wouldn't see all the scary movies we were missing..  We got to go trick or treating.  We got to carve pumpkins and have Halloween parties.  Unfortunately, without the scary stuff Halloween became an exercise in gross food.  The scariest thing that happened most Halloweens was hearing horror stories about hooks in somebody 's Halloween cookie or caramel apple.

Developmentally, children work through and develop anger around 2-3 and fears around 4-5.  Though I beg you to forgive the gross oversimplification here. Please be attuned to your kids sleep habits following Halloween   Parents usually say their kids don't have nightmares.  Their kid's will then draw me pictures in elaborate detail describing their nightmares to me. The parents are often stunned.

We work with fear through play and repetition. Halloween is a kind of play where we have the opportunity to face our fears. Most kids have a lot of fun dressing up in costumes.  A little bit of role playing adventure is  also good to overcome fears. Sometimes it is spontaneous. When I was doing observations at HeadStart, the kids would express their fears on the playground.  Sometimes a child or a group of children would suddenly start yelling and chasing me.  Sometimes, I would be arrested by a mob of 20-30 three foot tall policeman.  Some days, I would be captured by 20-30  three foot tall monsters. It was a lot like the scene with the Ewoks from "The Return of the Jedi."  It was a lot of work making sure I didn't fall on one of the cute little fur balls. 

The Grimm's fairy tales were also a good way to work through fears.  I don't remember where, but I read one time that modern day, politically correct, disney-esque versions of  these tales actually caused more nightmares.  If I remember correctly, the original tales (which resulted in the death of the villain and were therefore considered more violent), actually were more resolved in children's minds and caused less anxiety. The more politically correct version where the villain saw the error of their ways were next best  and caused some anxiety among children who feared that the villains changed and would change back.  Children are very concrete and don't trust this type of change. The most anxiety provoking were the stories that the villain was run off and never seen again.  Apparently, never seen again is less reassuring than dead. So if you like to tell scary makeup stories with your kids.  Kill the bad guy.  They will sleep better.  Please don't let young children watch Freddie, Jason, Jack or Snakes on Planes.

Oh and one more thing.  If you kids are having trouble after Halloween give me a call 641-753-0440.  Dealing with fears is one of the things I do best.  I think it may come from having older siblings.  Older siblings are never quite as cautious as their parents, about the stories they tell their younger siblings.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Keep your EVERYTHING to your self!

I was sitting at a football game recently and heard a couple of  parents conversing with their children.  The parents were doing a nice job of  separating and calmly dealing with their kids but one thing they said really tickled my funny bone. It also made me remember a lot of car trips with my own kids. These dialogues(by list) are a synthesis of some of those trips. I write this so you know; it's not just you.

 Things kids say in cars
5. How long till we get there?
4. I'm hungry
3. I have to go to the bathroom
2. I don't feel good
1. Mom he's touching me.

Things parents say in cars
5. About 15 minutes
4. We just ate!
3. Can you hold it?
2. Honey, you BETTER pull over
1. Keep your hands to yourself

15 minutes later
Other things kids say in car 
5. How long till we get there?
4. It smells in here
3. I have to go to the bathroom
2. My stomach hurts
1. Mom, he's touching me.

Other things parents say in cars
5. About 15 minutes
4. Open the windows
3. Again????
1. Keep your feet to yourself. 

15 minutes later
5. How long till we get there
Everyone replies:

4. I have to go to the bathroom
Everyone replies:

3. My stomach hurts
Everyone replies:

2. Open the windows

1. Mom, he's touching me

Friday, October 12, 2012

 I recently read an article about building resilience in children. It was pretty boring.  No, not re-silence in children. This article is not about ways to shut them up. Resilience.  Yes, yes, I know, resilience is one of those words  psychologists use  that take a reasonably interesting subject and suck the life out of it. In a nutshell, (have you ever noticed that when you try to summarize something psychologists say you always end up having to use the phrase; "in a nutshell?"  I think that says something about psychologists.) resilience is the ability to bounce back from something stressful. Like a Weeble.  Do you remember Weebles?   You know; "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down."  That is resilience.

We need to be resilient or once something bad happens, we would just collapse. Get a bad grade? Don't bother with even trying to study anymore.  Have an argument with a spouse?  Don't bother getting out of bed. Sounds a bit like avoidance and a lot like what happens when people get depressed.  Fortunately, most of us take time to lick our wounds when something bad happens, but then we get back up and get back at it. That's resilience. We can "try and try again."

ADHD kids are very resilient.  One minute they are getting scolded and the next minute they are up and back doing the same behavior. Resilience is both a blessing and a curse for them. When there isn't a consolidation of learning from the life setback...the pattern is just repeated.  We all do this sometimes.  Kids with ADHD do it over and over again.  To the point of exasperating their parents.  This has a very unfortunate consequence.  Parents would like to be able to tell their kids something once and move on. Do you remember that old shaming statement? "Fool me once shame on  you, fool me twice shame on me."   In other words, we must learn things the first time or we are fools.  What a load of judgmental crap!

 Folks, if you have children with ADHD  you are going to have to use repetition to overcome their ADHD.  No, absolutely, do not try to get first time obedience. I know it would make your life easier.  But you have got to think it through.  If you crush their resilience you will be left with a child that can't bounce back and still can't stop doing the impulsive, hyperactive and inattentive things they do.  They won't learn.  The child just won't have any joy in them at all. Instead of a Weeble you will have an egg.  Same basic size and shape.  Same basic properties.

Just remember..., eggs break!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Gentle Hands & Angry Hands

 When I work with kids on anger, we often spend time talking about about hands.  For young children we talk all the things we can do with hands: pick up a spoon, throw a ball, count our fingers and play with a toy.  We talk about open hands and shaking hands.  We talk about using hammers and tools for our working hands.  We talk about strong hands for lifting and carrying.  We talk closed fists and angry hands.  We talk about kind and gentle hands.

We talk about choices.  It is important to discuss the right time to use our strong hands. We talk about walking with hands in our pockets in the store so we don't touch things that are not our own.  We do not run with our hands in our pockets because we need our hands to protect us when we fall (I made up a silly song for the Head Start Preschool kids for that part).  We talk about when to use a comforting hand with a friend.  We talked about using our strong hands for work but choosing to use our words instead of our fists when we are angry. 

There is a psychological test called the Hand Test (Wagner, E.E., The Hand Test Manual for Administration, Interpretation and Scoring, Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services, 1962)  that involves rating and evaluating peoples response to hands in various positions as a means to attempt to predict aggressive behaviors. The use of hands in different position got me thinking about  our hands and how we use them.  That thought would have probably laid dormant if I hadn't been leisure reading a Louis L'Amour novel at the time. I don't recall which one.  The character in the story discussed that the 'hand shake' was performed with the right hand and was a reassuring gesture because it showed that the sword hand was empty. I don't know what Louis thought about being left handed. However,  it got me thinking about what we say with our hands. It got me thinking about what my parents said to me with their hands.

When I was very young I often sat in my father's lap and played with his thumbs while he talked. 
His hands were furry, more than most.  His fingers were long and squarely tipped.  I would play "Church and Steeple" and twiddle his thumbs round and about.  "Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, whoops Johnny, whoops Johnny" was another favorite game.  Once my father got his thumb stuck in the cup holder in the pew at church.  I was probably playing with it at the time. He was very embarrassed by that.   He had rough callouses on his palms from working in the garden or his shop.  His hands were gentle and rarely spanked. My sisters may remember that differently. I was one of the younger kids in a large family.  His hands were strong he could hold onto most anything he could grab onto.  He wasn't a tall or big man and the strength in his hands always surprised me. He told me once that when he was young he had a habit of chewing his nails and if I think on it, I can remember him doing that once in awhile but not on a regular basis. In later years he had quite a tremor and it disturbed me to watch his hands fumble and struggle.  

My mothers hands were smooth and long. Larry Wilkins once came up to me after recess and told me that my mother had the longest finger he had ever seen.  My mother was a teacher and had recess duty and Larry was ...well Larry, so I am quite sure he was on the wrong end of her pointing finger.  My mother would sit in the middle of the pew and if any of us kids were misbehaving we would soon feel a knuckle thunk us in the side of the head (NOT A RECOMMENDED PARENTING TECHNIQUE).  With 6 kids it kept us in line. I also remember my Mother's hands kneading bread on the kitchen counter and sewing up britches on the couch. I remember her teaching me to follow the words in a book with my finger so I could look at the pictures and not loose my place. I remember her teaching my sisters cross stitch and knitting.  I remember her carrying a coffee cup wherever she went.  Mostly I remember her goodbye touch on my face before she died. 

Hands can say almost anything.  What will your children remember about your hands?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Watermelon: Don't Break the Ice Game

As a parent, you probably know that when your kids have friends over, the friends will likely be fascinated by some toy or video game that your child has and they don't. Your child will probably be bored playing with the game they have become accustomed to using everyday.  You might have to coach your child to play the same old game with their friends a few times, even though your child really doesn't want to do that. Teaching your child to delay gratification and take turns is good parenting.  You might have to step in if the friend becomes fixated with a particular toy even after an appropriate amount of time has passed by. You might set a time limit or number of times they play one game. Another suggestion is breaking for a snack and then redirecting them to play outside for awhile.

Here is a fun food activity for a  party or group of kids.  It is based on the  "Don't Break the Ice" game  made by Hasbro.

1) Using a watermelon, slice it in half the long way down its axis.

2) Now continue making 2 to 3 inch slices down the long axis of each half.
 The rhine of each slice will be continuous AND UNCUT with one side more narrow than the other.

3) Place the narrow side face down on a cutting board.
 Keeping your knife point toward the center of the watermelon slice, carefully cut the interior of each section into 2-3 inch blocks.  The blocks always need to be more narrow at the bottom then the top so they don't fall out prematurely.

4) Set the watermelon slices carefully up on 4 short plastic cups located around the perimeter of the watermelon and on top of a flat baking tray  to catch the mess when the "watermelon ice" gets broken.

5) Each child may now take a turn with a fork, trying to pluck out a watermelon block without crashing the rest of the watermelon into the baking tray.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Games People Play

"Oh the things people say, Lord!
Every night and every day, Lord!
Never meaning what they say, Lord!
Never saying what they mean. "

Great bit of lyrics that! Sunday, Pastor Gregg reminded the children (and all the adults, don't tell anyone the children sermon is good for them too, shhhh!) that words are hurtful.  Even though we teach them things like;"Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me."  Words can hurt.  Words can make things worse.   We teach them to say a lot of things that aren't really true. We teach them to say things like; "every time you point a finger at me you have 4 pointing back at you,"  and "it takes one to know one."    Giving them something to say instead of feeling defeated when someone calls them a name helps, sort of. We call it externalizing defenses.  It would be better if we lived in a world where we didn't have to learn to externalize defenses.  It is part of growing up.

It's true that we need to teach them not to point.  We also need to teach them not to call names.  Lets face it, sometimes the world is not nice place for children. So we try to make the world a better place. We teach social skills to help our kids handle these difficulties. We try to teach them to distract the friend that is being mean, into going and playing a game.  That's hard to do.  If someone is mean to you, do you feel like inviting them to go do something...together? It sounds like this; "I don't feel like arguing, that's you want to go play 4 square?" Sounds crazy but it usually works.  We even teach them that the mean kid calling them names is to be called "friend?" Yep, we really do! Mostly, we teach kids that words can defuse situations and make friends out of enemies.

 It is the right thing to do!

Monday, September 10, 2012

What do you think?

If your child seems to have his or her mouth set to automatic arguing and the safety is off, you're probably feeling pretty annoyed.  There is a distinctive sound that the automatic arguer makes that is clearly identifiable and lets you know, you are under fire. It is highly repetitive and staccato sounding.

But, but, but..., 

You may want to wait for the clip to run out before attempting a counter attack, or... you could change your tactic.  If  using "No if's, and's or but's," hasn't worked, you might try asking them to pick which of the arguments they just presented actually made sense. You might go back to doing time outs for arguing. You might try thanking them for their opinion but that you have already made up your mind.  You could remind them that not every argument is a good one.  You could even suggest that if the next word out of their mouth is a "but," you will ground them from electronic toys for a week until they learn a respectful way to disagree. You might start limiting them to 3 arguments a day. Put an empty tennis ball container on the kitchen counter. and give them the three balls that go in it.  Tell them they have to give you a ball if they are going to argue.  Once the jar is full, then they can review which of their arguments they want to take back.  Conversely, they can take the tennis balls and go argue with a wall. Maybe they will get good at tennis and can argue with the umpire, who knows?

The most important thing you can do is catch them making a good argument. Tell them, "okay, that was a good argument."  Ask them their opinion about something and then value it. That is to say, make their opinion a valued thing when it is requested.  

Those are some ideas..., what do you think?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Words aren't Magical...Whatever!

Last week I spoke about common magic words.  Words are indeed powerful forces and need to be used respectfully.  "Whatever" is a word you will hear teenagers say with great disrespect.  Before you go eliminating it from Daniel Webster's dictionary, you may want to teach your child or teenager when to use it. When they use "whatever" with authority figures, they are clearly attempting to dismiss the importance of what has been told them.  Not a good idea if your child wants to stay out of detention.

 The right place to use "whatever" is as a dismissive device to defuse a provoked attack by a peers.  For instance if you child is called "stupid" by someone, you may want them to defend themselves.  However, getting into an argument over whether or not you are stupid doesn't really work well. It may be better to ignore the comment by the provoker or defuse it by using the dismissive "whatever."  This indicates that the provokers comments are not important enough to argue with. That is taking power with words.

Most social skills are like this.  There is a right and a wrong place to use them.  If you can figure out the right place to use the skill you can teach your kids not to use the wrong place.

Not everyone will be able to hear this advice. Some won't like it.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Some Truly Magical Words!

You can use "abracadabra" and "wingardium leviosa" as much as you want. Neither is half as magical as good ol' fashioned  please and  thank you! We learned to say these magic words when we were very young.  We also learned to use the phrase "you're welcome."  I hardly ever hear that one anymore.  My Grandma Florence always said "thank you ever so much" and seemed to always make it mean so much more than a mere thank you.

Another magic word that is important to teach your child is "okay."  It is so magical the way that word ends arguments.  As a parent, you want that word to be magical.  So you give it power.  What power should I give it, you may ask?  When you hear your child say "okay,' immediately stop the lecture.  It doesn't matter if you think they don't understand.  Stop lecturing immediately!  If they don't get the point it will show up in their behavior so you don't have to keep talking, just stop.  Pick up the lecture again the next day and the next day after that. You want to reinforce their behavior of being agreeable and not arguing!  I could go on but I will assume you just said okay and stop. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Love droppings and other s...tuff!

"Love dropping" is a phrase that needs defining.  It is not a 70's   expression of  free love. It is not the time you wasted on an ex boyfriend or girlfriend. It is the choice you make to see the trail of messes left by your child in a more positive light.  It is your alternative to ranting about the piles of clothing, toys, hair bands, glitter, books, or instruments that your child has strewn behind them.

If you can adjust your attitude from thinking about the piles of .... stuff(?) your children have left to considering the love droppings your children have left, then you may be calm enough to do an intervention. The most successful intervention I have found is the "doesn't belong box".  The doesn't belong box is a tub or box that is placed in a central location. Stuff(s), I mean love droppings, are placed in the box to keep from walking all over them.  At least once a day, when the time is convenient for you (like when your child wants to watch TV or go to a friends house) the child needs to empty the box. I didn't invent this idea. It comes from  the book "Playful Parenting" by Weston and Weston.(  Weston and Weston suggest auctioning off (in exchange for work jobs) items not cleaned out of the doesn't belong box.  I haven't tried that element much but I'm told it works well.

So, if you are tired of tripping through your house and want to clear a path, this is the tip for you.  Decorate a box with your kids and pile their s...tuff in it.  You know the song: "Love will make a way, where there seems to be no way?"   Take it literally!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

No giving the Teacher no dirty looks!

School started here recently.  I'm sure all of your kid's school schedules are already on your refrigerator calender.  They probably have all their books bought, physicals signed, and you have paid for all their hot lunches. I'm sure you have attended all their band and music parent meetings as well as all the football, cross country meetings and signed up to volunteer for fundraisers and organizing all their activities.  You have probably volunteered to sit in as treasurer or secretary for the Pto as well as volunteering in the classrooms and chaperoning field trips. Is anyone feeling anxious yet?

Just a few notes today.
  •  I don't know anything about "Synaptol."  So if you see it as an advertisement here, use it at your own risk. 
  • Remember to watch out for School Buses now that School is back in session.  I still see kids standing in the street waiting for the bus... what did you expect they are kids!
  • Most schools now have web portals that allow you to check your children's grades and attendance. This is not just for elementary kids, most teenagers need to know that you are checking up on them now and again. 
  • Most teachers are pretty good at  keeping  the scores updated on the web portal.  
  • Congratulations to Mr. Phomvisay and the Teachers at MHS. An improvement in average ACT scores to 22.1. This shows we are going the right direction. 
  • One thing I never expected to hear a high school teacher repeatedly say to her class; "Don't ask Questions!"  I can think of a  response to that:  "And you call yourself a Teacher?" Really, I'm a big fan of teachers. It is easy to take things teens say out of context so I don't buy into every complaint I hear from them. However, to tell your class not to ask not teaching. 
  • Not many people added to the Free and Fun list this summer.  I will take that to mean that I have  a pretty good list. Please keep next  year in mind and if you think of a good activity this winter scroll down and add it to the list.  I will publish it again next year.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Parents often want to know what is the best reward system to use with children to get them to start a new behavior.  I have already said in previous blogs that I prefer to use time and attention rewards over money rewards.  Whatever you use for rewards it is important that you use an effective pattern and a desirable reward. The exercise below may help make my point. 

Can You Read This?


If  you just skipped down here to read this, then the reinforcement reward that was used above just wasn't rewarding enough.  It is important to keep this lesson in mind when using rewards with children.  'Intermittent" (an irregular pattern) reinforcement is the best kind of reinforcement pattern to train someone in a new behavior.  However, the reinforcement pattern needs to be frequent at first and the reward must be a desired reward or it will be ineffective. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hours, Minutes & It's ADHD...Mercy!

Hours and minutes are handy little devices. They allow us to share beginnings of work days and school days, set meetings and appointments, they even allow us to schedule fun!  However, there are occasions when time is a hindrance and even a trap.

Anyone can be ensnared by time traps. Waiting in line  is a common trap. For most of us, it is not usually a big deal to wait.  However,  when time pulls you in two directions at one time, that can be an issue. For instance, when you are school shopping with items in your cart and in line for the cash register and suddenly you realize you have forgotten something, now you are caught.  In the meantime, you know you have to pick up your child up from daycare soon.  Do you leave the line, retrieve the item and know you are going to be late to pick up your child? Do you stay in line and resign yourself to another trip to the store?  That is a pretty common trap.  You can handle that though. You can make the choice. The best part is that you recognize the trap and that you have a decision to make.

The person with no conscious doesn't struggle with these decisions.  They just run roughshod over everyone else in their way.  The ADHD person, however, doesn't even recognize the situation for a trap.  They impulsively push into line, or out of it, without recognizing their inconsideration of others.  They are making decisions based on  their last or most pressing thought.  The ADHD individual and the person without conscience will often act the same, in certain situations.  They are very different. The ADHD adult will likely have remorse when they recognize that their behavior was hurtful to others.  The ADHD child may not slow down enough to recognize they have harmed someone. This trap occurs in lots of situations and over and over again, throughout an ADHD child's life. Waiting is extremely difficult for the ADHD child. Just think of all the situations that are time traps for them....


The more hyperactive the child is, the greater the likelihood that they have been treated like they are evil little demons.  The people dealing with these ADHD children have to deal with judgement traps.  They need to recognize the behavior of the child, but take care to consider the child's intention, not just rush to judgment. They must ask themselves the question; "is this child being oppositional or antisocial or impulsive?" The impulsive behaviors need to be redirected.  The oppositional behaviors may need a more serious consequence. The antisocial person is a whole other ballgame.

As a parent, you may have mastered the patience to deal with time traps.  Can you master dealing with your ADHD child's time traps? Can you master dealing with your ADHD spouse's time traps? Can you  master the calmness to deal with all the judgement traps also? ...


Monday, August 6, 2012

Do you know what time it is?

What time is it? Some times are more important than others.  You have taught your children this.  You have!  You have taught them that certain times mean a meal is going to start.  A certain time is for curfew and another for sleeping.  Christmas Day and Easter have events that have particular meaning.  What time do you open presents? What time is Easter egg hunting? My children have learned, that sometimes, when I ask them if they know what time it is, I may just be asking if they are aware of what is coming next. "No it's not 10 am, it's time to clean your room."

 Do you know what time it is? This answer isn't on the clock.  You might recognize it from the calender.  I will give you another clue.  In Marshalltown, last weekend was the tax free holiday. The tax free holiday is a lawmaker gift to parents, to do back to school shopping.   That means a lot of things.  It means it is time to start getting the kids back to bed at a reasonable hour.  It takes about a week to reset your sleep cycle.  So look on your calender and find the first day of school.  You need to start resetting bedtimes a week before school starts.  So if you are the type to give in to your kids " but it's our last day of summer" complaints, then you need to set their expectations so you aren't fighting it the weekend before school starts.  Just like Sunday Night is a school night, the week before school needs to be about preparation not vacation.  So get out the calender, schedule  some  fun for the rest of the summer and prepare your kids for the day they have to start going to bed early.

Do you know what time it is? Time to get ready  to be the parents that do the hard thing again.  Summer is nearly over.  When it is, you get to be the parents that say no!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Parenting and House Odds!

Gambling is not really a great metaphor for parenting. I don't much like gambling. I would rather have a sure thing, than throw my money away on long odds.  Most of us would like our parenting to be a sure thing.  We want to know, that the things we do as parents will work.  We don't want to think that there is risk for our kids.  Naturally, life is full of risks. Nothing I tell you can eliminate that risk. Fortunately, I can tell you that you don't have to play the gamblers odds.  "You Are the House," you get to play the house odds. You get to set the rules in your favor.  The trick is setting the rules so that you win most, but not all, of the time

 The odds  represent hope.  The problem with casinos is that they provide false hope.  People become addicted to the thrill of that hope. Hope is a powerful force. As parents, you get to provide real hope.  As parents, every day is not a trap of lights and bells and whistles to draw in your children.  You do however get to reward your children.  I'm not talking about money or buying stuff.   I'm talking about stuff that really matters.  Time and your attention are the best rewards.   Every kid will be drawn in by gifts and money.  The best reinforcement comes, when the child gets to pick an activity, to do with the parent.  They get to pick the game or even the vacation that the family spends.  They have to know what the options are ahead of time. It is good to make a list and put it on a big board, just like the casino's do.  Unlike the casino, we don't rate the odds. We just pay out.

After all, the only real gamble here is on Love! I like those odds.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Honey, I Love You, Won't You Please Smile :)

Do you remember playing a game called, "Honey, if you love me, won't you please, please smile?" It was a game played with a group and one player would choose a second player to participate. This is kind of like "Duck, Duck, Goose" without  the running around in a circle.
If I remember correctly, the first player would say; "Honey, if you love me, won't you please, please smile?"  The second player would have to reply; "Honey, I love you, but I just can't smile."  The trick was to be able to ask or respond without cracking a smile or laughing.  This game was a lot of fun. 
Sometimes families play this game in a very serious and detrimental way.  They say things like: "If you love me you will __________."  Then they fill in the blank with lots of expectations and demands.   If you love them, then you must prove it.  That sort of conditional manipulation is problematic. To love you  they must do this, that, or the other thing. That's just silly.  
 I have also seen this game on Facebook a lot recently. Instead of being fun, it is a formula that is controlling and induces guilt.  It reads like a computer program (See Below). The first part targets some relationship and is spelled out. The second part of the formula is a hidden implication.  The implication is usually some negative consequence.  
Part 1     Shown   
 If {list target person here}                 
 loves {list a family member relation here}                 
 then they must { like  on facebook}.                  

Part 2a   Not Shown                  
 If {list target person here}                 
 Does not  { like  on facebook}.                 
 They they do not  love {List a family member relation here}             

 Part 2b  Not Shown, also implied.                 
  If 2a applies                 
  Then, you are a terrible person. 

If you love  your children, you love your children.  Liking on Facebook is not required. The things you do to show your love are  called  blessings.  Gary Smalley and John Trent have written an entire book (called "The Blessing"**) about it.  They say that the blessing has four elements.  
                                              a) Meaningful touch
                                              b) Spoken word
                                              c) High expectations
                                              d) Picturing a special future.

Isn't that awesome.  Liking and sharing on Facebook are not required.  The best part is; instead of imposing requirements on one another,  love allows us to own our feelings and make our own choices. Love isn't a trap it is a treat.  We can choose to say "Honey, I love you, but I just won't smile", and if I crack a smile saying it ... , you and I both win ;). 




Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Fresh Cup

I have spoken of the magic of fresh starts. Of the need for children to learn forgiveness.  Of the need for parents to forgive.

The magic of fresh starts. 
It is like a rain in the middle of a drought.
The comforting patter of rain on a roof
The tendrils of water flowing through the once barren grass.
The dancing of raindrops racing down a window.
The softening of the hard pan of earth.
The joy of walking across a lush green lawn.

The magic of the greening of the soul.
The curing of tears in the midst of despair
The comforting holding of reassurance.
The flowing fountain of hope in once barren life.
The softening of a hardened heart.
The joy of forgiveness in our lives.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Last of Yesterday's Coffee & Marshalltown's Finest.

As I write this today, I am drinking the last of yesterday's coffee.  Truth be told, it is horrible. It is only slightly better than instant coffee and that is only because I am splurging and using whole milk for cream instead of skim.This seems to be an appropriate time to address a few other unfinished items.

Marshalltown was putting on quite a show for Ragbrai yesterday, until the storm came and shut everything down.  I got to watch denial in action. I hate denial; it bothers me a lot.  The police came around the concert square asking people to leave and informing them of the impending storm. As I waited  for the rest of my party to return, I watched as people talking about whether a storm was really coming and whether they should listen to the police officer.  I watched people checking their phones for weather updates.  I confess I checked my own phone as well.  Why? I have no idea.  When did we get to the point that we listen to the internet and ignore the local police officers?  That is just silly and foolish.  I could hear the exasperation building as the police officers became less polite and more demanding. I mean, here the city has put on a fantastic concert featuring the Little River Band and Loose Neutral.  The city organized a reception for 23000 bicycle riders and hosted all of their support personnel and vehicles.  But we won't believe our Cities finest about the weather until the storm actually hits town? We owe them an apology and a well done for acting in everyone's best interest.

Denial is a fact of life.  It causes people to do very foolish things. People stay in bad relationships because of denial.  People continue drinking in spite of mounting evidence that they have a problem.  They ignore signs of loved ones deterioration due to Cancer, Alzheimers or other health problems, because they can't quite face it. People drive above the safe limits of their vehicles.  Coaches have 'twice a day' practices in 100+ degrees and ignore signs that their players have heat exhaustion.  People swim at  unsafe beaches and ignore posted signs.  I hate denial.  I hate that some parents don't think ADHD is real. I hate that grown ups assign negative intention to an ADHD kid's behavior because the adult just can't accept that a child, can and will, make the same mistake over and over again.  Adults do all the time.  If you don't believe me, reread this paragraph.  I wonder how many times you will have to read it before it sinks in. 

Sometimes all you can do is educate, wait, advocate, encourage and cheer. We need to wait until people process through their denial and accept the actual loss. We can advocate for policy changes that make a difference.  Like advocating for the installation of splash pads to provide an ungrade to our park system.  We can encourage those facing losses.  We also get to cheer. Cheer for the parent who listens to what their child is actually saying and cheer for a job well done by the City of Marshalltown and it's finest.   

Well, I have reached the bottom of my cup.  Time to move on.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Splash 4 life


If you saw the Marshalltown TIMES REPUBLICAN last week you know that there is a petition circulating for the installation of Splash pads in Riverside Park.  If you haven't please check it out.  There is some funding available from Blue Cross Blue Shield.  To find the petition go to "" look for the "find" at the top of the page and next to the 'magnifying glass' type in "Splash for Life".  Follow the pages.  Feel free to skip or sign the other other petitions that pop up, as is your wont. I think 5 or so come up. 

The Splash for life would be an upgrade to our park and think about the annual BBQ festival, concerts, car shows, camping, Ragbrai and other tourism applications that it benefit and would add to Marshalltown's appeal.  

Of course the best reason is to provide a safe cooling place at the north end of town that is an alternative to the river.  

It is a good idea.  Please get on board

Scott Ramsey-Smith

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dog Days, Gardening, Thunderstorms and Godly Magic

It is that point in the summer. The point that you are tempted to give up.  The enthusiasm for gardening that was there in March, April and May has been crowded out with the weeds and the heat.  The produce is coming in but maybe not as fast or as much as you want. The lawn has turned brown, except for the crabgrass.  Tempers can flare.  Baseball teams get sloppy with fundamentals and really, you just want to get inside out of the heat. The same is true of parenting. August and school are looming around the corner.   The grand plans you had, for your kids, for the summer may have fizzled a bit. You may have gotten a bit sloppy and let the video games run rampant.  When you find a time that you want to lay around like a bunch of lazy dogs, that's when you know.  The dog days of summer are here!


Don't forget to have some fun! As a parent, you may find yourself snapping  at a child's behavior.  The whining and attention seeking are starting to get to you. Don't forget to have some fun.  It's time to change up the routine. Have a sweet corn feast with the neighborhood.  Surprise your kids with a water gun fight.  Go fishing. Take a day and go to the water park or the lake.  Just don't forget to have some spontaneous fun.

Then, reset the expectations with yourself and the kids and get back on track.  Don't try to weed the entire garden., but get back into the habit of weeding a section every morning.  Get the kids back on their piano, band, music, math or reading lessons.  Have them do it early in the day, don't put it off.  You will be surprised to find that  a break in the routine  is magic.  It is the magic of eliminating the guilt and helplessness that builds, like the heat, over the summer.  That rising wave of guilt and helplessness that comes from expectations of what you should or shouldn't have done.  It is the magic of fresh starts. It is like a rain storm in the middle of a heat wave. Don't give in to that helplessness, instead, go for the magic of a fresh start. The magic allows you to reset expectations for the rest of the summer.  It is the magic of forgiveness and renewal.  It reminds your kids that you love them.  It gives them the message "You can do it." 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chocolate smells and time out tells!

"Whachoo got?" said my three year old as I walked, nonchalantly, through the living room.  She stuck her nose up in the air and sniffed.  "Whatchoo got?" she repeated, "I mell chocolate."  I was so busted.  Yep, she got some. How could I say no?  Who knew that my child would have such a prodigious sense of smell.  To this day, I cannot hide chocolate from that child, she still can s..."mell" it a mile away.

As a parent, I was never above trying to slip something past my kids. I must have a tell. You know, a subtle behavioral signal that gives you away.  A tell. It didn't matter what I was trying to slip past them.  Chocolate, ice cream or that I was being serious. My eldest never fell for that one..., ever!  She has a prodigious sense of humor.  I was never able to pretend like I was more upset with her than I actually was feeling.    

Fortunately, time outs aren't about the parent being upset.  We don't use anger to do time outs.  We do time outs because time outs are what they need to learn self control.  If we only did it when we felt upset or thought the child deserved to be punished,  they soon will deserve it. The message becomes; 'You are terrible.' Why would you want to teach your child that?  Nope, we do time outs because the child needs us to give them time outs.  This is great, because we don't have to get upset. 

 The issue here is that some parents don't want to follow through.  They don't want to give their kids a time out.  Maybe they don't like the child being upset or they want their kids to be happy. If the child has earned the time out, they need to get control of themselves before going on.  The message is 'You can control your behavior.' That is why they are getting the time out.  Don't cheat them out of it. The only time I think it's okay to drop the timed part of a time out, is when they fall asleep during their tantrum.  Don't wake them up.  When they do wake, don't lecture them.  They probably were over-tired and just need the magic of a new start. 

Chocolate smells and time out tells
A child grows older day by day
A whispered word and love is heard
let the anger fade away.

Timers count.
Your child will pout
Follow through anyway.
Self control will be their guide
and Love will light their days. 

Chocolate smells and time outs tells
your child grows older day by day. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nearly Free Fun List, reposted

This list was posted back in early June but has dropped off as the month has changed.   If this helps keep anybody out of trouble it is worth re-posting.


Nearly Free List:
Animal Rescue League
Balance the bean bag dancing
Beach Party at home
Bike Races
Bike Ride
Bike Trail
Bocce Ball
Body rolling down a hill
Bubble blowing
Build a kite
Build a model car or airplane
Build Card board fort
Capture the flag
Catch Frogs
Conkers (its a British game)
Craft book activities
Don't break the ice with Watermelons
Draw a logo contest
Duck Duck Goose
Face Painting
Finger painting
Flag football
Frisbee catch
Frisbee golf
Frog Catching
Frog Racing
Geo Caching
Go to Local Conservation Center (In 50158 Grimes Farm)
Home made ice cream
Horse Shoes
Hot Potato
Ice Cream Cones
Jump Rope
Kick ball
Make Tie Dye tee shirts
Make up story telling
Make your own Pinata
Make your own Puppets
Making Gorp
Making No Bake Cookies
Miniature Golf (Homemade Course)
Musical chairs
Night hike
Person Wheelbarrow Races
Pogo Stick
Popsicle Castles
Potato Sack Races
Puddle Stomping
Red Rover
Running Races
Sand castle building
Scavenger Hunt
Secret signal Game
Shadow Tag
Sidewalk Chalk
Sock Tag
Snake in the grass tag
Sprinkler tag
Squirt gun battle
Ten Flags (aka capture the flag in smaller area and have to capture 10 instead of 1)
Toss Across (a very build-able game)
Ultimate Frisbee
Video scavenger hunt
Water balloon fight

Money List:
Adventure land
Apple-berry Farm
County and State Fairs
Go Carts
Go to Corn Maze
Miniature Golf

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thirty Little Piggies Went to the Market

Sneakers, flip-flops and sandals. They were the source of significant controversy at our house while the children were growing up.  My children seemed to believe that shoes were hideous things that they should be rid of, as soon as possible. Riding to go to the store, Dr's office or school?  Got to get shoes on everyone's feet.  As soon as I got one child's feet covered, and started on the next, the first child would kick off their shoes. Once I got them in the car, they would repeat the process.   It didn't really matter if it was November or June. It didn't matter if it was a 5 minute trip or an hour. We would arrive at our destination and I would find thirty little piggies running wild in the back of my minivan. The children were buckled but the feet were free and bare.

To cope with this swine infestation.  I instituted a rule.  (Doing the good dad thing, structuring instead of criticizing) "No taking off of shoes in the car".   My adult daughter harasses me about this now on a regular basis. It was an essential rule.  These days, parents have other feet issues.  The advent of the velcro sneaker has been a valuable asset to some parents.  Others have run into the struggle later trying to get their children to learn to tie their shoes.  Some kids, it turns out, can get stubborn about issues related to their feet. "Can you imagine that?" 

While camping with my sister and her kids recently, I confess I listened to some of their conversations as they moved their children (rather efficiently) from activity to activity.  One phrase, in particular, caught my attention.  "In this family, we tie not tuck."  First of all, well done Doug, doing the structuring not criticizing thing. For those of you who don't know, this is like the velcro issue. It has become popular, among some kids, to keep their new fangled $120 Nike's loose on their feet, so they don't get hot.  (Who would have thunk?) So instead of tightly tying their shoes they simple tuck the loose ends in the sneaker with their feet. Very clever.  But not very secure for hiking.  Would you want to be bending over on a hot day carrying one child and tying...again, the shoe of another.  Not me.  Good rule that one; "Tying not Tucking."

If you run into any children running about named Rainbow Face, What-if or Squeaky, I bet they will have their shoes tied.  Of course, it is about the feet and kids get really stubborn about feet, so maybe not.   Parenting is hard work and sometimes setting the structure still requires a lot of repetition and follow through.Which brings us to our momentous conclusion.  If you have thirty or so stubborn little piggies, they might just have to stay home. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Part 2 of  Bedtime Misadventures. 

Yesterday I discussed the development of fear in 4 year old children. A caution was given against using time outs at bedtimes, to try to stop the misadventures of children, repeatedly, getting out of bed because of fears and to get your attention.

Bedtime routines before the out-of-bed misadventures begin can help.  Getting the bedtime routine done starts early.  If you wait until bedtime to start, it's too late.  Now you will be trying to get them through a bath when they are already tired and grumpy.  Don't forget to give them attention all through the routine, from brushing their teeth to getting their sippy cup filled with water to the bedtime story.  For Pete's sake, no rated PG, PG-13, or R rated movies for this age before bedtime.  (Rarely in my office do parents report their kids having nightmares. "No, he sleeps fine,"  inevitably, the child reports to the parent's surprise that he has nightmares and can draw a picture of the monster, without seeking attention.  It's not shocking then, that the seemingly innocuous PG movie has upset them). If they are having night fears, arm yourself with monster spray and flashlights and teddy bears. Spend some time in the room settling them down. Better to fall asleep in their bed, then have them fall asleep in your bed. (Not everyone agrees with this due to personal beliefs and cultural differences, but once you start having them sleep in your bed,  be prepared to have them between you and your spouse for the next 5 to 8 years) Then, leave and be prepared to quietly and firmly escort them back to bed when they come looking for you. 

Part 3  

Bear Hugs!

I was just having fun,
when mommy said; "Okay, now its time for bed"
Pj.'s and potty, bath and drink
I brushed my teeth, 
Then off to my bedroom,
I  did slink. 

Mom turned off the light.
The dark closed in tight!
The door shut hard and I heard a noise!
Was it a dragon, playing with my toys?

I opened my eyes, you know what I saw?
A big ol' Bear reaching out his paw!
I closed my eyes, you know what I seen?
That big ol' Bear bit me right in my ... dream!

Hey! said a big voice, Are you alright?
It was my Pa, home for the night!
He gave me a kiss and said "I love you."
I gave him a bear hug, "I Love You Too." 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bedtime Misadventures

Somewhere between ages 2 and 3, a child can terrify a parent by suddenly climbing a slide ladder to precarious heights.  At age 4,  the second step of the ladder is suddenly  terrifying to the child. When playing with a group of 3 and 4 year old children, it is inevitable that one will suddenly decide it is time for a game of "monster." A scene from Beauty and the Beast ensues with the villagers chasing the beast as they overcome their fears. 

Bedtimes at this age can be difficult.  A child that previously was very obedient and promptly fell asleep at his bedtime now suddenly begins to find every excuse under the stars to come back downstairs.  "I need another drink of water," or "I have to go to the bathroom,"  (Seriously, you didn't think the sleeping-on-time stage was going to last and you were going to get any sleep did you? Don't be silly, you're a parent!).  Oh yes, the fears have set in and frankly, some of it is attention seeking.  You may be tempted to do a time out, but bedtime is not the time to do time outs. It may be the worst thing to do at bedtime, because you will lose. Oh yes, doing time outs when you want them to go to sleep is at cross purposes with their desire to stay awake. Instead, the best way to deal with this behavior is by quickly and firmly getting them back to bed with as little interaction as possible, and the firm instruction to "Stay in bed!". 

End of Part 1

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ages, Stages, Permissions and NO!

Earrings, cellphones, first dates and tattoos.  
Skateboards and minibikes, motorbikes too.
Just friends, nose rings , girlfriends and going steady.
Mohawks, blue and green hair, boyfriends a plenty

Facebook and Wii, Play station 3, Twitter with 4 square... cool.
Eye liner, eye shadow, eyebrow plucking, lip stick and rouge.   
Hanging out, overnight, shopping malls,  and dances 
and for some clubbing and fake driver license chances .

That's a lot of parental decisions.
For some that's a lot of no's.
For some that's a lot of yes's.

Here is a quick self assessment.
Do you say yes because you don't be the one to say no?
Do you say yes because  you feel guilty?
Do you say no because your parents did?
Do you say no because it just seems wrong?
Do you say yes because you don't want to disappoint the kid?
Do you say yes because all the other kids get to do it?
Do you say no because you don't want him angry?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you may want some help in looking at the decisions you are making. The question for some of these decisions probably isn't  yes or no.  The question is when?
At some point  they will make the decisions about how they look and what they do! If you always say no, they will stop asking.  But you need to say no to protect you child so they aren't spoiled or injured. "NO, you may not drop the microwave on the freeway!"  At some point  decisions need to stand because it is wrong not because it seems wrong.  You want to help them grow up.  If there isn't any dialogue they won't learn.  So you are  going to have argument's and they are going to accuse you of hating them.  That's all part of the process. Trust takes time.  Learning to trust them takes time.  It's not often much fun.  Frankly, I blame smurfs for blue hair.

I will spend some time on developmental ages next week.  Please let me know, what was the hardest age permission issue for you to decide? What was the easiest?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Light Bicycles and Heavy Hearts!

Today's blog isn't really about me even though it starts that way.

 I used to tear around Nora Springs on my bicycle.  I loved my bicycle.  As a hand me down, it was heavy.  So heavy, I never won a race against anything that wasn't a tricycle. On foot, I was as fast as anybody in a distance race and most people in a sprint.  Even though it was slow and didn't have any gears, I loved that bike. It was the measure of freedom for me.  When you live on a street where some 33 teachers lived at one point and your parents are teachers, it can be a bit stifling.  My bicycle was freedom.  From the buffalo farm and pool on the east end to Walkers on the west end I would freely ride.  From the city dam to Boulder  park, I would race.  Freedom, there is no other feeling like it.

The other day I drove up the street, here in Marshalltown, and nearly hit a child on a bicycle.  He came off the sidewalk and tore in front of me. He only stopped at the sound of my tires.  His friend came ripping onto the street from a different direction.  Clearly, they were racing.  Clearly, they were taking shortcuts.  Clearly, it could have been me when I was a kid. 

I can't tell you how sad it made me.  

Life is precious.  Life is full of misfortune. When my wife was a child, she and her sisters went swimming in the Mississippi river, unbeknownst to her parents. We all do silly things at times. It is easy to judge others.  Please resist the temptation to condemn.  Instead please pray a prayer of blessing on those unprotected areas of our towns that provide unsupervised entertainment and refreshment.  Please pray for those public and private workers who provide supervision to children.

Please, lift your hearts in prayer for the safety of all children this summer. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A word about advertising & sponsorship

I would like to welcome my sponsors, but I can't. That is not negative about them it's just facts. That's because even though they advertise here, according to the contract with Google Ads, they only pay if their link gets clicked. I cannot encourage you to click on their links.   Facebook users are smart enough not to automatically click anyway. That said, I do like the look of most of the type of ads popping up on my blog.  Family and Parenting themes seem to be prevalent and seem to naturally belong here.  But I want you to know I can't claim them  as sponsors or recommend them to you.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Habits, Nuns and "It's the thing you do, before the thing that you do!"

 "If you want to change a habit be a nun," or so the old joke goes.  Changing a behavioral habit is hard. I don't remember where I learned that it took about 22 days to change a behavior. That number is highly variable. It is somewhat based on how entrenched the behavior is, and how motivated you are to change it.  Some things take much longer.  There are lots of behaviors that parents want their kids to change.  Parents frequently want their kids to stop whining (see previous post 6/12/2012) or give up sucking a thumb or chewing nails.  Sometimes, adults have trouble remembering to take medications or where they put their keys.  So they want to start a new behavior, like putting the keys in a certain place.

It helps, if you figure out that thing that you do...before the thing that you do. You've got to structure for yourself or your child, when the new behavior will happen. For instance if it is taking medication at a meal, its important to get the medication on the table before you start eating.  If it's remembering where you put your keys, its important to roll back the clock.   Before you sit down or change clothing...before you even think about anything else..., hang them up  wherever you are supposed to keep them. It's about that thing that you do, before the thing that you do.

Just remember it will take at least 22 days to make it a habit.  Be patient with yourself. Don't slide into criticism, be encouraging (see post from 6/14/12 on self esteem).  You probably are going to forget the new behavior for a while. You will have to start your count over.  Keep at it. You can do it.  Just remember, if the nun doesn't put on her habit before she talks to the priest, that would not be so good. If you don't remember to do that thing you do, before the thing that you do, learning that new habit probably isn't going to be so very good.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Simba , itunes, and Self Esteem?

"Simba, you are more than what you have become.  You are my son and the one true king.  You must take your place in the circle of life."  

What a great line, delivered by the fantastically impressive voice of James Earl Jones, in the Disney Movie "The Lion King."   Talk about your self esteem builders.  I wish on every parent the ability to imitate his voice saying that.  In an age where children are given ipods, cellphones and itunes,  you would think that self esteem would be rampant.  There is nothing wrong with these devices, by the way.  This isn't a critique of them.  Just a gentle reminder that the possession of music, photos and apps are not self esteem. Being gifted them, can indeed give a message of love and value.  Facebook friends and tweets and social networking can help promote a sense of belonging.  Somewhere in there needs to be a sense of purpose.  A sense of a role in the caring for one another.   

Jean Illsey-Clarke, author of the book, "Self Esteem: A Family Affair" (1998, Hazelden), writes that parents, in the many tasks they perform, are serving at least two basic functions. The first is nurturing and the second she describes as structuring and protecting.   When nurturing, it is important not to slide into taking over the problem while providing comfort. When structuring and protecting, it is important to not slide into criticism. As a parent, it is easy to slide into criticism. Sadly, I know I do too often.  Building self esteem though, that requires encouragement, and setting limits.  Let's  set some limits on the toys.  Let's give our kids the message that they have something more to contribute.  As parents, that means struggling to find that line of encouragement versus exasperation. We have to work to encourage our kids to contribute without imposing guilt on every leisure activity  and interest they have. That takes practice, likely we will mess it up.  Fortunately, that old quote comes to mind.  "If at first you don't succeed try try again." We also are, after all, more than what we have become! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Whining Means You are Winning!

"All's he does is whine."  That is a  common complaint of parents.  You can see why.  The voice tone can really get on your nerves.  If this is you, then I have good and bad news for you; whining means you are winning.  Yes, I know it's not really a win-lose proposition.  It is kind of a win lose proposition, though!  If you have ever talked to  really non compliant kid, you know what I mean.  Instead of whining, that kid will just say no.  They will say it like they mean it.  They say it in a way that makes you think "That's not gonna work."  If you are a parent and you are hearing this, You know what I mean.  You are losing the battle.

Thank goodness for whining.  The children among us that are whining.  They are appealing to you as the parent.  They acknowledge you as the parent.  They just want something, usually attention.  Sometimes they want a treat or a privilege. Sometimes, they want you to change your mind. It doesn't really matter what it is.  First and foremost, congratulate yourself that your kids annoying behavior is a good sign.  Thank goodness!

As far as dealing with whining there are options.  One good option is to count the behavior.  "That's whining, that's one."  Just remember that you don't have to get upset by the behavior.  If they get to three, they get to three.  Accept their choice and give them a time out.  Another option is to observe the whining.  Learn to predict it. Teach your child a more appropriate way to get your attention. For example, instead of whining, just ask in a normal voice.  "I won't listen if you use that nasal tone, please try again."  Another option is to predict that they are going to whine  and give them attention before they get the chance.  Sometimes you have to change the dynamic.  With older kids, assign them to whine in front of their friends.  See if they do?  Probably not.  There are a few other things to try, but these are fairly effective and easy to do.  Just don't let it get to you.  Of course they whine, it's an effective behavior and we can fix that.  Whining? it means they are basically good kids. Whining? it just means you are winning!

Monday, June 11, 2012


Today spent time correcting my grammar in yesterdays blog.  Thanks to Nicole and Danielle for helping.  All errors are mine.  If something made sense it probably was their corrections.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Make up story

Today is Sunday so instead of a usual blog, I will put in a make up story.  Each child is asked to provide a name or description of the following objects and then I tell a story that fits all the parts.  Sometimes we pass the story around. Anyway, this one was made up after spending some time with Jacob, Nicole, Samantha, Derek and Rachel.

Hero: Rachel 16-year-old girl
Buddies and helpers: 5-year-old Jim Bob, & a codfish,
Nemesis: Randy Wannamaker & Dr. Fred, (perhaps called Doofenschmirz)
Mentor/guide: Howie Mandel the turtle
Magical item: Unicorn
Tool: wrench
Normal Mission: get the codfish to school for Jim Bobs
Special Mission: to be determined

“Rachel” called her mother from downstairs.  Rachel quickly put on her earphones.  “Rachel” called her mother again.  Rachel tried turning her iPod louder but couldn’t block the insistent tone of her mothers voice.  "Get down here for breakfast right now!"  “I’m not hungry,” she tried.  "Rachel get down here this instant!"  Sighing Rachel gave up trying to download music before lessons.  She would have to load the rest of that song later.  "What Mom," She said, draining all three extra syllables out of the word Mom to show her displeasure.  She cut off abruptly when she saw Jim Bob and his mother standing in the doorway.  She must have had that iTunes turned up louder than she thought to have blocked out the sound of the doorbell.

"Mrs. Christensen has a special errand for you," her mother explained.  "She needs to have you take Jim Bob to school.  Jim Bob is showing his codfish for show and tell but could use help getting him there.” “The tank mustn’t be shaken” said Jim Bob very seriously.  Rachel sighed.  She babysat Jim Bob and Mrs. C paid good money … so… the extras come with the job.  “Ok Mrs. C” said Rachel.  Jim Bob beamed and began practicing his explanation of all things codfish. 

Rachel and Jim Bob trudged along with Jim Bob's red wagon in tow.  Rachel thought it was ridiculous that every crack in the sidewalk required a full stop and lift of the wagon.  Just when she thought it couldn’t get any worse, Randy Wannamaker showed up.  “Hey Rachel, are you brwinging your wagon to school?” He mocked in a little kid voice. Randy mocked everything, but he seemed to revel in making her look bad.  Rachel tried the high road.  “Just ignore him Jim Bob; he can’t help being an idiot.”  Well, sort of the high road, she thought. Randy smirked.  “Hey Jim Bob, are you taking your little sister to school.”  Jim Bob replied. “Rachel is not my sister” Randy laughed, “I was talking about your fish, but I see how you could get confused” Rachel turned bright red.  Jim Bob kicked Randy in the shin.  Randy howled and made a fist.  “I like Rachel,” said Jim Bob, “that’s why I named my fish after her.” Rachel wanted to crawl in the tank with the fish.  They were rescued unexpectedly by the sound of Randy howling.  He had stuck his hand in the tank of another child’s wagon and pulled his hand out with a turtle hanging from his finger. 

“Put Howie Mandel down!” came a commanding voice.  The father of the other youngster was of the impression that Randy was holding on to the turtle instead of the other way around.  Randy pried the turtle loose and took off running with the child in hot pursuit and the father in pursuit of the child.  Rachel was shocked however to see the turtle wink at her.  "Howie Mandel huh? that’s a funny name for a turtle."  She said.  "About as funny as a girl and a fish having the same name," Howie replied.  Rachel and Jim Bob were stunned.  “I didn’t know that turtles could talk,” said Jim Bob. “They can’t” said Rachel.  “Can” said Howie. 

Now listen up.  There is something I have to tell you and I don’t have long before my owner returns and I don’t want him knowing I can talk.  They are sooo boring.  You two are somewhat interesting though.  Here is the scoop.  ‘Show and tell’ at this Kindergarten is in serious trouble.  The principal is going to axe it.  He seems to think that it is a waste of educational time.  “I wouldn’t know” said Rachel, “I’m home schooled.  I’m just helping Jim Bob out.”  “You’re a helper then? That is perfect,” said Howie.  “You can help by traveling to the Chair of Doom and retrieving the Master Sergeants wrench.       Look for help from the Unicorn and the flight of Geese.  Watch out for Randy Wanamaker and his minions.  They are trying to end Show and Tell for everyone.  If I would have taken a bigger bite I think I could have gotten the tip of his finger and he would be at the school nurse instead of interfering.  Uh oh, here are my owners. Talk to you later.” Snap, Howie pulled his head into his shell and didn’t say another word.  Rachel and Jim Bob just looked at each other.

Jim Bob asked “what is this dome...y chair thing?”  "Not dome," said Rachel, "doom."  “Doom means something bad is going to happen?” asked Jim Bob.  “Uh… yes,” said Rachel. She wasn’t sure how much she wanted to tell Jim Bob about it.  The story was that if you sat in the chair of doom, you would die within a year.  Her friend Samantha tried it and texted her exactly 1 year later to prove it was false.  Still, Rachel wasn’t sure tempting the fates was a good idea.  Things happened to her that didn’t seem to happen to other people.  A talking turtle, for instance.  Maybe she would just take Jim Bob to school and forget all about it.  I mean, why should I care about the stupid school show and tell anyway, she thought to herself. 

Jim Bob had other ideas, “I’m not going to go to any school that doesn’t have show and tell.  Where do we find this Seat of Doom thing?” He asked stubbornly. Rachel sighed; last time Jim Bob had looked at her like that, he had had a 1 hour and 30 minute temper tantrum over going to bed without a story.   She caved in, “
it’s at the cemetery.”  “I know that place,” said Jim Bob, we feed the ducks.”  He turned and started pulling Rachel the codfish behind him.  Rachel the girl followed reluctantly.

They walked up 4th street passed Elks park.  Rachel was surprised Jim Bob didn’t want to detour through the park.  He looked at the swings but then squared his tiny shoulders and headed on toward the Duck Park. They marched through the Iron Gates, which opened to a great pond.  The swans were swimming down at the far end behind the great fountain.  Rainbows sprayed across the pond in the morning light.  Before they had time to enjoy it the geese rose in formation and headed straight toward them.  "Watch out," Rachel yelled and tackled Jim Bob behind the park bench before the Geese bomb dived right at his head.  “I thought they were supposed to be helpful, not take my head off” said Jim Bob.  "I think they were warning us," said Rachel, "look!”  A police cruiser had turned down the lane and headed out of the cemetery gates. “Why should we hide from the cops?” asked Jim Bob. "Maybe, cause you and I should be in school?" said Rachel.  "At least that’s what they think."  “Oh," said Jim Bob, "Are we gonna get in trouble?”  Maybe, said Rachel, watching three turtles sticking their tiny heads out of the water.  “Let's go find this ‘Seat of Doom’, I think its up this way,” She pointed to a lane leading through the tombstones. Away from the pond, the stones grew larger and more gray and somehow much more ominous.  Some were shiny black and new but most of them were old.  Some were so worn you couldn’t read the names or dates. “Hey look,” said Jim Bob, “What is that? He pointed a vault the size of a small room with a door on one side. “I don’t know,” said Rachel, "Someone’s tomb I guess." "Hey come look over here," she called moments later. Jim Bob pulled Rachel the Cod fish over to her.

 A large tombstone said Smith on it. On the other side, there was a stone chair facing the back edge of the grave marker. There were three black roses sticking out of the chair.  Jim Bob marched up and plopped down right in it.  Nothing happened.  Rachel pushed him out. “Let me try.” She sat in the chair and looked around.  She didn’t see any wrenches.  Jim Bob walked around the other side and pointed to the writing, "What does that say?" He demanded.  Rachel got up and looked over his shoulder. " It says, he was a Master Sergeant and served on the Gunboat Lexington.”  " So now what?," asked Rachel. "I don’t see any wrenches anywhere."  Jim Bob frowned.  He tugged at the black roses. Suddenly every thing around them became misty. 

A great fog seemed to come out of the tombstone. The fish tank began shaking and water splashed out of the top. “Rachel” cried Jim Bob.  She is not supposed to be shaken.  Rachel the girl, fell as the ground rolled beneath her feet.  Then, it got very quiet. Rachel crawled her way over to the wagon.  Jim Bob was clinging to the fish tank.  “Let me see, Jim Bob” Rachel the girl said firmly.  Jim Bob let go and stepped back.  The water was still swaying back and forth in the tank.  There was still water and Rachel the fish swam nervously in her tank.  “She seems all right” said Rachel.   She stood up and looked around. 

"What’s the deal with all the fog all of the sudden?"  Jim Bob looked up from the fish.  "That is so cool," he said.  He reached out into the fog. "Look, I can’t see my hand!"  He started walking into the smoky mist.  "Ow," he blurted as he ran into something.  He felt his way in a circle, but seemed to run into something all the way around the gravestone. Rachel tried to walk to the outside of the circle and got the same result.  They were surprised by a clopping noise and then the fog seemed to lift as a silvery unicorn stepped into their circle. 

“Pretty cool fog isn’t it?” said the unicorn, pretty much ignoring introductions.  "One of my better fogs, I think.  Though, I’ve been storing up energy for a very cool fog I’m going to use over England later this summer.  It should last a good month.  The wee folk are planning the coolest party and need the extra cover."  "Um, sure ok," said Rachel the girl.  “Listen," said Rachel the fish."Help these two idiots out before they spill all the water out of my tank.  I mean, what’s the point of saving ‘show and tell’ if I die in the process." Jim Bob and Rachel the girl just looked at each other dumbly.  “I think you frightened them," said the unicorn to the fish.  "Oh, yeah and your fog, earthquake mystical entrance thing didn’t shock them at all,”  said Rachel the fish sarcastically. "Right, lets get down too business then,” replied the Unicorn. “Just let me tone down the fog a little.  I think it is getting in their brains."  “Oh, right,” said the fish.  The fog lifted slightly.  “How are you human?” Asked the Unicorn pointing its horn in Jim Bobs general direction .  Jim Bob said, “make my fish talk again.” “Hm…that may be the least relevant factor” said the unicorn.  “Lets just turn that fog down a bit more.” Rachel the girl blurted out “I’m so happy to know that unicorns are real!”  “Clearly that last adjustment helped” commented the unicorn.   “Please listen carefully.  The tombstone has a small compartment in the base.  Just push on the word Lexington and it will open.  In it you will find a wrench.  Take the wrench back to the school and at noon today adjust the clock back 24 hours precisely.  If you do that, we will be able to reset the events of the last 24 hours and ‘Show and tell’ will be saved.  Just watch out for Dr. Fred Doofensmirz.  He will have to return to his imprisonment on the isle of wasted breath. Naturally, he would like to avoid that.   Got it? Great? I gotta go, humans make my weary.  Peace out fish!”  "Peace out unicorn!," said the fish. 

Rachel walked around the front of the tombstone and pushed on the word Lexington.  With a pop, a small door opened at the bottom of the gray slab.  Jim Bob stuck in his meaty little hand and pulled out a very ordinary looking wrench.  “How do we get out of here?" asked Jim Bob.  Rachel didn’t have any idea.  The fish spoke one last time.  “Try pulling on the rose one more time."  Rachel did and the ground began to shake again.  The fog cleared and they were standing once more in the cemetery. The bad news was that a Police Cruiser was headed directly toward them. “Run” said Rachel.  Run they did.  Jim Bob pulled his wagon behind him as fast as he could.  The police cruiser had to wind its way along the paved trails.  Rachel and Jim Bob raced toward a foot gate on the backside of the cemetery.  The police cruiser flashed its lights and sped up.  Water splashed and jostled in the fish tank as Rachel and Jim Bob fled.   Just as the Cruiser made the last turn to come next to the tombstone, Rachel and Jim Bob pulled the wagon through the small gate and headed down the alley toward school.  The police car had to reverse directions and head back to the main gate.

“We lost them,” said Jim Bob proudly! “Not for long” muttered Rachel. "I’ve never seen a policeman try so hard to catch someone out of school before.  Maybe Dr. Doofensmirz knows what we are doing.  Come on, we will never make it to the school on the main streets.  We had better take the river." She headed past the cemetery and down the hill.  Water rushed under the bridge and over a dam.  They pulled the wagon between the giant rocks that marked the parking lot and into the weeds.  They just got out of sight as the police car sped down and over the bridge.  “Are they really chasing us?" asked Jim Bob. “It looks like it," said Rachel the girl.  Rachel the fish said nothing and just lay sickly in what water she had left in the tank.  They stopped at the edge of the river and Rachel crawled out onto a dead branch. She grabbed a discarded can and filled it with the cleanest water she could reach, and poured it into the fish tank.  With the water level back up, Rachel the fish could move about again. 

They made their way over dead logs, through muddy reeds, and up someone’s lawn.  "Hey" said Jim Bob, "I know where we are.  That’s Deer Hill. I go sledding there sometimes.  It’s only a few blocks to the school from here."  "Let’s just rest a moment Jim Bob.  We are gonna have to run to the school because they will still be looking for us." Rachel didn't even look like she was out of breath. “Ok,”said Jim Bob, rubbing his arm. "The wagon is getting heavy."  "Good point," said Rachel. "Why don’t you let me pull it awhile?  Now, when we get to the school we are going to need a diversion.  So start thinking about it because I need to have time to adjust the clock."  "Hmm," said Jim Bob.  "I know what usually gets a lot of attention.  There is an aquarium in the lunchroom."  Rachel nodded while looking at the fish.  “That might do it.  You ready?" "Yep," said Jim Bob.  Rachel pulled the wagon up the last of the hill and they sprinted down Fifth Street.  When they reached Jerome Street, they ran into the alley and ducked behind a row of garages.  The police car came through the alley looking for them but passed by not seeing them when they hid between the garages.  “I used to live in that house," Rachel explained pointing to a house just past the garages.”   “Less talking, more running,” said Jim Bob.  They headed down the last half a block to the school.  "OK, you go in first," said Rachel. Jim Bob took the wagon and pulled it up the handicapped access.  He pushed the button and was in the door.  Rachel waited.  She didn’t see Dr Doofenschmirz come up behind her.  "What is your name little girl?  She jumped.  “Um, I don’t go here,” she said.  “HMMPH” said Dr Doofenshmirz, “another delinquent student. Lets go have a talk with your parents.”  He grabbed her arm and dragged her into the school.  Just then, there was a scream from the office.  “HE'S EATING ALL THE FISH!”   A small girl cried pointing at the office fish tank where Rachel the codfish was devouring everything in sight. Randy Wannamaker had his face pressed against the glass in fascination.  All the  kindergartners left the lunch line and raced over to see.  Rachel managed to slip out of Dr. Doofenschmirz's hand and into his office while he  chased the kindergartners back into their line.  Rachel heard Jim Bob laughing. He had slipped into the principal's office.  "There’s the main clock," he said.  It was on the wall above the principal’s desk.  Rachel got up on the desk and pried of the cover.  “Get down off my desk right now!” ordered Dr. Doofenschmirz. “Too late,” said Rachel, stuck the wrench into the clock, and started turning.  Dr Doofenshmirz rushed toward her and tripped over a conveniently place red wagon.  Rachel kept turning the clock until the date flipped back 1 day.  At first, it seemed nothing happened. Then they heard Dr. Doofenshmirz cry “NOooo” and disappeared into a gray mist that rose from underneath his desk. Rachel and Jim Bob smiled as they disappeared into the fog.

The next day, Rachel was downloading music when her mother called her.  She raced downstairs and saw Jim Bob and Mrs Christensen at the door. “Let me guess” said Rachel. "You want me to help Jim Bob take his pet codfish to school." Her mother looked at her, ":how on earth did you know that?  Jim Bob smiled at her and Rachel the girl could’ve sworn she saw Rachel the fish wink.