Category Archives: Anxiety

Are You Looking at School Success the Wrong Way?
Child Doing HomeworkDo you teach your children that their school performance is for you? That’s one way to diminish school motivation.

All parents want their children to love school and learn lots. For too many children, the school years are a prison sentence to be endured. School often falls short of its intended role to encourage and motivate children’s natural love of learning and has become rules and curriculum to satisfy a set of statistics. School must be handed over to our children. They must know they have our support in doing the best they can. Some kids flounder in public school. They need your support more than anyone.

When a child thinks he must perform for a parent or a teacher, motivation drops. When he believes he is not meeting your expectations, it drops even more. To have intrinsic motivation to learn, children must feel good about themselves. That should be the number one goal of education. That means adjustment within the system to suit each child’s manner of learning. Hard to do. Much is left up to parents.

Many children Read more…

How to Talk to Your Kids About the Hard Stuff

Talking About The Hard StuffAfter the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I wrote an article called Look for the Helpers inspired by Fred Rogers. I am redoing it with the same basic
message—sadly because so much more has happened. Not only has gun violence increased, but our democracy and our climate are threatened. Whatever side of the political spectrum you fall, the recent overturn of Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court requires discussions with your children. How do you assure their safety at school? How do you tell them that the highest court in our nation has undermined the liberty of women?

My son just gave the commencement address at the high school where he teaches.
He too was inspired by Fred Rogers’ words:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother
would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are
helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my
mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still
so many helpers—so Read more…

Want to Know the Secret to Supporting Your Perfectionist Child?

Anxious little girl

Q. My daughter freezes when she is asked a question on the spot or during exams because she is fearful of being wrong, not knowing the answers or not being able to complete the entire tests. What advice should I give her to help her overcome this fear?

A. Of course you want to help her deal with her fears. Most parents, I find, live by the myth that you can help your child by telling them what you have learned as more experienced human. Makes sense. You want to tell her something that will make her see the light and stop being fearful of getting it wrong. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Advice rarely helps unsolicited.

Your daughter was likely born with sensitivities for self-awareness, a desire for approval, as well as strong capabilities. This can underscore any ideas she has of how important those capabilities are to gain the approval she wants.

As parents, most of us are unaware of how our expectations of our children effect their behavior. Of course, we want our children to do Read more…

Feb ’22 Q&A Hitting a Wall? (Revising a conversation from May ’20)

Q. I’m utterly overwhelmed. I’m resentful of those who have support from a partner and grandparents and guilty for feeling resentful. Frustrated that there’s no end in sight. Exhausted, emotionally and physically. Sad. I miss my family and friends. Lonely. 3 kids 1, 4 and 8 entirely on my own. Working 60 hours a week. Trying to be grateful I’m employed but there is no balance possible when you have 3 kids in tow. I don’t bathe or sleep without them and if I try, they scream or immediately ‘need’ me for something which is their anxiety showing up. It’s endless. How do I stay sane?

A. We’re on year three of a global pandemic and all of us, especially parents with young unvaccinated children or families with unpredictable child education schedules due to positive COVID cases, are still very much in the throes of it. If we thought we were exhausted in May, 2020, it’s certainly not gotten better for a lot of people. Maybe we’ve become more accustomed to our reality, but emotional stress among our hardworking families Read more…

Willful Defiance: A Lesson for Parents and Teachers

Defiant ChildWe live in a school culture within a parenting culture that expects its children to fit in and embrace that culture.

For many children acculturation happens seamlessly. But for at least 1 in 5 children*, it requires giving up oneself, shifting off base, and surrendering to a non-nurturing authority. In other words, understanding that you are wrong and the other is right. Parents are expected to take on the role of enforcer using consequences, threats, punishment, withdrawal of what is most cherished—coercive tactics to manipulate children into being who they are expected to be. 

These are the children we see as defiant and oppositional. The square pegs society tries to fit into its round holes. And if they don’t adjust enough, they become the troublemakers, the problems, the ones we fear our children will grow up to be. These are the children who are tough to raise and who cause problems in classrooms. 

At home, they fight the rules and argue every direction given. Parents complain they never listen, won’t do as they’re told and refuse to comply. At school Read more…

‘Tis the Season for Compassion

Holiday HugExpectations are always high at this time of year. It’s the season for joy, friendly people wishing each other cheer, generosity of spirit, and family gatherings. But just as often, it’s not for so many.

The stress and tension of buying gifts, satisfying expectant children, and anticipating family gatherings fraught with anxiety and judgement are also heightened at this time of year. Loneliness, grief, and loss feel heavier now than at any other time. Suicide statistics peak. And on top of all the usual stress, we are in our second holiday season marred by a world-wide pandemic with a new and possibly scarier variant at our doorstep. The unhappy and the sick feel more isolated, rejected, and angry at this time of year.

Now that I have fully depressed all of you, I do not mean to be a downer. What I want is to prod your compassion and empathy to understand that this season is just as hard for many as it can be joyful for others.

Can you allow a family member’s, even your child’s, sadness, depression, anger, Read more…

3 Ways to Solve Being Late to School

Sleeping girlQ. How should I respond to a child (12yo) who is always late (takes too long to get dressed, takes long showers, keeps skipping breakfast because she takes too long to get ready for school) and she responds: “I am lazy”. What can I do to assist her in being more motivated to be on time?

A. The cause of being late likely has one of three motivating factors. Motivating her to be on time will require a dig into why she is always late rather than focusing on simply the fact that she is. The phrase “she takes too long” leads me to think that you are setting an expectation that she cannot meet right now—and making a judgement that she is wrong. We typically look at behavior and define it as good or bad and react to the behavior accordingly. In doing so we miss the most important factor: what provoked the behavior.

To determine what the motivating factor is in this case, you want to know:

1) Is it school she is resisting?

2) Is the transition Read more…

Thinking Outside the Box for School-Resistant Kids

Frustrated Teen

My proposed solution is simple: don’t waste a lot of time and money pushing kids in directions they don’t want to go. Instead find out what weirdness they excel at and encourage them to do that. Then get out of the way. ~ Seth Godin

Q. What is the best way to respond to my 12 yo son who refuses to go to school? It started after he had 2 teachers who focused on the things he couldn’t do. We eventually pulled him and put him in private school but that only worked for about a year. We pulled him altogether last year on the advice of his therapist. Virtual school was a nightmare, and we were taking care of my dying father in the house too. It was too much. He really hates school. He is super smart but has dysgraphia, ADHD and anxiety so he really struggles.

A. I imagine there are a lot of kids this pandemic has pushed to the surface who were falling through the cracks pre-Covid. The silver lining of this struggle may be Read more…

No Malicious Intent

Five years old child cooking in the kitchenQ. I am at a loss for how to parent my 5 yo daughter. She does whatever she wants, including things that are dangerous or destructive, even when she knows and has agreed to the rules. This morning we were all in the living room and she left to go to the bathroom. After a little while I went to see what she was doing and smelled a very strong odor. I asked her what it was, and she said bug spray. She had found a can of bug spray and sprayed the entire thing over every surface of the bathroom. She has also taken pens, etc. and written on anything and everything including walls and furniture. She’s taken scissors and cut things. She’s dumped out entire packages of food to make her own creations. She’s squeezed out entire tubes of toothpaste. She says she knows she shouldn’t do these things but does them because she just wants to. Nothing has ended in a lasting solution. I’m not handling things well. I yelled a lot this morning. Right now she Read more…

Being a Better Pandemic Parent: Lighten Up

High angle view of father and son wearing sunglasses

This year has brought us all to our personal edges. I’m guessing you are exhausted and done with it. You want your kids back in school with a schedule you can count on, and you want your life back to normal. You’re also probably juggling guilt about not being a good enough parent during these times and fear that your children are glued to screens and falling behind in school.

Read more…