Category Archives: Mental Health

How to Stop Reacting in the Heat of the Moment
Mom's On The Phone!

We all know what it’s like to get our buttons pushed. It feels like an attack and a flooding of emotion. We tend to retaliate automatically—it’s that fight, flight or freeze reaction. Typically, we lay blame on our children for doing the pushing or ourselves for being inadequate. But seldom do we do anything to change this often damaging dynamic because it feels beyond control.

You’ve tried everything, right? Everything to get your children to change. But those buttons are our responsibility, not our children’s. They wouldn’t be pushing them if there were no button to push. Some parents, for instance, have an immediate reaction to being called “stupid”. Others do not. Why? Because it has to do with your individual past. Yes, your child needs to be accountable for her behavior, but if your button is pushed, you will react, teaching her the power of what did the pushing—calling you “stupid”, talking back, resisting, not listening, whatever triggers you. And so it continues.

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What do you do when your child “talks back”?
Kid Feeling Misunderstood

Q. My 8 year old son is constantly talking back to me and using vulgar language. I tell him that is not acceptable, and he keeps doing it. He argues and doesn’t listen to authority—my authority anyway. He’s fine at school. Teachers love him. When I was young, I would have been smacked if I said half of what he does. I’m at a loss. What do I do to stop this constant talking back and throwing crude words at me?

A. I, like you, was brought up to respect my elders—at any cost. I wasn’t allowed to say what I wanted, what I thought about anything, or express my opinion. Only adults had opinions. Having an opinion was never encouraged, never asked for, never listened to. If one came out, it was ignored or highly criticized as talking back. Life was about doing what grown-ups told you to do. Children were second-class citizens. Fortunately (I guess) my temperament kept me from ever expressing anger at my parents for keeping me quiet. I just simply stayed quiet. But my brother

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Helping Children Confront A Bully
Bullied Child

Q. Ines, 8, is a very sweet playing, sporty, capable but gentle friend. On the playground one of her better friends at school is starting to bully her. Tonight she was crying as the girl was telling her to go into a dark shed in the playground. Ines said she didn’t want to as she was afraid of the dark. The friend teased her for being a cry baby and insisted etc. My question is what do I do? I encouraged her to say STOP! and that you don’t like the way she is treating you, but she says that is not kind and she doesn’t want to be like her friend. I said to her that she needs to say stop for her friend’s sake too. She ‘practiced’ saying it but sounded like a mouse… that’s not going to transmit a message of strength. She’s going to a party tomorrow and this friend will be there. Ines is afraid that this girl will insist that the room be dark. I know the parents well and could talk to them

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Self-confident Kids are Best Prepared for Success
Teen With Father

 

Q. I have enjoyed reading many things on your website. My husband and I are the owners of 1 integrity child and 1 harmony child. The first makes me nearly lose my mind as I am an integrity person as well. My question is how do you help them understand that the world doesn’t revolve around their perceived needs? My own experiences were tough, and it took counseling to finally work through my own self esteem challenges. It is and has always been exhausting. He is 18 and a good boy. He is polite, smart, well-adjusted, and has tremendous integrity BUT argues with us over nearly anything not being done his way. We try to get in his head and help him, but life will not always accommodate that, and he fears failure. I would love any insight you could provide.

A. The fact that your son is polite, well-adjusted with tremendous integrity says that you have raised him respectfully. But your fears of the outside world not accommodating his temperament are misplaced. He will learn from experience what tracks

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When (and when not) to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

Q. While listening to one of your insightful podcasts, “Mom, When Can I Start Watching Porn?”, I heard you say “that the best time to start introducing your children to the mechanics of sex and how babies are made and born is between 4 and 6, before it becomes embarrassing, shocking and awkward. If you are saving “the talk” until kids ask, you may wait forever.” I have two daughters, ages 5 and 1. I always answer their questions as honestly as possible except when she was three and I was pregnant. She asked: “Mom, how did my baby sister get in there?” Not prepared, I froze. What, when and how do I share the answers to her future sex ed questions before she is too embarrassed to ask me? 

A. Don’t wait for the questions. They may never come. Sometime, ask her, “Do you remember when I was pregnant with your sister, and you asked me how she got inside me? I didn’t think you were old enough to understand then but now I think you are. Would you

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Are You Looking at School Success the Wrong Way?
child at school
Do 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

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How to Talk to Your Kids About the Hard Stuff
Dad and Son Talking

After 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

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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

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

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

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Jan ’22 Q&A – The Rise in Suicide Since COVID-19: Can strong boundaries make a difference? (Revising a conversation from Oct ‘19)

Young Teen in Despair

Q. There were recently two child suicides in neighboring towns to us in less than two weeks, one of them a 13 year old. How does this happen? How can I protect my tween from a similar fate? I am at a loss. What is happening in the world??

A. Too many children all over the country seem to be feeling so forsaken that ending their lives is the only answer. How does anyone, much less a child, come to this conclusion? I cannot presume to have the answer. What we are left with is the question: How do we protect our children from such devastating despair?

According to U.S. News, over the last two years, there has been a steep increase in teen suicide attempts. From February 2020 to March 2021 "emergency rooms visits for suspected suicide attempts were over 50% higher among girls aged 12–17 than during the same period in 2019, according to the study" they referenced.

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