Don’t blink

September 24, 2017

Image result for free images holding hands parent child

Tonight I realized something with a giant thud in my heart. My kids never need (or want) me to read out loud to them anymore. The last book was read who knows when. But no one warned me to read slowly, savoring the snuggled bodies tucked in next to me, because it was the last time.

I then realized there was no warning about the final time I’d carry a sleeping child from the car, her body heavy and limp, warm and trusting. I didn’t know to hold on for another minute before I gently laid her in bed.

There was no heads up when it was the final “Mommy!” yelled with delight as I walked in the house after a long day at work. No chance to take my time with an embrace so exuberant it almost knocked me off of my feet.

I didn’t know to savor the last bath when my girls needed help rinsing shampoo from their bobbing heads, avoiding splashes as they giggled and squirmed in the water like slippery mermaids.

Oh! This means the moments I have now are also as fleeting as a lightning bug’s glow on a summer night. I can still cherish the nightly snuggles, as my girls allow (and encourage) me to tuck in next to them in bed. They continue to delight in that time, whispering their secrets and fears, turning their bodies into mine.

I better not turn down the chance to play another hand of cards, or throw the Frisbee outside.

I should try not to blink, as the girls sit side by side at the piano, composing songs together and laughing with delight at their harmony. Don’t blink as they hop in the car after school, smiles beaming at me, as they shed off another tough day.

I most definitely need to hold tightly to their still-soft hands, as both will reach out to grab my hand on a family walk (if no one is around). I will squeeze those precious hands, still small and tender. I might just… Never. Let. Go.

Teens get a bad rap

April 29, 2017

18194629_1452845671433372_1908912375300107630_nWe’ve all seen the images of self-absorbed teens, taking selfies and laughing with an air of “We are way too cool to make eye contact with you.” Even before “selfies” were a thing, teens had a reputation for having an attitude, thriving on “drama” and being only slightly more self-obsessed than toddlers.

Well, I just got back from a whirlwind 2 day field trip with my 8th grader’s class to Baltimore, and I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised. As a child/teen psychologist, I like to think I know adolescents more intimately than the “average” parent. However, I found myself making the same jokes to colleagues and friends before the trip: “Oh gosh, I’ll be trapped on a bus with 50+ 8th grade girls for 6 hours, pray for me!” I admit to having some dread of high pitched squeals or drama-filled arguments echoing in my ears. But do you know what? Most of the girls I spent time with restored my faith in this generation.

I was in charge of a group of 8 girls (my daughter, five of her friends, and two other girls). Throughout our time, I found a warm glow growing in my heart as I observed so many wonderful things. Our small group had a student with special needs and physical disabilities. I’ll call her “Deana” for this blog. I witnessed the girls in my group opening ketchup packets for her, making her cocoa, waiting for her to finish eating so she could shop with them, and having her join in their linked arms of friends exploring a city. These girls were sweet and empathetic. They helped without my encouragement most of the time. These girls tolerated (allowed even) my company as we explored museums and historical sites. They chatted with me, making me laugh with their hilarious observations and insights. My daughter dared to grab my hand once as we walked (a few seconds, but those moments of connection are powerful) and hugged me as a thank you for coming on the trip in front of her friends. I had my “worriers” who diligently checked in with me about the schedule and when we should meet up. Frequent “pleases” and “thank you’s” were uttered, as well as “thank you for coming with us on this trip.” My group began a competitive game to become my favorite and started calling me Dr. Wynns (after my daughter warned them I didn’t love being called, “Mrs. Wynns.). When the girls disagreed about something, they worked it out with compromise, negotiation, or letting it go. There was no drama, no fighting, no social media bullying, and no gossip behind someone’s back. These girls were respectful, independent, and just delightful company. When I saw some of my girls building a ramp in a science museum, and “Deana” laughing delightedly, I admit that glow in my heart became a raging fire.

On the bus trip home, I received a text from one of the girls in my group. She wrote, “Dr. Wynns, thank you so much for offering your time to keep us in check and deal with our craziness. You were an amazing chaperone and this field trip wouldn’t have been the same without you.”

I wrote back to the group text, “You guys are seriously the best group of girls. You give me hope for your generation. Even though you are TEENAGERS you are sweet, thoughtful, hilarious, respectful and sociable. Loved my time with you! Kristy AKA Dr. Wynns AKA NOT Mrs. Wynns.”

Those texts say it all.



How to talk to your kids about the Orlando shooting, or should you?

June 14, 2016

cary-psychologist-hands2I’ve done a few interviews today for radio and tv news to give tips about how to discuss the Orlando shooting with your kids. The most common question asked is, “What do you say to kids when they hear about or see news about this terrible incident?” I have found most people assume there is no way kids WON’T hear about such tragedies. I am happy to share my tips for how to discuss this tragedy with your kids, but for now, let’s consider for a brief moment the option of just not discussing it.

A quick look inside my own family. Yes, it’s summer time and my 12 year old is out of school. But my 10 year old (year round school) made it an entire day in school without hearing a peep about the shooting. No friends were discussing it at recess and teachers didn’t make an announcement. And since we don’t keep the t.v. or radio on in our house unless we are listening to music, neither child learned about this incident today. It begs the question, “Do kids need to know?”

Our kids (universal “our”) have one thing that we as adults will never have again. We can’t buy it, we can’t rent it for a day, and we certainly can never go back in time and retrieve it. Every single person on the planet was born with it and it’s a gift to be cherished for as long as possible. What is this wonderful gift? It’s innocence. Our kids still believe their dreams will probably come true. They believe that Mom and Dad are big and strong and will always protect them. They know there are “bad guys” in the world, but deep down, most kids imagine they are very far away. Innocence is a fragile thread, and once broken, can never be mended again.

My kids worried today about upcoming End of Grade tests, their first black belt class, and going away to camp for the first time. Do they NEED to worry about the terror and tragedy in Orlando? Do they need to know about this terrible moment in US history? Do they need to face it today….right now? Or can they enjoy a few more days, weeks, months, or even years embracing the warmth of childhood innocence, until they can’t anymore.

My prayers go out to victims and families involved in the shooting in Orlando.

Why I will NEVER be a “normal mother” [Letter to my 12 year old]

June 6, 2016


Dear Beloved “Tween” of Mine,

You recently sighed and mumbled, “I just wish you could be a normal mom.” This was on the heels of your dad and I deciding to opt you out of a 9/11 video at school (you were the “only” kid in the entire 7th grade who had to visit the library instead!) This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this complaint, so I decided to fully explain why I will never be a “normal mom.”

We care about what goes into your mind, your body, and your soul. Yes, we insist on eating (mostly) healthy meals with (usually) vegetables sitting around the table as a family. I know the research shows you and your sister will amazingly have better grades, better odds of avoiding drug use, and better social skills from that one daily ritual. We allow very few PG movies (I know, I know, most of your friends watch PG-13 movies!) because so many are filled with bad language, violence, and sexual content that we don’t think you “have to” have in that mind of yours (yet). That 9/11 video? Yes, it’s important for you to know about our country’s history, but I don’t think that translates to you needing to see video images of terrified people falling from the Trade Center.  Yes, I am fully aware you are also the ONLY KID IN YOUR MIDDLE SCHOOL WHO DOESN’T HAVE A CELL PHONE (according to you). But we don’t believe just because everyone has it (or does it) that means it’s right. As an adult, my phone is such an intrusive distraction and causes me regular stress as I yell, “Has anyone seen my phone? Agh, I can’t find my phone!” You have other things you need to stress about like doing well in school, keeping healthy friendships, and avoiding those super immature middle school boys. (-: You also don’t need a phone interrupting your precious sleep. I know, you are the only 12 year old who has a bedtime before 10 pm. You can’t believe we make you go to bed around 8:30 pm, scoring a healthy 10 hours of sleep every night. But our wise(r) adult brains tell us that your nightly rest is critical to you doing so well in school (Ms. Smarty Pants “All A’s”), focusing and concentrating, and GROWING!

Lest you think I’m a total rule-following, un-fun prude, let’s remember all the “abnormal” ways I embarrass you by breaking the “rules” of motherhood. There’s my habit of talking and laughing loudly, as well as singing and whistling constantly. I do enjoy making your friends laugh in the car, instead of staring straight ahead and chauffeuring quietly. Yes, I do crazy things the other moms don’t do. Remember when I sled right into our neighborhood lake on a snowy winter day? (Oh yeah, you followed right after me and we laughed like crazy as our legs immediately started to freeze as we broke through the sheet of ice). There was the time I hosted a staff holiday party and belted out the National Anthem opera style with piano accompaniment just for laughs. Even though you were upstairs getting ready for bed, I know you heard my singing and the roars of laughter below. Similarly, you’ve seen the videos of your aunt (my twin) and I rapping to “Ice Ice Baby” at our 40th birthday party with an amazing choreographed routine (and props!) You were there to cheer for me doing the “mud” races and the Half Iron Man triathlon. You saw how even though my knee was killing me, I pushed through and finished the race. I know these might be unusual choices for a mom, but I hope the cumulative effect of witnessing such craziness is that you will have a role model for pushing through your fears and never letting a fear of looking foolish keep you from having fun. May you always have a burning desire for trying something NEW and DIFFERENT! Most importantly, you’ve heard plenty about my strange philosophy that it’s great to talk about failure. I’ve told you (or highlighted) every failure or fiasco in my life, as I believe our failures are what spur us to greatness.

Finally, let me point out the obvious connection: you’re not so “normal” yourself, Miss Tween. You still give me full body hugs, even standing on top of my feet so we can do a crazy hug/dance through the house. You “allow” me to snuggle with you and tuck you in every night, but don’t think I don’t notice how most nights you throw that leg over me so I have to wrestle myself free from your embrace. It’s our little secret how we call each other “bestie” at home, and have our own secret handshake. After school, you don’t run up to your room to get on your phone and watch hours of You Tube videos. Instead, I see you composing amazing music on our piano and writing poetry and stories you are eager to share with me. When we “make” you join us on family walks after dinner, even though you grumble, I love how you reach for my hand or grab your sister for spontaneous hugs as we amble along. Yep, it’s hard to put into words the joy I feel when we are spontaneously dancing or belting out a karaoke duet together in our living room.

In closing, I have thought about all we do that is so “not normal.” Deep down, I gotta believe we both know being different isn’t so bad after all. I guess it comes down to holding firm to core rules and values, while also bucking the expectations of conformity in the name of living life to the max.

Now, you must excuse me please. You are turning 13 soon and I am most certain you will be expecting me to rap or perform at your party. I need to start rehearsing.


Harmless teasing, joking, or bullying? What’s a parent to do?

January 20, 2014

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Is There a Difference Between Teasing and Bullying?

When you hear the word “bully,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?—A scene from The Karate Kid where Johnny and his merciless gang of Cobra Kai’s pummel the vulnerable “new kid,” Daniel?  Or do you think about tweens being emotionally and psychologically degraded through verbal put-downs and social exclusions?  The latter example can be more difficult to address, because this more subtle form of bullying is often harder to identify.

A teen client was recently depressed because a classmate was teasing him and making fun of his football team. This went on for days. Because it was a friend, it made the situation especially confusing.  The teen was embarrassed and upset, and he had no idea how to handle the situation.  As a self-admitted “jokester” and “prankster,” I know that a little good-natured teasing is a normal part of friendship.  But I’ve also found that the fine line between humor and hurt feelings can be a precarious one to walk.  And sorting through those subtle nuances can be as tricky as untangling a kindergartener’s shoelaces.

This complicated grey area begs the question, “Where is that official line between harmless teasing and outright bullying?

Unfortunately, this is not only a tricky question to answer, but is perhaps the wrong question to ask in the first place. Rather than viewing these situations through our adult lenses (which can result in us being overly dismissive or too eager to get involved), I submit that it’s more important to consider how your child is being affected.  If he’s happy and comfortable with the teasing, it can probably be interpreted as good-natured ribbing. However, if he feels anxious, angry, or sad, then maybe things have crossed the line.  (And if your child is confused about how he feels, advise him to pay attention to his “gut instinct.”)

So what can you do as a parent to help and educate your child on bullying and teasing?  Firstly, encourage conversations about this topic.  It’s especially important that you’re the initiator since many kids don’t want to talk about being bullied (because they’re ashamed or feel as if it’s their fault).  Asking direct questions like, “Are there any kids at school who tease you?” or “Do kids leave you out?” is a good way to get things started.

If you suspect your child or teen may be getting teased or bullied, here are some ways you can foster and maintain open communication:
•    Ask subtle questions like “Who do you normally hang out with?” or “Are there any kids at school you don’t like?  Why?”
•    Maintain close communication with teachers at school and through parent-teacher conferences.  Don’t exclusively focus on academics!  Ask your teachers questions about how well your child gets along with his peers, with whom does he spend the majority of his time, and if they’ve ever seen examples of your child being excluded or bullied?  Even if his teachers haven’t noticed anything concerning, if you suspect problems, raising these question should promote future awareness.
•    Get your child involved in a social skills group to learn how to be more assertive, better read social cues, recognize annoying behaviors, and make friends
•    Teach your child to hang out in crowds – bullies like to target kids who are typically alone
•    Have your child practice ahead of time how she’ll respond to bullying—with assertive words, steady voice, eye contact, and strong body posture.  Your child can learn to visualize what she wants to happen—walking tall, shoulders back, strong voice saying, “I’m not going to listen to you talking to me that way.”
•    If your child is being teased by a friend, encourage him to say in an assertive voice, “That’s not funny. Please don’t say that anymore.”
•    Do NOT encourage physical retaliation – it will likely result in your child being disciplined at school.  Despite the prevalent notion that you should “fight back” to stop bullying, your child’s retaliation is just as likely to escalate a situation into something more violent or dangerous.

•    Work with your child’s school. It’s their responsibility to coordinate the response to bullying in school.
•    While your emotions are bound to run high, try to keep them under control. Stay rational and stick to the facts when working with school officials to remedy the situation.
•    Never tell your child to simply ignore the bullying. Giving this advice may make him feel as if you’re ignoring the situation and trivializing his problems. If he walks away feeling as if he shouldn’t have wasted his time, he may not open up the next time he encounters a problem.  You can also encourage him to use a sense of humor to throw off the teasers – acting as if the received verbal jabs are compliments, or responding to teasing with compliments, etc.
•    Ask your teen to let you know about cyberbullying ASAP, and never tell them to respond to it online.  If it gets too malicious, your Internet Service Provider may be able to help track anonymous cyberbullies. You can also contact your ISP or web forum administrator to see if it’s possible to block future texts, emails, or posts from known cyberbullies. If the bullying behavior gets really extreme or has threats of violence, extortion, child pornography, or hate crimes, contact the police immediately.
•    If your child has trouble opening up to you or you need additional help, seek professional assistance from an experienced child psychologist.

Wynns Family Psychology is a child/adolescent specialty practice in Cary, NC providing therapy and assessment services to children, teens, and their families.  We offer social skills groups for preschoolers, elementary school children, middle schoolers, and teens.  We provide assessments for ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Gifted, Depression/Anxiety, and Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism.  We offer parent consultations for parents as well as coaching for teens.  Visit our website for more information: or call (919) 467-7777.

Sibling Strife

August 20, 2013


“But she started it!,” comes the whine from the backseat. If these are familiar words (and I know they are), you’re not alone. Most parents have kids with at least one thing in common: sibling fighting. Unless your children are far apart in age (or they’re benevolent aliens from another planet), they’re going to fight. So the real question is, “What is the best way for us parents to handle it?” Do we intervene? Do we ignore? Do we throw water at them like fighting dogs?

We all know sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up. And we all remember stories from our own childhood of fighting brothers and sisters. (I personally have memories of screaming and hair-pulling fights in the family car. P.S. My sisters and I are the best of friends now). But most parents would agree: even though they’re “normal,” sibling fights drive us crazy. They cause additional stress on marriages and create a general climate of negativity and familial unhappiness. Siblings often lure moms and dads into their disputes, each often finding a corresponding parent to support their side. But it’s important as parents to present a united front (even if you disagree), in order to set a positive example and teach your kids to resolve conflict themselves.

One fundamental cause of sibling rivalry is jealousy.  Because children often assume there is a limited amount of parental love, attention, and material items, this leads to conflict. (Researchers believe siblings close in age and of the same gender can be especially competitive with each other.) And though parents try in vain to make things “fair,” this is a stressful and next-to-impossible goal to maintain. To this day, my own mother keeps a Christmas List spread sheet for her “thirty-ish” year old children to make sure she spends the same amount on each child (as close to the penny as possible). Even though I can’t say I mind this policy, I encourage parents NOT to aim for equality, but to tell kids that in the end, things balance out. It’s also helpful to remind kids that “Life isn’t always fair,” which will be especially true once they leave the nest. So if one of your kids has done an exceptional job on something, point it out.  Give her extra praise and attention. It’s ok to make these daily decisions moment by moment, without having to worry about the long-term consequences of giving a child more strokes than the other.

And when in doubt about whether or not to intervene, remember this rule of thumb: “Don’t rush to break up a fight. Ignore the small stuff, and address the biggies.” If you’re always jumping in to solve their problems, your kids will never learn to resolve conflicts themselves. I often jokingly tell parents, unless you see blood or hear an agonizing scream, let them work it out on their own.  Oh, and of course lead your children by example.  Do you really expect your kids to behave better than you do?

Want more help with surviving sibling conflict? Check out our Sibling Strife Workshop! This unique workshop includes separate classrooms for parents and sibling pairs—each teaching strategies for resolving sibling conflict.

Click here for the flier: [Note: Date has changed to September 30th!]

Want more tips? Listen to my podcast on the topic:

Banish Bedtime Battles!

October 11, 2012

For many parents, when we think of the “dream” bedtime routine, we imagine tucking in our smiling children each night, kissing them on the cheek, and tiptoeing out of the room as they begin to softly snore. Well, for many parents, the nightly bedtime routine is more of a nightmare. Kids refusing to go to bed, coming up with excuses to avoid bed, and coming out of bed in the middle of the night over and over again are just a few of the common problems parents struggle with. For effectively winning these bedtime battles, it takes a No Wimpy Parenting approach:

1)      Don’t wait until the last minute: Many parents start the frantic “bath, brush your teeth, p.j’s” routine 15 minutes before they want their children in bed. This tactic backfires for the parent and kid: The parent has asked for something that is impossible to achieve. The kid is stressed because the routine is so rushed and there is no time to relax (an essential ingredient for a smooth bedtime routine). Allow 30 – 45 minutes for a relaxing routine involving bath or shower, quiet reading or play, snuggles and bed.

2)      No electronics an hour before desired bedtime: Research shows exposure to any screen suppresses melatonin, the natural hormone our body produces that makes us sleepy. Establish a family rule that all t.v.’s, computers, video games, and phones are shut down at a certain time every night. (I know, I know, all moms have no trouble falling asleep in front of t.v. at night but that’s because we’re all sleep deprived!)

3)      Establish a positive, brief routine when tucking the child in that has a definitive end. Many children will continue to ask questions, ask for water, hop out of bed for “one more” something…anything to postpone the moment you walk out of the room. Establish a policy that once their head is on the pillow, they can’t get out of bed (unless it’s a bathroom necessity). Have a fun ritual like saying prayers, giving silly kisses or hugs, turning on night light, and walking out.

4)      Have consequences for misbehavior and rewards for positives: Give warnings in advance that if the child continues to come out of bed, refuses to lay down, etc. they will get a consequence the next day (no t.v. before school, extra chores in the morning, or have an earlier bedtime the next night, etc.). Use a sticker chart or marbles in the jar to reward kids for smooth bedtimes each night. Have the child trade out for a fun reward on the weekend – trip to the dollar store, ice cream shop, or extra videogame/t.v. time.

5)      Consider your child could be over-tired. Kids and teens who are chronically sleep deprived release a stress hormone that is essentially like a boost of caffeine – this stress hormone makes them hyper, irritable, and wild (which is why many parents are surprised to find out that their kids are actually exhausted, because they don’t seem tired). Try backing up the bedtime in 15 minute increments until you find your child falling asleep much more quickly at night and being less hyper and irritable at bedtime.

Parents have been battling their children to go to bed since the cavemen (and women) insisted their children lay down in their bedrock beds. It’s an age-old battle, but follow these steps and your children (and you) will drift off to sweet dreams.


Controversy #1: Early Entry to Kindergarten

April 16, 2012

This is a two-part article series on “Controversies in Kindergarten.” Part I focuses on “Early Entry to Kindergarten.”

In North Carolina, we have dozens of parents who are stressed, frustrated, upset and confused.  They are frantically trying to research their options, get a straight answer, and make decisions that seem life-changing at the time.  What has these poor parents so riled up?  The August 31st birthday deadline for kindergarten entry.  If your child is born on August 31st or before, you can breathe a sigh of relief and know your 5 year old will bounce into a kindergarten class this fall.  Your child may not know his alphabet or numbers, or maybe she won’t know her shapes yet.  But because she’s five, the red carpet will be rolled out for her.

Now, if your child was born on September 1st or later, it’s a whole different ball game.  Even if a child was born at 12:03 a.m. on September 1st, parents must go through an intensive process including IQ and achievement testing to determine if their child is eligible for early entry.  Because the testing can’t occur until AFTER April 16th each year, this is the week parents are finally able to start the early entry process. As a child psychologist who administers and oversees these assessment batteries each spring, I often hear that the school system does NOT make this easy on parents.  The process is almost like completing a small dissertation by the time it’s all over with.

What’s involved with the “early entry” process:

  • Parents have to collect work samples that prove their child’s genius (“See that, that’s his interpretation of the Impressionistic era.  And see, that’s his drawing of the Eiffel Tower.”)
  • They have to garner letters of recommendation (Really, for a four year old?  “Susie’s use of macaroni noodles in her art project was truly inspirational”).
  • Then of course there’s the testing… a child psychologist must administer the IQ and achievement tests required by the school.  The child must score at the 98th percentile or higher.

In NC, the school system does not hide the fact that its bias is that kids should NOT enroll early.  In fact, their website says, “Most children, including most gifted children, will not benefit from early entrance to kindergarten.”  It’s important to consider why the school might discourage early entry: financial, class size, and having to provide gifted services for these kids which enroll early.

Although it’s a current trend to hold your child back so they’ll start kindergarten as one of the oldest and biggest (see article “Controversy #2: Redshirting Kindergarteners”), I disagree with this as a general rule.  I think many kids who are a “fresh five” or about to turn five are completely ready for kindergarten.  In fact, there’s a window where a child is eager to learn and ready for the next developmental leap.  The kids who have passed the tests at my office and go on to early entry to kindergarten THRIVE!

 The advantages of starting your child in kindergarten “early” are often:

• Providing the challenging and enriching curriculum for which a child is ready. If a child is bright and ready for the next stage of learning, it is important to provide that challenging environment at the right time.

• Hitting the “window” for a child’s excitement and readiness. Many times a child who will be turning five in September or October has been anticipating going to kindergarten at age 5. Many of his peers are going to kindergarten this year and it’s helpful to enroll a child when he is excited and ready to go to “big school.”

• Financial – no more paying for expensive daycare and preschool.

• Time – Your child would be taken care of for 6-7 hours a day now leaving more time for parents to work, focus on other siblings, clean the house, get coffee…you get the idea.

The disadvantages of starting your child “early” in kindergarten may be:

• If the child is immature emotionally, socially, or behaviorally, you may be setting your child up for failure or frustration. If your child has demonstrated in preschool or daycare that he is not able to sit and attend to a lesson, get along well with peers, or transition easily from one activity to the next, he may be put in a situation for which he is not ready.  This may set his entire educational experience off to a negative start. (This child may also cause problems for the teacher and the other students who have to deal with his behavior.)

• If the child is not ready academically, again, she will be set up for a very frustrating year. If she is consistently requiring extra attention from the teachers because she does not understand the material, she is likely to develop a negative attitude towards school.

• If for whatever reason, your child is not developmentally ready for kindergarten, you may see other behavioral or emotional problems pop up (i.e., your child acts out because he is not ready for the structure and expectations of kindergarten.)

Early entry to kindergarten is equivalent to a child skipping a grade. Although there is no perfect list of criteria to know whether your child is ready for kindergarten, you want to see that your child:

• Knows her ABC’s and numbers at least 1 – 10. Even better if she can sound out some simple words or recognize some sight words. Also better if she has shown applied math skills (i.e., she has four blocks and you say, “If I gave you two more blocks, how many would you have?” She says, “six.”)

• Has demonstrated the ability to sit for periods of time in a structured setting and attend to a “lesson.”

• Can handle separations from mom and dad well.

• Is able to play well with peers. It’s still normal for children to squabble over toys or fight, but you want to see your child playing well much of the time.

• Has demonstrated the ability to respect adult authority figures (other than you) by following directions and instructions.

• Can handle transitions during the day from one activity to the next.

• Is mature enough to be able to function comfortably with approximately 23 older children throughout a 6-7 hour day.

Although this is a personal decision and parents have to look at their individual child, I encourage parents not to get discouraged by “the system” and assume it’s a dead end.  Yes it takes a little time and money to go through this process.  But if you consider the time and money of another year of preschool or daycare, it’s a great deal if you can go ahead and send your child early.  On a personal note, I have a daughter with an August 20th birthday.  She was a “fresh five” when she started kindergarten.  She has excelled in school and is now a “gifted” third grader.  If she had been born 12 days later, there’s no doubt we would have attempted early entry.  She would have been bored to tears doing one more year in preschool learning the “letter of the week.”  The bottom line is you know your child best.  Follow your parental instinct and don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged by the process.  At the very least, you’ll have great documentation of how wonderful your child is at this age!

Dr. Kristen Wynns is the owner/founder of Wynns Family Psychology, a specialty child/adolescent practice in Cary, NC providing therapy, testing, and custody services for children and teens.  ( She is also the founder and creator of “No Wimpy Parenting” SM. is a resource for parents who want to take their power back.  Articles, videos and podcasts, blogs, and a Q/A section for parents provide tips for parents to gain more confidence and competence as parents.  Dr. Wynns also offers phone, Skype, or face to face consultations to provide your family with individualized and customized recommendations and feedback.  Visit or call (919) 805-0182 for more information.


Controversy #2: “Redshirting” Kindergarteners

April 16, 2012

This is a two-part article series on “Controversies in Kindergarten.” Part I focused on “Early Entry to Kindergarten.” Part II focuses on the trend of “redshirting” kindergarteners.

Many parents have never heard of the term “Redshirting” unless they are sports fans. Because I do NOT follow sports that often, I’ll explain simply that redshirting is a concept taken from college sports, where athletes will practice with the team for the first year but sit out competition while they get bigger, stronger, and more competitive. In the world of competitive parenting, redshirting is a growing trend in which parents “hold back” their child from starting kindergarten at age five, and give them an extra year to get tougher, bigger, and smarter. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that academic redshirting occurs at the rate of about 9% per year among kindergarten-age children (West, Meek, & Hurst, 2000). The practice of parents waiting until their children are six to enroll them in kindergarten has become so widespread that CBS’ 60 Minutes has recently aired a segment on this controversial topic.  For a link to the CBS’ 60 Minutes: “Redshirting: Holding kids back from kindergarten,” go here.

This trend is especially popular among parents of boys. With a generation of parents who were spoon feeding their infants organic baby food while playing Baby Einstein videos set to classical music in a black and white room, redshirting is another avenue for the hypercompetitive parent. Redshirting is possibly as controversial and emotional as the process of “early entry” to kindergarten (see article on Controversy #1: Early Entry to Kindergarten). On the “pro” side, parents believe this practice of redshirting is simply giving their child every advantage to succeed academically, socially, and athletically – “leveling the playing field” so to speak. For parents who are “against” redshirting, they believe parents are actually setting up an imbalanced and unfair playing field for the other kids who are age appropriate for their grade. They believe before their children even start school, they are setting up a competition with other students. What does research say about which camp of parents is correct? Unfortunately, the studies on this practice provide us with mixed results thus far. We do know that in general, advanced kids tend to “level out” as they reach third grade. There are also some studies pointing to later emotional and behavioral problems in children who were redshirted.

Because the research is inconclusive about the effects of redshirting and few school districts prohibit it, parents are usually the ones who have to decide whether to keep their child out of kindergarten for an extra year. The following are some points for parents to consider in making a decision:

  • Try to be realistic about your child’s social, emotional, and academic skills as when determining his or her “readiness” for kindergarten. In other words, don’t delay entrance into kindergarten just because the child is likely to be among the youngest in the class or has a summer birthday.
  • Get a second opinion: Ask your child’s preschool teacher, Sunday School teacher, soccer coach, or pediatrician about their thoughts about your child’s readiness for kindergarten.
  • If you want a more thorough assessment of your child’s readiness, many child psychologists will offer a brief “screening” to assess your child’s emotional, social, behavioral, and academic skills. The psychologist can then provide you feedback about the advantages and disadvantages of redshirting your child.
  • Ask about your school’s kindergarten readiness screening procedures or tests to get an idea of how your child might fare in the kindergarten classroom in which she or he will most likely be placed.
  • Consider what else your child will be doing if she did not start kindergarten? Will she continue in a preschool program with much younger children? Will he remain at home and have access to social interactions with same-age peers?
  • Assess your child’s learning “window.” Is he or she excited about starting “big school” and bored with the “same old, same old” of preschool?

No matter when your child starts kindergarten, it’s a new beginning for him or her—and for you. It’s important for parents to project a positive and calm manner when discussing kindergarten with or around their child. There are many ways parents can prepare their child for kindergarten success: 1) Ensure your child has time every day to PLAY! Research shows that play actually leads to improved academic skills. Play, which is really a child’s ‘work,’ contributes to cognitive, physical, social, and emotional growth. 2) Plan to have your child visit the school and meet his or teacher before the first day of school. 3) Talk to your child about the routine in kindergarten and give him or her a schedule using pictures or words, depending on your child’s reading level. Most importantly, remind yourself to cherish the memories of walking your little tyke into school with an oversized back pack on, whenever that big day arrives!


Dr. Kristen Wynns is the owner/founder of Wynns Family Psychology, a specialty child/adolescent practice in Cary, NC providing therapy, testing, and custody services for children and teens.  ( She is also the founder and creator of “No Wimpy Parenting” SM. is a resource for parents who want to take their power back.  Articles, videos and podcasts, blogs, and a Q/A section for parents provide tips for parents to gain more confidence and competence as parents.  Dr. Wynns also offers phone, Skype, or face to face consultations to provide your family with individualized and customized recommendations and feedback.  Visit or call (919) 805-0182 for more information.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to “Get on the Same Page” with your spouse!

January 2, 2012

I recently did a podcast with on this topic – how do you get on the same page with your spouse, when it comes to parenting? Click here if you’d like to listen

This topic is near and dear to my heart for many reasons. First, I know during my 13 year marriage, one of the most common sources of conflict is debating over how to discipline and raise our children. Second, I frequently observe most of my clients struggling to maintain consistency between spouses and undermining each other’s authority when it comes to parenting.

One of the number one sources of conflict for couples is parenting disagreements. Frequently, parents become more polarized in parenting styles, discipline techniques, and expectations for children’s behavior over time. The parent who is slightly more permissive becomes much more lax in the face of a parent who initially was slightly more strict, but is now extremely rigid and demanding.  Couples feel they are constantly compensating for the other parent’s weakness and this lack of unity leads to a great divide between the couple.  On a day to day basis, couples are often undermining the power and authority of the other parent. They may do it in subtle ways (i.e., “Did Daddy REALLY say no t.v. for the rest of the night?!”) or in an outright obvious manner (i.e., “Mommy is wrong. She shouldn’t have let you stay up late like this. This isn’t good. Go to bed!”). Parents may question the other spouse’s punishment IN FRONT OF THE CHILD! The father may say, “You can’t ground him for that, that’s not fair!” Couples may have frequent arguments about parenting and feel like they are individual parents rather than co-parents. This division leads to the couple feeling a lack of intimacy, constantly irritated and stressed, and eventually a lack of trust.

So how do couple’s try to resolve this? Many couples TRY to get on the same page by “giving in” to make their spouse happy. For example, a wife might say, “Fine, I’ll be better about disciplining them. But you’ve got to stop screaming at them so much!” This type of pseudo-compromise might work in the very short term. But without a more fundamental shift in the individuals’ perspectives about co-parenting and the need to present a united front, couples quickly drift back to bad habits. They may argue, criticize the other parent, try to get the child(ren) on “their side”, and sabotage the other parent’s efforts to be a good parent.

Couples who are seeking a permanent resolution to overcoming the divide need to strive for the following:

  • You and your spouse need to be explicit with each other about what your rules and expectations are. If necessary, write them down, review them and be sure they are workable. In areas in which you differ, find a compromise that you both can live with – and stick by it.
  • You and your spouse need to commit yourselves to communicate about every significant issue in your family life. At least once a day the two of you need to check in with each other and discuss what happened that day that was important. At the same time, talk about long-term issues that may be confronting the family.
  • You and your spouse need to resolve your own ambivalence on important family matters and agree on a position on these issues. For example, if you’re confused about the benefits and harm of spanking, you need to research the topic or seek expertise of a child psychologist, then make a decision TOGETHER about whether you will spank or not.
  • Present a united front to your children. Spouses need to communicate with each other about rules and consequences for the children. Children always look for a kink in the armor between the parents, so make sure you agree on the rules. Children learn how to play one parent against the other, so parents should confer and agree on rules, requests, and discipline before sharing their decision with the children.
  • Find ways to cooperate, not compete, with each other. That doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything; but it does mean that you are committed to working together toward a more harmonious relationship and family life, and you are not going to let differences undermine your common goals. Each of you needs to demonstrate some flexibility.
  • Learn the skills of conflict resolution. These include:
    • Listening
    • Clarifying points of difference
    • Taking each other’s feelings seriously
    • Generating alternative solutions together
    • Negotiating
  • If you and your spouse disagree over how to handle your child’s behavior, it should never be discussed in front of your child-period. Realize that when one parent undermines the other parent in this way, it hurts both parents. That’s because your child is going to question both of you. Sometimes, kids feel like they have to choose sides. And not only that, they’re going to feel insecure that the two of you don’t seem to know what to do-because after all, if you knew what to do, you’d be agreeing. So these things have to be handled privately.

Make it your #1 “Couple’s” New Year’s Resolution to solidify “Team Parents”! Parenting is hard enough as is. Turn to your spouse as a valuable teammate and see how 2012 can be the best year yet!

Wynns Family Psychology often works with couples and parents to offer practical and solution-focused tips to improve a family’s functioning and happiness. Visit for more info.