A, B, C’s and 1, 2, 3’s of Advocating for your Child in School (No Wimpy style)

August 13, 2011

Back to school can be a stressful and exciting time for parents and kids. For parents who have children with special needs or unique challenges, it can be an even more overwhelming time. Whether your child has been diagnosed with AD/HD, Asperger’s, a Learning Disability or is gifted…it can sometimes be an intimidating process to interact with school officials to make sure your child’s needs are being met. Many parents become quickly frustrated and confused when trying to negotiate the complicated waters of setting up IEP’s, testing their child for gifted services, or even creating a plan to help a child “catch up” in a certain subject. As a parent of a child who qualified for AG services, I know first hand the delicate balancing act of advocating for your child and not offending the school or teacher. Being an advocate for your child in the school system takes a “No Wimpy” approach: after all, there’s nothing more important fighting for than your child! Here are a few ABC’s and 1,2, 3’s to get you started:

A)    Avoid the blame game. Discussing an important issue with busy and overworked teachers and staff can be difficult. Even if you believe the school has been slack or made mistakes, try to keep your cool. Go into meetings with a problem-solving, non-attacking approach. Remember to try to be considerate of the teacher’s time and thank them for setting aside time to talk with you. If teachers and administrators are using too much “jargon,” feel free to ask for clarification or consult with a professional outside of the school (psychologist or tutor). Even though you may have to be persistent, keep in mind that ultimately everyone involved wants what’s best for your child.

B)    Build good relations from the start. Don’t wait for an issue to emerge to introduce yourself to your child’s teacher. Raising a concern will be easier and less confrontational if open communication has already been established. There are many ways to become a positive force in your child’s classroom (i.e., volunteering, bringing in bribes treats, eating lunch with your child and saying hi to the teacher)

C)    Connect with others. There’s strength in numbers and most likely any school-based issue is not unique to your child. Look into your local PTA to connect with other parents. If you’re concerned about a disability of any kind, contact your state’s federally funded parent resource centers.

  • Autism Society of NC: click here
  • Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center: click here
  • AD/HD resources: click here

1)      Know your rights. Most issues have a good chance of bhttp://www.chadd.orgeing addressed to everyone’s satisfaction within your school community. But if you are unable to get to the resolution you need, legal means are available. If your child’s disability affects his educational performance, you have the right under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) to have your child tested to determine his special education eligibility. You can also request mediation or a “fair hearing.”

2)      Document events. Keep a record of all meetings and phone calls including dates and people involved along with your initial document and any letters. We all know as parents our “to do” lists grow longer every day. It’s tough to remember when you made a request or who was the contact person to help you with the next step. Keeping a log of meetings and contact people will help you stay organized. Politely informing the school you are documenting the events also lets the school know you are serious.

3)      Develop possible solutions and define the next steps: This sets a positive tone indicating you want to work in partnership with the school to resolve the problem; you’re not merely complaining, but offering potential solutions. At the end of the meeting ask:

  • What is the next step?
  • Who will be responsible for that step?
  • When (a date) will the next step occur?

This step is crucial; it keeps the meeting from being merely a gripe session and increases the likelihood of a positive outcome. Leave a copy of your written document with the teacher.

Here’s the video segment on My Carolina Today on this topic: http://www.mycarolinatoday.com/2011/08/advocate-for-your-child-at-school/

Additional resources:

http://www.nolo.com/products/the-complete-iep-guide-IEP.html

http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/ec/policy/resources/

http://abss.k12.nc.us/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/32236/File/student-parent/parents_rights_handbook.pdf

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“No Wimpy Parenting” talk about sex with your kids

June 12, 2011

NoWimpyParenting.com is FINALLY here!  After months of fine tuning the philosophy and creating the website, NoWimpyParenting.com is up and running.  As I’ve said many times, I’m passionate about starting a parenting revolution “one parent at a time” by providing parents with advice and a “kick in the pants” when needed.  NoWimpyParenting.com is a resource for parents with articles, podcasts, videos, and information about how to schedule individual consultations with me. I offer an array of parenting consultations to meet any budget: email/chat consultations, Skype/phone consultations, face to face consultations, and intensive home interventions.  See NoWimpyParenting.com for more information or to contact me.

I recently did a “No Wimpy” segment on My Carolina Today about talking with Talking with your kids and teens about sex.   Click here to watch the video.  It is fair to say that talking with kids and teens about sex is not for the faint of heart.  Many parents would do just about anything to dodge having that discussion with their kids.  The fact is, kids are learning about sex at younger and younger ages.  Parents need to take a “No Wimpy Parenting” approach and just tell it like it is.

 

  • When kids are younger, it’s appropriate to have the “sex talk” and stick to the basics.  As kids get older, parents need to expand the discussion and talk about STD’s and Pregnancy, Sexual abuse and Date Rape, and “Sexting”/Inappropriate online sexual activity
  • You must practice your game face!  Teens will run from the room if you get embarrassed and stammer and blush when you discuss sex.  Know that your child or teen may confess something to you or ask you a question that will make you blush to the tips of your toes.  It’s not a bad idea to practice having a relaxed and matter of fact talk with your teens before you attempt it in real life. (Seriously, stand in front of your mirror and practice having a discussion with your teen about sex.  Or talk with your spouse about what you will say when you are faced with an unnerving question).
  • Timing is everything!  It’s often a good idea to initiate a discussion about sex when you and your teen are driving somewhere or engaged in a “hands on” activity.  It is NOT advised to sit your teen down in the formal living room face to face and say, “Soooooo, we need to talk.”  That will guarantee your teen will be mapping out the escape route before you’ve even opened your mouth for the next sentence. If your teen spontaneously asks you a question about sex, stay calm and say, “I’m glad you came to me with that question” (try to quickly collect your thoughts as you say that).
  • Don’t pat yourself on the back after having a sex talk one time.  You’ll need to revisit the topic(s) again and again.  As kids get older, they will be developmentally ready for more details and hard “facts.”
  • Don’t stop short – make sure to discuss your family and religious values as they relate to premarital sex.  Yes we all hear the statistics about teens and sex.  But there ARE kids and teens who are raised in homes in which the values are to wait until marriage to have sex.  That is still a reality for some kids/teens and parents need to make sure to explain WHY those values are important to the family.

Starting a Revolution: One parent at a time

February 13, 2011

Big things are coming this year.  A new parenting website will be coming soon….it’s under wraps now.  I’m going to be doing more parenting segments on My Carolina Today.  And oh yeah, I’m going to start a Parenting Revolution.  First topic, recognizing if you’ve given away your power to your kid(s).  Check out the segment on My Carolina Today and then read more.  Let me know if you’re ready to sign up for the revolution.

http://www.mycarolinatoday.com/2011/01/parents-take-control/

5 steps to taking back your power

It’s time to start a revolution in America.  Bit by bit, day by day, parents are slowly giving away their power.  To whom you ask?  To their children!  There seems to be an epidemic of kids and teens running their households and parents are left with their hands in the hair, shrugging and wondering, “Where did I go wrong?  How did this Happen?  Or “Why don’t my kids respect me?”

 

Step 1: Ask Yourself, “Have I given away my power?”

Some parents may not be aware of how they’ve given away their power.  It happens over time and it can be such a slow and subtle process, (and kids are so darn clever) that many parents don’t realize it, until it’s too late.  Here are some signs you’ve given (or are giving away) away your power:

  • When you ask your kids to do something, they frequently say, “No because…” or “First I’m going to…” or “I can’t because…”
  • Your kids throw tantrums or get furious if you won’t take them where they want to go, buy them what they want, or help them with something.
  • You often find yourself threatening and warning over and over again until you’re so frustrated you lose your temper.
  • Your kids make decisions about what they’ll attend and not attend, when they’ll go to bed, or when they’ll turn off the t.v. or computer at night.
  • Your kids ignore or laugh at your rules – even if you say there’s a curfew or a bedtime, it’s not really enforced and the kids know it.
  • You often feel frustrated at the lack of respect you get from your kids and feel like, “My kids do what they want to do and don’t ever listen to me.”

 

Step 2:  Reflect on “How did this Happen?”

Some of the current popular philosophies of raising and educating children are disastrous for our families. We allow the child too much freedom and put the child in control.  We are encouraging our children to be free and outspoken, to be empowered. But we are not helping them build their character. We are not teaching them enough about limits and discipline, about empathy and respect. Someone once told us, it’s good to give your child choices, but we’ve taken that mentality and gone to an extreme.

 

Step 3: Redistribute the power appropriately (i.e., fill up your water gun!)

There are small things parents do every day that allow their children/teens to have power.  Quiz question 1: If you ask your teen to take out the dog and he says, “In a minute, I’m busy” you have two choices: One: You respond by saying, “I said take the dog out now please.” Two: You sigh with frustration, accept his response and walk out of the room. Which one maintains your power and authority as the parent?

 

Quiz question 2: You ask your child to eat two pieces of broccoli.  You ask your child if he ate it and he says yes.  When you walk by his chair you see the piece of broccoli on the floor. Do you A) roll your eyes and toss it in the trash or B) confront your child and give him a consequence for lying.

Keep your water gun filled. Imagine parenting as a big water gun fight.  Every time you give away your power to your children, you’re giving them water from your water gun.  If this happens enough, you will have an empty water gun.  Then guess what happens when you come face to face with your child in the living room with your water guns raised, your child looks at your empty water gun and laughs saying, “What are you gonna do?”  You don’t have any ammo left.

  • Many parents argue too much. They go on explaining the same thing dozens of times. If you have said something two times, then that’s enough. After the second time, you should ACT and not TALK.
  • Follow through: If you say, “If I find your shoes in the living room again, I’m going to donate them to Goodwill”, donate them to Goodwill if you find them again! Once your children know that you will do as you say, then you won’t have to do it. They will respect your word!
  • Too many choices!  Yes it’s good to give kids choices.  But you shouldn’t be asking them, “Do you want to go to bed now?”  “Do you want to go to church today?” If it’s something you want your kids to do, make it a statement, “Time for bed.” “We leave for church in 10 minutes”

Step 4: Maintain the new power structure and BE CONSISTENT!

  • Follow through with consequences: If you ground your child for a week from his phone, don’t let him have it back in two days because he’s harassing you for it.  If you put your child in time out for 4 minutes, and she giggles and runs away in 2 minutes, bring her back again.  See punishments through!
  • Keep it simple. Don’t try to focus on too many behaviors and issues because it will overwhelm you and you won’t end up following through on anything.  Choose the top 3-5 behaviors you struggle with, and try your best to correct and discipline those behaviors every single time.
  • Keep looking out for sneaky power suckers – small things like kids ignoring you when you make small requests, kids refusing to cooperate, kids telling you what they are willing to do…small things eventually add up to filling up their water guns and depleting yours.

Step 5: Watch out for regression to the “old ways”

Many parents enthusiastically embrace new parenting strategies and do a great job…for about 1-2 days.  Then reality hits….long days at work, tired parents, smart kids…and parents lose their resolve and get sucked into the bad habits again.

  • Find an accountability partner – whether it’s your spouse, your parent, your best friend…You need someone who will ask you DAILY – “How are you doing with Billy? Are you still following through?  Are you still being consistent?  Are you correcting his behavior every time he misbehaves?”
  • Another idea is to keep a parenting log and at the end of the day, take 5 minutes to write a summary of the day.  Example: “Sent Suzy to time out twice for noncompliance but she was great the rest of the day.  I verbally corrected Tommy a few times for disrespect and enforced grounding from t.v. which was given to him yesterday, etc.”
  • Finally, remember these things aren’t to give your ego a boost and wear your kids down.  Kids NEED and WANT boundaries and limits.  It makes them feel safe, secure, and loved.  So know that what you’re doing isn’t just going to make you feel good, it will ultimately make them feel good too!

Kristen Wynns, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist, Owner of Wynns Family Psychology

Wynns Family Psychology is a specialty child and adolescent practice in Cary, NC serving children ages 2 and up.  Our focus is to deliver high-quality therapy, testing, and consultations from our team of caring, professional, and highly competent doctoral-level psychologists.  Wynns Family Psychology services include individual, family, and group therapy, educational and psychological evaluations, Autism and developmental evaluations, and custody consultations.  For more information, visit wynnsfamilypsychology.com or call (919) 805-0182.

Early entry to kindergarten: the good, the bad, the ugly

January 26, 2011

In North Carolina, we have a handful 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 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.  In North Carolina, parents must go through an intensive process including IQ and achievement testing to determine if their child is eligible for early entry.  And let’s be honest, 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.  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”).  In NC, the school system does not hide the fact that it’s 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.

Then of course there’s the testing…which is where I come in.  I’m a child psychologist who administers the IQ and achievement tests required by the school.  Each year I empathize with the stressed parents who have bright, eager kids who are ready for kindergarten but missed the cutoff – by a day, by a few weeks, or by a few months.  I LOVE this testing – it’s a joy to work with little adorable bright kids.

Although it’s a current trend to hold your child back so they’ll start kindergarten as one of the oldest and biggest, 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!  Here is an excerpt from an email sent to me from a parent of a child I tested last spring (who had  November birthday, passed the tests, and went on to early entry in kindergarten): “J. is THRIVING in kindergarten and is happy to get on that bus every single day!  His first report card was almost all 4’s and O’s (outstanding), and he received the ‘Outstanding Eagle’ award (similar to Student of the Month)!!!!  And he’s not even five until next week!   We are so happy for him!  A million heartfelt thank you’s!!!  I really struggled with this decision and it has been a blessing, we will be forever grateful!!”

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 final 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” second 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!

For more information on Wynns Family Psychology, visit http://wynnsfamilypsychology.com/EarlyEntryKindergartenTestingNC/tabid/1166/language/en-US/Default.aspx

Helping kids be grateful when it’s NOT holiday time

January 12, 2011

As parents, we’re all familiar with the phenomenon of kids being sweet, gooey, and thankful when Christmas is a week away.  We also know all of us are more likely to reflect on life’s blessings or give to charities when it’s holiday time.  However, instilling a sense of gratitude in our children (and having one ourselves) is linked to so many benefits, we need to try and maintain this sense of gratitude all year long.  Here is a segment I recorded on My Carolina Today on the topic: http://www.mycarolinatoday.com/2010/12/teaching-children-about-gratitude/

So why is it important for kids to have a sense of gratitude?

Many kids in our culture grow up with a sense of entitlement and expect everything they want to be given to them.  They have a restricted view of the world and often aren’t aware of “how good they have it.” It’s important for kids to develop a sense of gratitude so that they appreciate what they have and don’t develop into self-centered adults.

Being grateful is also good for your health.  University of California Davis psychology researcher Dr. Robert A. Emmons and his team discovered in their Gratitude Research Project that people who are grateful report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress.  In addition, grateful people tend to be more satisfied with what they have and so are less susceptible to such emotions as disappointment, regret and frustration.  The WallStreetJournal.com ran a fascinating article on the effects of gratitude in November: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052748704243904575630541486290052-lMyQjAxMTAxMDEwMTExNDEyWj.html

Can gratitude be taught?

Yes.   In a study by Dr. Michael McCullough, author of The Psychology of Gratitude, he asked his subjects to write down four or five things they were grateful for each day.  In as little as two weeks, they began feeling happier.

This year, why not implement 12 months of Gratitude? It’s important to follow these steps all year long, not just during the holiday season!

12 ways to inspire gratitude in your kids and teens

  1. Daily Reminders. Take time each day to encourage your children to express gratitude. They can do this by making an entry in a family journal or by simply talking about what they are grateful for.  At dinner, parents can have kids and teens answer the statement “Tell Me 5 Good things about Your Day.”  Put up Positive Post-it Notes with Messages of Thanks or Positive Praise for your family.
  2. Model Thanks. As with everything, modeling is the best way to teach your children to be grateful. Be lavish with your thanks. Thank your children for hugs or for helping clean the house. Thank the cashier for ringing up your groceries. Letting your children see that you are grateful will encourage them to be so as well. Also be a good role model when helping others.  Holding a door for someone at the grocery store, asking a young mom with a baby if she needs help in a public restroom, or offering to help an elderly neighbor in the yard all make an impact on your children.
  3. Establish Rituals. Establishing rituals that highlight being thankful is a wonderful teaching tool. Start dinner with each family member sharing what they are most grateful for. Say goodnight by sharing what you were thankful for that day. Once a week have everyone at the dinner table say one thing he or she appreciates about another family member.
  4. Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way for your children to see gratitude in action. There are numerous chances in every community to volunteer. There are even websites geared towards volunteering opportunities for kids and teens.  Homeless shelters, nursing homes, and mentoring programs are just a few.  Or have your kids collect gently used toys or clothes to donate.  It feels good to help others. Your children not only benefit from that, but they also get to experience the warmth of appreciation.
  5. Assign Chores. Children learn by doing chores. They learn what it means to be part of a whole. They learn their contributions are important. They also learn that most things take effort. Simple household chores can help children learn to be grateful when they benefit from the efforts of others.
  6. Thank You Notes. Writing thank you notes for gifts is a very literal way of teaching your children gratitude. Putting down on paper what they enjoyed about a particular gift, reminds your children why they are grateful for it.  Besides writing notes for gifts, also encourage kids to write thank you notes to coaches, teachers, and family members who have been there for them.
  7. Express Gratitude for the “Little Things”. Always be on the lookout for things to be grateful for and express your gratitude. When your children hear you say things like, “Oh this rain will be so good for our grass” or “What a beautiful fall day, look at those leaves”, they realize they can be grateful for even the smallest of things.  My kids know I squeal if there is a new coffee creamer to try, if I find a dollar on the ground, or if I win a game of Uno.  It’s the little things!  Remind them how we take certain things for granted – like food, heat, and clothes.  Showing them examples of third world country children who go without these things is a way of teaching them appreciation for what they have, too.
  8. Teach It Through Role Playing. You can play games with your children that implement the virtue of gratitude. Have the kids act out a scenario where someone went out of their way for someone else, and have the receiver express gratitude. Even while playing dolls or stuffed animals, you can act out scenes of thanks and gratitude.
  9. Make a List (in a paper journal or online journal). Good ol’ Oprah made this popular a few years ago.  Writing down 4-5 things each night you are grateful for can make a big difference in your daily mood and mindset.
  10. Teach Gratitude While Going Without Things. Implement a week without t.v., computers, video games, or cell phones.  Your children (especially teens) will have a new appreciation for technology (and hopefully for family time) after going without for awhile.  Yes you can survive this week too!
  11. Teach them to see the good even during rough times. You can use a negative experience to teach them the value of being grateful. Rent the movie “PollyAnna” where she played the “Glad” game and found many things to be grateful for in every situation she encountered. Renting this video, watching and discussing it with them would be a great, gratitude building quality time family activity.
  12. Consider giving a “Gratitude Box” for birthdays throughout the year. Instead of putting a lot of money into a gift, consider creating a keepsake box filled with happy memories written on slips of paper.  You can also write down things you appreciate about a family member or friend.  A gift like this can be cherished for years to come and focuses on relationships rather than material possessions.

Thank you.

What to do about bullying (it’s not just hitting and punching anymore)

November 3, 2010

I just did a segment on My Carolina Today about bullying and want to expand on what we discussed during the interview.  Watching the interview is a good place to start:

http://www.mycarolinatoday.com/2010/11/is-your-child-dealing-with-a-bully/

Now that you’ve watched that, you’re ready for Round II – info every parent needs on bullying:

What are signs your child may be being bullied?

  • Your child comes home with torn, damaged or missing belongings
  • Has unexplained injuries
  • Has few friends with whom they spend time
  • Seems afraid of going to school, riding the bus or participating in school activities
  • Has lost interest in school or they suddenly start doing poorly
  • Appears sad, moody, teary, depressed when they come home
  • Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches and other physical ailments to avoid school
  • If you notice sudden changes in your child’s behavior and mood regarding the cyber-world such as constantly checking the computer or phone paired with anxiety, depressive symptoms or a drop in academic performance.
  • Experiences loss of appetite or appears nervous, anxious and seems to have lower self esteem

What can parents or other involved adults do to help?

  • Many kids don’t talk about being bullying because they are ashamed and feel as if it’s their fault.  It’s important for parents to encourage conversations about this topic.  Ask direct questions like, “Are there any kids at school who tease you?” or “Are there any kids at school who leave you out?”
  • Ask more subtle questions like “Who do you normally play with at recess?” or “Are there any kids at school you don’t like?  Why?”
  • Maintain close communication with teachers at school and at parent-teacher conferences, don’t just focus on academics, ask questions about: How well your child gets along with others, with whom do they spend the most time with, or has the teacher ever noticed any signs of your child being excluded or bullied?
  • Get the child involved in a social skills group to learn how to be more assertive, read social cues better, recognize their annoying behaviors, and make friends
  • Teach your child to hang out in crowds – bullies like to target the child by him or herself
  • Teach your child to practice ahead of time how he or she will respond to a bully: assertive words, steady voice, eye contact, and strong body posture.  Your child can learn to visualize what he wants to happen: him walking tall, shoulders back, strong voice, saying, “You can’t talk to me that way.  I’m not going to listen to this!”
  • Do not encourage physical retaliation – it will likely result in your child being disciplined at school and teaches them that physical aggression is an appropriate solution to problems.
  • Work with your child’s school. It is the school’s responsibility to coordinate the response to bullying in school.
  • While it’s natural for you to be emotional, try to keep your emotions under control. Stay rational and stick to the facts when working with school officials to remedy the situation.
  • Never tell your child just to ignore the bullying. They will feel as if you are just going to ignore it and they should not have bothered to tell you in the first place.
  • Encourage them to use their sense of humor – to act as if it’s a compliment (say, “Thank you” if a child says something mean), or turn someone’s teasing into a compliment (i.e., if a child says “You stink at basketball” your child could say, “Well you’re really good at basketball).
  • Teachers can also help by promoting positive relationships by creating buddy systems or peer mentors so that children are not alone, perpetually outside any group.

No parent wants to realize that his or her child IS the bully, but it’s an unpleasant reality many parents face.  It’s important to know the warning signs to look out for and what to do about it if you discover your child is engaging in overt or subtle bullying.

What if my child IS the bully? Signs to look out for:

  • Frequent name-calling (describing others as ‘wimps’ or ‘jerks’);
  • Regular bragging;
  • A need to always get his own way;
  • Spending a lot of time with younger or less powerful kids;
  • A lack of empathy for others;
  • A defiant or hostile attitude (easily takes offense).
  • Hot tempered, impulsive, easily irritated
  • Aggressive towards adults or siblings
  • Describes frequent changes in friendships, “I’m not her friend anymore” and seems to create a lot ot of drama in her peer group

If you suspect your child is the bully, it is important to do the following:

  • Examine behavior and interactions in your own home (is he watching violent media, is the child exposed to intense marital conflict or sibling fighting, or is your discipline overly harsh?)
  • Make an effort to identify what triggers the bullying behavior.
  • Make it clear that bullying is not acceptable and set reasonable and fair consequences for failing to comply with those rules. Establish a “zero tolerance policy” regarding bullying in your family.
  • As bullying is often a sign of poor interpersonal social skills, parents may want find methods to help their child learn healthy social skills and bring out the best traits in their child by redirecting their energies toward healthy and contributory activities such as volunteering, martial arts (to practice self-control), or Boy/Girl Scouts (to form friendships and practice cooperation towards a common goal)
  • Many kids who bully have underlying insecurities or emotional problems that need to be addressed in therapy or with the school counselor.  Social skills groups can be great for kids who are victims of bullying or engaging in bullying.

Using technology to help with AD/HD and Autism (Tease for tomorrow’s FREE presentation)

September 19, 2010

Tomorrow night, September 20th, at 6:30 I’m teaming up with Learning Rx of Cary to present on “What’s New with Helping Children with AD/HD?” It’s AD/HD awareness month and we’re going to present to parents and teachers and give some new insights into this common disorder.  [It’s not too late to RSVP – send an email to info@wynnsfamilypsychology.com or call (919) 805-0182 to make your reservation).

Part of the talk will be on using technology to help with these disorders.  We are fortunate enough to live in an era where we have access to gadgets and gizmos and “apps” that help with disorders like AD/HD and Autism.  Here’s a sample of what we’ll discuss tomorrow night: [Note I haven’t personally tried any of these, so these descriptions are based on reviews on these products.  Many of these are geared towards the I-phone but can be found on some of the other “smart phones.”)

  • One of the simplest apps is the clock. You can set timers and alarms to help you remember to do things. Those with ADHD tend to not have the best sense of time and forget to do certain things. With this app, as long as you put it in the phone, you will never forget anything again. Along with that there is also a voice recorder in which to record voice memos. Best part is these apps come with many phones, so you don’t have to pay extra.
  • For parents there is an ADHD ToolBox app that costs $1.99. It provides tools and techniques for parents to use with children who have ADHD. Suggestions from eye contact, to use of visual aids are some of the ideas in the tool box.
  • Coping with ADHD is another great app that can be useful for adults, children, teachers, and those who know someone with ADHD. It was actually a book that was turned into an app and costs $0.99. Topics include medications, causes, and how families cope with ADHD.
  • BrainWave Sharp Mind, which costs $1.99, is designed to improve brain functioning. This app aims to improve focus and concentration as well.
  • If you are looking for a natural alternative for treating ADHD, Health Remedy may help. This app provides natural remedies for many ailments and disorders, not just ADHD. This app costs $1.99. It will provide suggestions for natural remedies and what they are designed to do.
  • Since many people with ADHD are disorganized, the Notes app that comes preinstalled on the iphone, may help. It is like having a pencil and paper with you at all times.
  • There are so many great apps available for those with ADHD. If you are someone with ADHD and would like to find apps that could help manage the disorder, check some of these out. Also, go into the app store on the iphone and search for something that interests you. If you find something of interest, you will be more likely to concentrate and focus. There are many great games and puzzles that are guaranteed to keep your attention.

For Autism, there are:

Staying Cool (When You’re “Hot”)

July 22, 2010

With the heat wave we’re experiencing here in the Triangle, it seemed timely to discuss tips for keeping your cool when your kids want you to “lose it.”  The thing about kids is, they are so good at knowing what buttons to push.  And every time they get parents to lose their cool, they feel a sense of empowerment like, “Oh wow, I can make dad so mad the vein on his head pops out.  That’s pretty cool.”  And even though the child doesn’t like to be yelled at, he feels a sense of power that his actions can have such an influence over his parents.  Now, we all know there are some days when you’re hot, tired, hungry, stressed, and you don’t have any patience or coping skills left.  BUT, if we as parents can make the effort to remain calm, cool, and matter of fact when dealing with our kids MOST OF THE TIME, they will benefit (and so will we!)  Many kids would rather have negative attention versus no attention (or not enough).  So how do parents keep their cool?  Here are a few tips:

  • Take a “time out” – if you feel those early warning signs that you’re about to lose your cool (tight chest, rapid heart rate, feel flushed), excuse yourself and say, “I need to go take a few minutes to myself, I’ll be back to discuss this in 5 minutes.”  What a great way to model anger control for your kids.
  • Pay attention to your thoughts.  If you find yourself thinking negative, “all or nothing” type thoughts (i.e., “Why does he always do this?  Is he trying to make me crazy?”) you’ll get even more upset.  But if you can alter your thoughts to be more realistic, (i.e., “He’s just a child.  I’m the adult.  I’m in control and I can handle this.”) you’ll feel a lot better.
  • Don’t give multiple warnings or “threats.”  I see a lot of parents who are afraid to discipline their children or give consequences.  So I hear things like, “Okay Hannah, put up your book and come over here.  Hannah, I said put down your book and come here.  Hannah!  Put down your book and come here or you’ll get in trouble.  Hannah!  You better get over here or you’ll lose t.v. for the week.  Okay Hannah, that’s it!  1….2…3…”  Each time you give a warning or threat, you get more agitated when you see your child isn’t complying.  Give the warning/request one time, and then the consequence.  No second, third, fourth chances.
  • Use simple relaxation strategies in the moment to calm down: deep breathing, visual imagery, whispering a soothing phrase (“Relax…breathe…”).  There’s a great website I frequently send clients to with wonderful audio files for relaxation exercises.  (And I listened to them recently the entire time I had two wisdom teeth extracted – and I opted not to get “knocked out.” The website is: http://www.loyola.edu/campuslife/healthservices/counselingcenter/relaxation.html
  • Finally, if you find yourself routinely yelling at your kids, saying hurtful things, using physical punishments when upset, you may benefit from seeing a child psychologist who can teach you and your family more effective anger control strategies.

Just as Fall will eventually come and give us a relief from this sweltering heat of summer, you can take control of your anger and be the cool, refreshing, calm force within your family.

Happy Mother’s Day: Appreciating Moms

May 9, 2010

I recorded a podcast for stayhappilymarried.com about appreciating moms.  It’s geared towards husband appreciating the role their wives play as mom to their children.  Often times women feel unappreciated, bitter, and resentful because they juggle 100 balls in the air every day and never get a “thank you” or “great job.”  The following podcast gives tips to husbands with easy things they can do to help their wives feel appreciated and supported:

http://stayhappilymarried.com/2010/05/07/happy-mothers-day-making-your-wife-feel-appreciated-as-a-mother/

Keeping your New Year’s Resolutions (in February)

January 28, 2010

As January comes to a chilly and uneventful end, many our New Year’s Resolutions are starting to resemble a vase of dead flowers: a few weeks ago they were beautiful, alive, and vibrant but now…  You’re not alone if you made a great attempt at keeping resolutions for the first few days (or hours) of 2010, but then got busy or tired and gave up.  However, just because you’ve lost momentum, doesn’t mean you can’t get back on track again.  Here’s some help:

  • Track your progress.
    Keep track of each small success you make toward reaching your larger goal. Short-term goals are easier to keep, and small accomplishments will help keep you motivated. Instead of focusing on losing 30 pounds, say, focus on losing that first 5 and keeping it off.
  • Tell your friends and family.

One school of thought says that New Year’s resolutions are best kept to oneself, but look at it this way: the more people to whom you announce your resolution (say, to quit smoking), the more people there will be to prod you along if you fall behind. There’s no shame in seeking help if you can’t accomplish your resolution on your own.  Chances are, if your best friend is checking your purse for cigarettes or your sister is sniffing your hair for smoke, you might be more inclined to stay focused on your goal.

  • Don’t beat yourself up.
    Obsessing over the occasional slip won’t help you achieve your goal. Do the best you can each day, and take each day one at a time.  Remind yourself, no one is perfect and it’s unrealistic to think you’ll never need a “free pass” kind of day.  That’s the beauty of our calendar system: if you overindulge in Ci Ci’s buffet tonight (mmmm, those cinnamon rolls), tomorrow is a totally fresh start.
  • Stick to it.
    Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity, such as exercising, to become a habit, and 6 months for it to become part of your personality. Your new healthful habits will become second-nature in no time.
  • Keep trying!
    If your resolution has totally run out of steam by mid-February, don’t despair. Start over again! There’s no reason you can’t make a “New Year’s resolution” any time of year.  Valentine’s Resolutions anyone?