Friday, September 28, 2007

Parenting, Emotional Intelligence and the At-Risk Child

Parents all want to help their kids be as intelligent as they can be. Intelligence is not just one dimensional. It turns out there are many different intelligences. Among these are verbal, visual-spatial (artistic), athletic, musical and emotional intelligence. At risk children are often gifted in intelligence. It is important to understand that giftedness may not extend to all areas of intelligence. There is one intelligence that predicts success in friendships, marriage and career. That intelligence is emotional intelligence.

At risk children are at risk in part, because they have a hard time with emotional intelligence. They may be intellectually bright but at risk children may be "learning disabled" when it comes to emotional intelligence. Furthermore, at risk kids who fail to develop emotional intelligence may be handicapped for life. Emotional intelligence is is required for all three abilities of the inner triangle that I discuss in my books: ability to love, impulse control and moral reasoning. Remember, it is problems in these three abilities that cause risk for ADHD, addiction and antisocial behavior.

Emotional inteligence means capacity for emotional self-awareness, self reflection, anger management, reading other people's social cues, empathy, joy in affection, impulse control, self motivation, and the ability to delay gratification. Ability to love requires, emotional self-awareness, anger management, reading other people's social cues, empathy and joy in affection. Impulse control includes self motivation and the ability to delay gratification. Moral reasoning requires empathy and self reflection. Parents need to explicitly work on building these aspects of emotional intelligence in at risk kids.

I have put together a set of tools to help you build your at risk child's emotional intelligence. At the top of the list are Just Like His Father? and The Child Well-Being Workbook. These books teach you about the core character ablilities: Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning. They also provide you with explicit exercises for building these abilities in your child and yourself. The rest of the tools found in The Parent's Store-Emotional Intelligence Page, are especially selected to go with these books and meet the needs of at risk kids.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Enhance your child's moral reasoning with tools for teaching moral values

Just Like His Father? A Guide to Overcoming Your Child's Genetic Connection to Antisocial Behavior, Addiction and ADHD, AND The Child Well-Being Workbook introduce parents to the idea that genes code for temperament, and that temperamentally at risk children need intensive parenting. The books also provide a framework for that intensive parenting which takes at least 15 years.

The intensive parenting that at risk children require involves encouraging the development of three specific abilities I have called the Inner Triangle. These abilities are 1) Ability to Love 2) Impulse Control and 3) Moral Reasoning. On a regular basis I want to provide you with even more tools for parenting your at risk child.

Just Like His Father? and The Child Well-Being Workbook both include chapters on enhancing your child's moral reasoning ability. The process by which children come to understand morality is called moral development. During moral development, kids learn moral values. Values are emotional connections to ideas. So moral development means to fully possess the moral emotions of caring, guilt, respect and shame, and knowing moral rules. We may not think that guilt is a good emotion to experience. While excessive guilt is not good, recent studies show that too little guilt is a cause of behavioral problems. In order to have respect, children and teens must be capable of shame. So while shame is not a positive force in a child's life, it is important that children be capable of shame. Many child development experts agree that today's parenting practices are not helping children develop the capacity for moral emotions.

I have recently reviewed a number of parenting aids that will help you enhance your child's moral development. These may be found at The Parent's Store, Character Building Page and are all affordable. All the products in the character building section of the store will help parents of elementary school children and teens teach moral values. Moral values are a combination of moral thoughts and moral emotions. Moral values lead to positive character traits like caring, citizenship, cooperation, courage, fairness, honesty, respect, and responsibility.

Among current the list of recommended resources is a great book for kids What Do You Stand For? By Barbara A. Lewis. There is also a teen version of this book. The true stories, inspiring quotations, thought-provoking dilemmas, and activities in this book help kids grow into capable, moral teens and adults. This award-winning book is a must for parents of at risk kids.

There is also a book for young children, 26 Big Things Small Hands Do written by Coleen Paratore and Illustrated by Mike Reed. AGES 1-4, Go beyond “A is for Apple” with an alphabet book that builds character. As children learn and review their ABCs, they discover positive actions they can perform with their own small hands—like applauding, building, giving gifts made with love, helping, planting, recycling, and volunteering.

There are also games, magnets and stickers that promote positive character traits and values.

I am continually adding pages of resources to The Parent's Store. Some pages are simply links to recommended books, games and toys. If you have a product you would like me to review for inclusion, email me.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Teach your child with movies

If you are raising an at risk child, I strongly recommend you visit Teach with Movies. The team at this web site has put together a wonderful resource for parents and teachers. The idea is simple, get out the popcorn and the drinks, sit back and enjoy a great movie with your family. After the movie discuss the relevant themes. This is where Teach with Movies helps you. In addition to recommending the best movies, they have put together discussion guides for these movies. Topics they have covered include:


Alcohol & Drug Abuse Ambition Bad Associations Breaking Out Brothers Caring for Animals Child Abuse Coming Of Age Courage Courage in War Crime Disabilities Divorce and Separation Education Families In Crisis Father/Daughter Father/Son
Female Role Model Fighting Friendship Gambling Addiction Grandparents Grieving Human Rights Humility Illness (Serious) Justice Leadership Male Role Model Marriage Mental Illness Mother/Daughter Mother/Son Parenting Peace/Peacemakers Peer Pressure
Rebellion Redemption Revenge Romantic Relationships Running Away Self-esteem Sexual Orientation Sisters Sportsmanship Spousal Abuse Suicide Surviving Taking Care Of Yourself Talent Teamwork Work/Career


trustworthiness Respect Responsibility Fairness Caring Citizenship

They also index by age:

Three Years Four Years Five Years Six Years Seven YearsEight Years Nine Years Ten Years Eleven Years Twelve Years Thirteen Years Fourteen Years Fifteen Years

I cannot reccomend this program more highly. The subscription that supports this work is only $1.00 each month. Those who purchase anything from The Parent's Store receive a coupon for $1.00 off this already low price.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

More on Anger Management

At risk children often have problems managing anger. At risk children may become angry more easily than other children, so they have more anger to deal with. They also may have less impulse control, so they are more likely to explode verbally and physically in response to angry impulses.

When other children are at the other end of your at angry risk child's verbal and physical aggression, they are likely to react by rejecting your child. Interestingly, good impulse control in kids predicts popularity with peers. Sadly, the at risk child craves social status and popularity but behaves in ways that undermines his standing with peers.

It is important that we parents teach our at risk kids anger management techniques. To help you do this, I recommend Hot Stuff to Help Kids Chill Out by Jerry Wilde, Ph.D. We are happy to offer this book through The Parent's Store. You can get Hot Stuff to Help Kids Chill Out, Just Like His Father? and The Child Well-Being Workbook for only $25.oo

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sign up for our NEW program

Many parents have written me about their lives with their at risk children. The most common question is, "I do everything I can to love my child and be firm with limits and he/she is still a handful!"

If that is you, don't give up. We now have an online program for you and your kids this summer. The program is called FIT AND SMART. It has three components:
1. 30-60 minutes of exercise each day for you AND your child.
2. At least 20 minutes of reading each day for you and your child.
3. Weekly story writing for your child.

Exercise treats anxiety and depression in adults and will help with child behavior. Exercise is a WIN-WIN for everyone.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

The link between exercise, diet and sleep patterns

Does your preschool or grade school child have poor sleep? Does your preschool or grade school child refuse to eat healthy food? The reason may be a sedentary lifestyle and insufficient exercise.

I have always believed that exercise is an important part of a program of prevention of ADHD, addiction and antisocial behavior in at risk kids. This belief has only been strengthened over the past 3 months.

Late winter, it was rather cold in the Northeast. We did not go out a lot and I am sorry to say my at risk son did not get enough exercise. He attends preschool where he plays indoors for at least 30 minutes a day but this was not enough. If you read my website you know that I am a mother who believes in authoritative parenting with lots of love accompanied by rules for conduct that are enforced. I have to tell you that this parenting style was NOT ENOUGH to prevent the problems that developed at the end of winter.

My son developed an extreme sweet tooth and an aversion for good healthy food. I thought I might have to ban him from the dinner table because he fell apart the moment he saw his healthy dinner stating, "I don't like that!" No amount of bribery or discipline was effective in eliminating this behavior. The same time this behavior developed, he also became more hyperactive-impulsive in general. He had poor sleep as well.

In response to the problems managing his behavior, I began a program of exercise with him. This program is at least one hour a day, either biking or walking. We also spend all Saturday afternoon doing an outdoor activity together. Within a weekof beginning this program, the change was dramatic. The improvements have been maintained over the last 3 months.

These are the beneficial effects of exercise I have observed for my son:

1) Dramatic reduction in hyperactivity
2) Dramatic reduction in impulsivity
3) Better mood, less anger
4) Less defiance, better cooperation
5) Better self direction- he plays nicely on his own with blocks and even colors on his own
6) Reduced aggression
7) Better sleep patterns
8) Much improved appetite- He now willingly eats vegetables and even TOFU!
9) LESS craving for junk food

These are the beneficial effects I have seen for myself:

1) Better mood and good feeling about mothering
2) Better sleep
3) A feeling of physical fitness
4) Weight loss (6 pounds so far)

The only down side is that I truly don't have enough time to clean house. I have decided that we can put up with things being a little messier because of the other benefits we are receiving.

In conclusion, your preschool child and your grade school child need a lot of exercise, but so do you! As a nation we are becoming obese, unhappy and substance dependent. The three are directly connected through insufficient exercise. Exercise is one part of a program to correct the chemical and spiritual imbalance that results in impulsivity and risk for addiction. Both you and your child will have better well-being if you exercise together. You will also have more love in your lives as you enjoy this healthy activity together!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Leadership and the At-Risk child

A mother wrote me recently, to discuss her 12 year old son. The problem is that she is afraid her son is “Just Like His Father.” She is separated from the father who dominated and psychologically abused her for many years. Her son witnessed his father’s disrespectful attitude and has adopted many of the same behaviors.

The problem this mother (and many other mothers) have is that after years of subjugation, she is finding it very difficult to be assertive. Her son needs firm limits and guidance, but his constant challenge to her authority is very stressful for her.

It helps to understand why children challenge authority and why this challenge is physically so stressful. There exists within us all a drive for social dominance. This drive is similar to the drive for sex and the drive to eat. It creates a compulsion to do certain behaviors. The drive for social dominance creates a compulsion to be in control.

Children who are impulsive and have poor impulse control, have difficulty managing all their drives and emotions. The social dominance drive is no exception. Parents can help domineering children (also called strong willed children)by educating them about the social dominance drive. Although we all have this push from within us, we don’t have to be controlled by this or any drive/emotion. We can make choices about our behavior. To educated your child I highly recommend you watch together Animal Planet’s The Most Extreme Leaders Tuesday May 8th follow this link for times.

The most constructive outlet for the social dominance drive is leadership. To be a good leader in our species requires impulse control and empathy. Since many kids want to be leaders but lack these two skills, they often become physically or verbally aggressive to dominate by force. We need to teach our kids that this is neither effective nor acceptable leadership. Kids need social skills in order to lead, they have to be taught these skills.

Mothers also need leadership skills. In July, we will be releasing The Single Mother’s Leadership Guide. Email Dr. Leedom to preorder the book.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Organization to address the needs of at risk kids

I have been fortunate to receive many letters from parents discussing the issues involved in raising children with genetic risk for antisocial behavior, addiction and ADHD. I especially enjoy all the adorable pictures!

The most disturbing letters I get are about the emotional, physical and sexual abuse of at risk children at the hands of a sociopathic parent. Tragically, the healthy parent tries to implement the prevention techniques outlined in my book Just Like His Father? only to have the efforts completely undermined by the other parent.

One women wrote into with a story of the sociopathic parent's sexual harassment of a teen aged daughter. This mother went to court to try to restrict visitation and was denied. All to often sociopaths also share custody and continue their abuse of the other parent, using the children to do so.

If we want to reduce antisocial behavior and addiction in our society, we have to start with children at risk. A child's genes are set at conception. We can however, take control of environmental risk. The courts need to do more to protect at risk children. We need an organization to explore court reform and to collect these stories of visitation gone bad. If you are interested in participating or hearing about this organization visit and sign up.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Exercise and behavior including ADHD

Exercise as a treatment for ADHD

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder the name seems to suggest that an increased activity level is part of the disorder. Tell me why then, there are so few scientific studies on the benefits of exercise in ADHD? This can only represent gross negligence on the part of the medical-scientific establishment. This had to be said, now what do we know?

Two studies indicate that children with ADD/ADHD may be resistant to exercise. Their stress hormones do not increase during exercise as much as normal children. It is also likely that in order to be beneficial, the exercise has to be intense.

Intense exercise means getting out of breath and/or breaking a sweat. The heart rate increases more during this kind of exercise. Parents should know that some medications may increase risk for heart rhythm problems, so check with your doctor.

Some specific recommendations

Based on my best guess and government recommendations for all children, I recommend the following. All children require one hour of exercise each day. Children with ADHD may require more. The exercise has to be vigorous, like running around the field playing soccer or court playing basketball. Walking, biking and swimming are also good provided the child maintains a fast pace. Karate and other martial arts may be good for strength and focus but generally the workout isn’t vigorous enough.

Just like children with ADHD do not like to sit and focus and are often shifting from one new pleasure to the other, they may refuse to focus on exercise for a long period of time. I once took a group of kids to the beach. There was an 11 y/o boy with ADHD with us. Although he was hyperactive, and fidgeted a lot, he had the least ability/desire to sustain physical effort. But you know that when we got home he ran around the house like a mad man.

Getting kids to exercise requires time and effort. Your child’s one hour a day requirement can be met in smaller chunks like 20 minutes three times a day. I strongly recommend you at least take walks with your child. In exercising with your child you show him that you think exercise is important.

If you start an exercise program and see improvements in your child’s behavior, please write me and share your story. For more on exercise see

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A difficult 4 year old: The boy who peed on his baby sister

I received a letter this week from the mother of an at risk child, it was very long, This is part one:

“I have a son who's 4 years old and he's very active, sometimes aggressive but at the same time he's loving and caring. Sometimes I really don't know what to do with him (he drives me crazy, to the point that I feel like not seeing him again), but don't get me wrong, I do LOVE him with all my heart and I can't live without him.

Yesterday he did something that was unthinkable and that's why I'm writing to you. Out of all of his pranks, this was the one that open my eyes that there may be something wrong with him. He brought my daughter (his sister) to the kitchen and told me that she spit on herself (she was all wet. her hair, clothes) I took him to his room and asked him to tell me what happened. Then he changed the story. This time he said that she spilled her milk on top of her. I knew it wasn't milk, because it didn't smelled like it. I told him that I had a camera in his room and that I was going to check the video to find out what happened. Then he's like: "ok! I'll tell you the truth... I peed on her... Ok!!, Im going on time out... I was like WHAT!!! You peed on her?!!!”

Parent’s feelings about at risk children

This note beautifully illustrates the dynamics of a relationship with an at risk child. Many but not all are loving during the preschool years. However, they have poor impulse control. The poor impulse control sets up a series of very negative interactions. Parents end up feeling a combination of love and hate for these children. These feelings on the part of parents are normal and understandable.

How to dig yourself out of this pit

First of all, 75% of kids more or less raise themselves because they have reasonable levels of impulse control; 25% require intensive parenting. Step 1 to a better life is acknowledging you have a child WHO REQUIRES CONSTANT SUPERVISION! Every time he gets in trouble when left alone and you feel the need to punish him, he is in a sense rejected by you. This constant rejection impairs his ability to love.

Step 2 is to use supervision wisely to set your at risk child up for success. Keep your at risk child constantly with you and help him find things to do. You will have to specifically train him to occupy himself while you are busy. Step by step instructions for how to do this are found in The Child Well-Being Workbook.

If your at-risk child is very active, managing him requires an exercise plan. Children need 1 hour of exercise a day. Make your life easier. Take him out to exercise before you try to get anything done.

About the boy who peed on his baby sister

At risk children respond to their impulses, if given the opportunity to do so. Little boys like to pee! It gives them a feeling of power, and may be somewhat sexual. Every time a child has the opportunity to act on an impulse like this he will take it. When he enjoys the act, no amount of punishment after the fact will undo that enjoyment. At risk kids respond to pleasure more than they respond to pain.

This is what the mother did in response to the incident, “I took the baby out of the room and spank him on his butt... How could you do that? Why you did that? He said that the baby was teasing him (the baby is 1 yr) and that she's always hitting him. I asked him if that was the right way to act, he said no. I explained to him that she didn't know and to let me know when she hits him or does something to him that he doesnt like... I asked him how would he feel if I or somebody else peed on him... he said that he wouldn’t like that...”

The spanking part likely did nothing here. Spanking after the fact does not undo the earlier pleasure he got from the act. Think about yourself, if you eat a delicious peice of chocolate cake does the punishment of weight gain stop you from eating it again?

Verbal reprimands serve a purpose

Talking to the at risk child about managing impulses is very important. He can build the verbal part of his brain and use these verbal lessons to control himself next time. The explanation was good. Verbal lessons should be short, so that the child can remember them. I would say, “The only place we pee is in the toilet.” Then have the child answer the question, “Where do we pee?” Then say, “Do not pee on anyone else, that is not nice!” To ask, “How would you like it if someone peed on you?” is good. That trains the child to be empathetic.

When the verbal lesson is over, LET IT GO! At risk children have many impulses, you will likely face another tomorrow.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Daycare for an at-risk child?

This week the results of an important study of children in daycare were reported in the scientific journal Child Development. To read an account of the study see Daycare linked to child disruption. The study of 1364 children is yet another that has demonstrated that the daycare lifestyle leads to increased aggression in at-risk children.

As a mother of an at-risk child, I am not surprised by the findings of this research. My at- risk son requires 1:1 attention to encourage him to be loving as opposed to focusing on dominance. He also needs daily training in the skill of impulse control. He does very well in his small half-day preschool class, where his teachers tell me, “We can tell he has benefited from your teaching. He is very loving and very emotionally intelligent. The karate dance has almost disappeared!” I am convinced that if I was working full-time, I would not have had the time and energy this at-risk child has required.

In contrast, I also have two daughters, who were in daycare, and cared for by a nanny while I worked full-time. Neither of the two girls were ever aggressive or difficult to parent. One of my colleagues used to say that he couldn’t believe how well I was able to balance single motherhood with my professional life. Of course, I never told him the truth. That was that I had very easy kids!

In my opinion we should take the results of this research for what they reveal. That is, some kids do not do well in daycare, even quality daycare. We have to stop thinking that our at-risk kids need anything other than exceptional parenting. When we say that a child is at-risk we mean that he/she may carry the genes that predispose to antisocial behavior, addiction and/or ADHD. Furthermore, children who are truly at-risk show us through their temperaments.

A very good friend of mine runs a community daycare center. Recently, he has had to contend with an aggressive child. The parents of the child act surprised every time the aggression is reported to them. Sadly, they also seem unwilling to amend their fast-paced lifestyle for the sake of their child.

In summary, we should not make a blanket statement that daycare is bad for children or society. Instead, we should acknowledge that some children are not suited for the daycare lifestyle. We should encourage parents to have expectations that suit their particular child. The sacrifices that may have to be made for our at-risk children will be for a finite period of time. The time invested in parenting our at-risk children properly will pay off a thousand fold when they are in grade school.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What can we learn from the Dog Whisperer?

One of the most watched shows in our house is Cesar Millan's The Dog Whisperer. I believe that parents can learn a great deal about parenting from this show. There are certain similarities between getting along with a child and getting along with a dog.

The first principle of getting along with a dog that Cesar so beautifully illustrates in all of his shows is, "To get along well with a dog you have to be the leader!" If you do not lead the dog, he/she will try to lead you. Life with a dog who tries to tell you what to do is most unpleasant.

Good parenting also boils down to leadership. If a parent fails to lead, often a child will attempt to fill the leadership void. Life with a child as your leader is also most unpleasant. However, the consequences of failed parental leadership for a child are even more grave. Children require an understanding of parental authority in order to develop moral reasoning ability and impulse control.

Last night one of my Child Development students discussed her boyfriend's childhood. Father left the home when her boyfriend was 6 and his younger brother was 4. Mother was devastated and never recovered. When father left, he told his eldest son, "Now you are man of the house." Since mother abrogated her leadership role, the family is still lead by my student's boyfriend.

Hearing this story, I said to my student. The outcome of this situation depends on the amount of inborn impulse control a child has. A child with a lot of natural impulse control, will become a leader and a care-taker in this situation. However, this situation will rob the child of his childhood. For children with average to poor impulse control, parental abrogation of authority has dire consequences. These children develop antisocial behavior and/or addiction. My student said, "Wow! That is my boyfriend's younger brother." Even though the eldest son tried to provide leadership and love to his younger brother, being parented by another child was inadequate. The younger brother failed to develop impulse control and moral reasoning. He has been arrested multiple times and is addicted to drugs.

Single mothers can have difficulty in the area of leadership. Many women have not had training in leadership. Many women also believe that their role is to nurture and love as opposed to lead.
Single mothers need to develop leadership skills and deal with any barriers to leadership they might be experiencing. Anxiety and depression interfere with a mother's ability to lead. Since these disorders are very common in women, these disorders pose a threat to child well-being. Recent studies reveal high rates of antisocial personality disorder in the sons of depressed mothers.

If you are a single mother consider this information carefully. If you suffer from depression, get help. There are now very good treatments for depression. You can also learn leadership skills and better lead your family.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why are America's college students abusing drugs and alcohol?

This week, USA Today reported that nearly half of the nation’s 5.4 million college students abuse drugs or drink alcohol to excess at least twice a month. 22.9% of students meet the medical definition for alcohol or drug abuse or dependence — a compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences — compared with 8.5% of all people 12 and older.

What is responsible for the increase in substance abuse among college students in America? I believe the increase is due to lack of development of the Inner Triangle, which is a common problem in young people today. Remember that the Inner Triangle is our Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning. These develop in a mutually dependent manner in concert during childhood and adolescence.

Why would a problem with Ability to Love, Impulse Control and/or Moral Reasoning lead to substance abuse and ultimately to addiction? First consider Ability to Love. The enjoyment of loving relationships has to be a person’s number one joy in life. When love of friends/family is not number one, a person seeks to fill the void. Often the void is filled with substances of abuse, food or even sex.

Poor Impulse Control is associated with excessive thrill seeking or sensation seeking. This sensation seeking correlates highly with substance abuse and unsafe sexual behavior during adolescence and young adulthood.

Moral Reasoning is the way we think about moral values, and the way these values guide our behavior. College students who are not trying to do their best are lacking in moral values.

Why would a problem with the Inner Triangle be so prevalent today? The reason is parenting. Parents today are too busy and too burdened to model, influence and teach Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning. To give your child the gift of a well-developed triangle takes time and effort. Children and Teens need lots of quality time with the right adults or they will not fully develop the Inner Triangle.

The models and influences of our popular culture that surround or children and teens impart poor Ability to Love, poor Impulse Control and bankrupt moral values. The proof of this is in the fact that these models (like B. Spears), themselves suffer with defective Ability to Love, Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning!

To counteract these influences, parents must keep themselves in the center of their children’s lives for as long as possible. Do not abandon your child/teen to his peer group. Peers should not raise your child, you should. If you need to take corrective action, start by spending time with your child/teen. Gradually shift his/her time away from unsupervised peer activities toward supervised activities. The more time your child/teen spends growing as a person, the better developed his/her Inner Triangle will be.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Daily lessons for an at-risk child

When I reviewed the scientific studies for my book, I discovered that there may be some things parents can do to prevent ADHD or perhaps lessen symptoms. One theme that repeated over and over in many studies was that a close parent child relationship was associated with better impulse control in children. Remember though, that this correlation SUGGESTS but DOES NOT PROVE that a close relationship prevents impulsivity.

Cross-cultural studies also suggest that physical holding of infants and much physical affection toward young children decreases impulsivity as children mature. There is little doubt that an at-risk child needs plenty of time spent loving every day. This daily time spent loving will also lessen the complications of ADHD. It is likely that it is much harder to have a close relationship with an impulsive child. These children protest a great deal when their desires are not being gratified.

The goal with at-risk children is to help them to fully develop Ability to Love. Ability to love involves both enjoyment of affection and care-taking behavior. It is possible for children to enjoy being affectionate and yet not learn care-taking behavior. Think about it, loving without care-taking is rather empty and meaningless. Our children need lessons in care-taking every day.

Teaching kids care-taking can be tricky. I am not suggesting that it is healthy for a child to be burdened with the responsibility of taking care of everyone else at the expense of his childhood. Somewhere between over-indulgence and excessive burden is the happy medium of teaching care-taking. In between times of playing and enjoyment a child needs to be directed to take care.

Tips for teaching care taking

At-risk kids need care-taking lessons repeated every day. Teaching care-taking occurs with teaching manners. For example, have you noticed your child run for a door, open it and go through without a thought regarding who is behind him? Teach your child to stop and look to see if anyone else wants to enter or exit. Teach him to hold the door for other people especially if they are elderly or handicapped. In this way lessons in care-taking and manners go hand in hand with lessons in impulse control. When you teach a care taking behavior to your child, follow your instructions with the statement, “We all have to take care of each other.” If your child hears this everyday it will eventually sink in!

Pets are also a good vehicle for teaching care-taking. Often however, a pet comes into the family, children are told the pet is their responsibility and mother ends up with yet another being to care for. To avoid this trap, have your child accompany you while you both care for the pet. Ask him to retrieve food and water dishes, clean the cage with you etc. If you have a dog, insist your child walk with you and the dog every day. Don’t give him the option of saying, “No!” When you have a dog you have to take care of him even when you think you have better things to do.

Children also learn care-taking through chores. Again, at-risk children may not be capable of doing chores alone. Instead, do them together. The important lesson your child learns is that he has to stop playing awhile to spend time taking care. This also builds impulse control.

At-risk children are often preoccupied with ideas of power. For example a child will say, “I’m as big as you.” Or “I’m Superman.” When you hear your child boast of his power, use this as an occasion to say, “Since you are big, you have to help take care of things.” Use your child’s drive for power to his benefit. Teach him daily that power means responsibility and care-taking not just privilege.

The price of not learning care-taking

People who are power-motivated and have no concept of caring for others, have an enormous sense of entitlement. The price you will pay for not teaching care-taking will be your child developing a sense of entitlement. This entitlement means that he believes it is everyone else who must take care of him. A child raised in this way will not be capable of functioning as a parent or spouse. Teaching your child care-taking may involve upsetting him. Why should he slow down to help an older person? Why should he put down the videogame to walk the dog? Sometimes children have to feel uncomfortable in order to learn important lessons. If this is your situation, and your child complains and protests, don’t give up. Keep insisting he put his own needs and desires aside a little every day to take care.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Parenting Pitfalls with ADHD kids

Parenting a child with ADHD is an exhausting and difficult task. The job is even more taxing when parents worry if they are to blame for a child’s problems. Having to cope with worry and guilt cuts down on the energy available to care for the child. In the next few weeks I will be discussing the relationship problems that arise between parents and children with ADHD.

The problem with ADHD is not so much the ADHD itself but the complications of the disorder. Complications include school failure, substance abuse, and disruptive behavior disorders (ODD and CD). Researchers have identified three patterns of parent child relationship problems associated with complications of ADHD.

Pitfall 1: Accidental training of undesired behavior

Most parents are concerned and want the best for their kids. However, everyone is so stretched these days. Full time employment is in itself tiring and leaves little energy left to cope with a child that has problems. Parental fatigue and depression often set the state for the first pitfall, accidental training of bad behavior. Children with ADHD have a great deal of energy, this energy makes them want. They want possessions and they want to do what ever impulsive thing comes to mind at any given moment. They lack the brain structure required to cope with this feeling of constant wanting. All they know is want means do!

Parents have the enormous job of teaching a child with a lot of desires that want does not mean do. To teach this lesson parents must train consistently. Accidental training of nagging, temper tantrums and other impulsive behavior occurs when parents give in to the want that set off this behavior. Unfortunately, giving in periodically trains negative behavior as well if not better than giving in all the time! Beat this pitfall with consistency. Maintain consistency by taking care of yourself.

Pitfall 2: Harsh parenting

Parents of kids with ADHD know that their kids have a lack of impulse control and other skills required for ae appropriate behavior. The struggle is to see this lack of skills as associated with a disability rather than stemming from something the child is doing on purpose. The behaviors of some kids with ADHD try the patience of the best of parents. Parents usually repress the anger and frustration they feel about a child’s behavior. But repression isn’t perfect and the parent who struggles with anger and frustration can fall into the trap of harsh parenting. Harsh parenting and punitive discipline make ADHD related behavior problems worse. Parents prone to hash parent can do better by taking tie away from the child, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and practicing stress management techniques.

Pitfall 3: Proactive parenting becomes a luxury not a way of life

Researchers have observed a correlation between a lack of proactive parenting and complications of ADHD. What is proactive parenting? Proactive parenting means knowing what kinds of situations get your particular child in trouble and avoiding these situations. It means redirecting your child toward constructive activities. Proactive parenting is a lot of work and again may be difficult to do when exhausted.

A common theme

All three of these pitfalls have a common theme. That theme is parents who are tired, stressed and or depressed. A parent with a difficult child should think of himself/herself like a star athelete. You have to take charge of keeping yourself in tiptop shape in order to win! Practice self care including a healthy diet, exercise, stress management and fun time. The good news is that all of these positive health habits will also help your ADHD child.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Teaching Kids Anger Management: Lesson 1

At risk children may be anger prone. It is important for parents of at risk children to actively teach them how to deal with anger and frustration. Here are the four truths of anger management.

1) We are in charge of our own feelings.
• Although we can’t always stop ourselves from being provoked, we own our own feelings.
• We feel our own feelings.
• We must label our own feelings.
• We must calmly communicate our own feelings.
• Since feeling anger is part of being human, we have to learn healthy ways to deal with anger.
• We can find ways to let anger go.

2) We are in charge of our own thoughts.
• Some thoughts keep us angry. Some thoughts calm us down.
• We can choose to have calming thoughts.
• We can practice using calming thoughts to cool off.

3) We are in charge of our own behavior.
• We own the hurtful actions that we inflict on others.
• We can stop hurting people with actions.
• We can learn to control what we do with anger.
• We can express angry feelings in ways that are fair to others and ourselves.

4) We are in charge of our own words.
• We own the hurtful words we speak when angry
• We can stop hurting people with words.
• We can use the firm and fair words: "I feel ____ when you _____."
• We can talk about feelings and try to work things out.

Learn these truths for yourself and teach them to your child verbally and by modeling the behavior. Recently my four year old son said, “I feel mad at you!” I then said, “If you are mad,take a deep breath and walk away.” He said, “Like the monkey in the video?” He was referring to this site:

We visited the site once, one month before he said this, He remembered it better than I did. He therefore highly recommends this site! The monkey exercise is gone but there are other videos to watch together.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Make your New Year's Resolution stick

In the New Year many people resolve to live healthier lives with the hope of losing weight. Recent studies indicate that weight loss and successful life change are dependent upon a person’s impulse control. As I discussed in Study links mother's poor impulse control with obesity in children, impulse control determines a person’s ability to choose healthier foods over very tasty fattening alternatives. A mother’s modeling of impulse control when it comes to food, helps children acquire this skill.

Further support for a link between impulse control and obesity in children comes from a recent study, Relationship of childhood behavior disorders to weight gain from childhood into adulthood published in Ambul Pediatr. 2006 Sep-Oct;6(5):297-301. In this study Dr. Anderson and colleagues followed 655 kids for 20 years into adulthood. They found that impulse control disorders (like ADHD) were associated with obesity that began during childhood and continued into adulthood.

In the light of this recent scientific data, we can surmise that knowing how to strengthen impulse control is important in seeing your New Year’s Resolution stick. Willpower is another word for impulse control. The most important thing to know about willpower is that it is a finite resource and can be used up. Stressful life events and daily hassles use up our willpower and this is why people tend to eat fattening foods in the evening. Focused academic problem solving also tends to use up willpower, as the brain gets tired. Willpower is strengthened by sleep, relaxation and social support. A healthy diet will also strengthen impulse control and will power.

Help your child and yourself keep that New Year’s Resolution by not stocking up on unhealthy foods. Share plenty of affection and get plenty of rest. If you and your child are under stress try to eliminate the sources of stress. Cope with tension by taking walks together for 30 minutes a day.