Month: December 2010


What do these behaviors sound like to you?
o    Not handing in homework consistently
o    Avoiding responsibilities
o    Procrastinating
o    Not sustaining mental effort
o    Underachieving (by everyone’s estimation)

I bet you are thinking something like ADHD of the inattentive variety or some form of executive function deficiency.  I know when parents bring their kids in with these behaviors, that’s what I am usually thinking.

Something that nags at me though is the question of anger and whether the child is exhibiting good old fashioned “passive aggressiveness.”

When children are not compliant, especially with meeting school expectations, parents frequently implement a series of punishments –   “You’re grounded…You’re finished with video games for a month…You’re off the team, etc.” sprinkled with a heavy dose of yelling, ranting and haranguing.

How does the kid react to these?  Does he go to his room and think, “You know, my parents are right?  I’ll get all my work done, so I can go see my friends again.” I doubt it.

More likely, is the following thought process:

“My parents are such jerks.  Their stupid punishments won’t work.  They think they are so smart.  I’ll show them. F – them.” 

That position can be very powerful. 

Ask yourself, are your punishments reaching their desired goal?

One approach that may work if you think your child may be in such an angry state would be to take a few educated guesses: 

“You think I’m being too hard on you, huh?”
“I bet you you’re real angry with me now, right?”
“You think I’m over-controlling, right?”

When there are no other distractions around (especially other siblings), try one or two of these. Perhaps in the car when it’s just you and your child it would be a good time to give it a shot.  You don’t have to agree with what comes out, but listening can have powerful effects.  Releasing some of the anger may lead to less of a desire to “stick it to you” and a perception that both of you are on the same, not opposing teams.


Should a bright fifth grader be able to read the word "financial?" Well, when driving by the Philadelphia Eagle’s stadium the other day, fifth grade Carrie got excited when she saw the stadium with the sign outside that read "Lincoln Financial Field."

The problem was Carrie couldn’t read the word "financial." Instead she said "There’s Lincoln Whatever Field!"

Carries’ parents have brought their concerns to school personnel since she was in third grade. Hearing Carrie’s struggles with difficult words nightly, they have wondered whether she may have dyslexia.

Repeatedly they have been told things like:

"She’s so sweet. She’s such a hard worker."

"We don’t believe in dyslexia."

"She comprehends so well. She can’t have a problem."

Many bright kids can comprehend, even if they do not read words very well. It’s like playing tennis. You can win many games with a good forehand while covering up your weak backhand. Carrie does that while reading. She is smart enough to cover up her weaknesses and the fact that she’s so "sweet" really doesn’t help her.

To draw another parallel, recently I was a participant listening to a webinar lecture. The problems was that the audio frequently cut-out, making it difficult, but not impossible to follow. While I missed a lot of information, I got enough to get by.

That’s what reading is like for Carrie. Probably every tenth word or so "cuts-out" and becomes "whatever," while she plugs along and tries not to get noticed.  She can bluff it by answering enough questions to show she comprehends

I don’t know how you see it, but it seems like a problem to me when a fifth grader has to say "whatever" when reading a word like "financial."  It strikes me that there’s a problem there that needs attention.

It really is beyond my "comprehension" how anyone can view that as adequate reading.



  Scene 1:  The Lunch Room – Jack’s Brain

“Gee, it’s so wild and noisy in here.  Everybody’s throwing stuff.  Haha.  Jake is so good at putting food in his nose.  Maybe I’ll try that too.”

“Why is that lunch lady getting mad at me?  Jake was putting food in his nose first.  How come she didn’t see it?  Jake never gets yelled at.  Now she wants me to sit off by myself until we go outside.  It’s not fair.  I was just having fun – just like Jake.”

Scene 2:  The Playground – Jack’s Brain

“Cool…we’re outside…great to be out….I’m so sick of being inside…oh man…I can’t wait to go over to the slide area and swing down…oh, man…There’s a line…oh, there’s Jake, maybe I can jump in front of him…wait there’s a cool stick that I can throw over the fence…wow, that went pretty far…better than yesterday’s stick.”

“Oh, no, that lunch lady is coming over to me again and she’s got that look."

“I didn’t mean to throw the stick,” I tell her.

“Phew.  She lets me go this time. Back to the swing…cool there’s Jake.  We can jump down together….oh, man it’s line up time already…how come the line teacher is yelling at me? I didn’t push on line, did I?  Everyone else is doing it too.”

Scene 3:  The Classroom- Jack’s Brain

“Oh, man.  The teacher is filling out that “daily report card” thing…that stinks… I got another frowny face on the report card for lunch and playground.  I’m going to get yelled at and punished again when I get home.”

“I didn’t do anything…How come Jake never gets in trouble?”


Modern parents make you nostalgic for the good old days. You know, the days when children went outside to play and basically didn’t see their mother for a solid 8 hours (except when she made you a nutritious bologna on Wonderbread sandwich, before your ran back out the door after wolfing it down).

Now it’s, so much parental steering and interfering. Parents are so self-conscious in the way they interact with their children

Just spend a few minutes in the mall or a supermarket:

"That’s not your indoor voice." (Ugh.)

"Remember not to run ahead, ok?" (Oh, that’s effective.)

"It’s our special day. Mommy’s so happy to be with you." (As the kid is charging ahead.)

"Now you know you shouldn’t use your whining voice." (Your whining voice????)

"Where are your listening ears?" (Huh????)


Or as parents report to me about the way things are going in the house, their language reveals how things will go:

"Don’t you think it’s time we started our homework?" (No!!!!!!!)

"Isn’t it time that we go to bed?" (We????)

"It’s time for us to brush our teeth." (What????????)

We have a serious case of NBD running through modern parenting No Backbone Disorder!!!!

I think my head will explode if I hear one more of these things.

I am getting cranky again.


Last week we talked about the "Curriculm Ship"  that leaves the dock in September, plowing forward until it reaches its destiny. That some have fallen off the ship appears to be immaterial. The ship must proceed.

The blog generated a fair amount of reaction from teachers and parents.

The first is from an elementary school teacher:

"Hence the creation of "differentiated instruction" which on paper sounds great but when dealing with 26 + in a classroom the likelihood of a teacher, even a veteran teacher doing this successfully is not good. We need to look at the curriculum and possibly go back to the A & B classes so that children are not hampered by slower learners and slower learners can feel as if they can succeed at their own pace.

Another came Amy, a fourth grade teacher;

"I just wanted to let you know that the Curriculum Ship blog was a great analogy for my students. It is so true – we are merely keeping them afloat, hoping that they will hang in there…It is sad, but true, that some of my students will let go of the preserver soon. While they may make it in 5th grade, they probably won’t much more after that!"

From Pat, a mother of 12 year old who has struggled over the years, she said:

"It’s too bad that parents aren’t tutored in knowing what size life preservers to keep on hand for their children! As the curriculum gets more difficult, it seems the theory of "one size fits all" for the curriculum could not be more in error! If this ship is sailing along steadily, ignoring who has gone overboard, you would think someone would notice and sound an alarm! Instead, we blame the child for not trying hard enough – and treading water in deep seas will only keep you alive for so long!"

All of these points are very valid, I believe. The "differentiated instruction" theory while still very popular, would seem to be extraordinarily difficult for a teacher. Staying with the water metaphor, how does one work with a group in the deep end of the pool, while others are floundering on the other side in the shallow end? I guess, as Amy says, you are just trying to keep them afloat, but that isn’t very satisfying, is it? The sanctity of the curriculum and its "one size fits all" nature is also frustrating to the strugglers. They just can’t keep up.

Well, in the coming weeks try and enjoy the holiday season – we will get back to teeth gnashing after the first of the year!.


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