Month: January 2011

“Hot Cross Buns” & Dolly Madison

Recently I did a workshop called, Bullies, Victims and Parents: A Complicated Brew.  Never one to be shy on offering my opinions, I sometimes find myself going against current "political correctness." When I presented my notion that we try and help the victim-types (or shark chum) become more self-aware in their social interactions so that they don’t hand it over to the more aggressive-types (or sharks), some in the audience got upset with me. They felt that I was putting too much on the "victims."

A couple of examples may illustrate.

Young Peter, age 10, is really into Yugioh cards. In fact,  his interest is a near obsession. Not only does he bring his Yugioh cards to school, he also wears a Yugioh ocarina around his neck quite proudly. Recently, in a session with me he played the ever popular tune "Hot Cross Buns" on his ocarina.

What I said to Peter was something like the following after we discussed some of the trouble he was having with kids making fun of him:

"Look, I think your Yugioh cards are great and you can come in and tell me about every one of them, but the fifth graders around you are probably going to make fun of you because they think Yugioh cards are babyish. I’m not saying they are right, but that’s the reality. You can also come in and play your ocarina any time you want and I will be a very appreciative audience. But I’m telling you, if you bring the ocarina to school, you’re going to get hammered."

Peter got the idea.

Then there was Brandon, expert extraordinaire on Presidents’ wives. It certainly was impressive that he knew what gown Dolly Madison wore to the inaugural ball and that he even knew who Millard Fillmore was, no less President Fillmore’s wife’s name. Even so, I gave him the same talk as Peter’s. Effectively, I coached him to choose his audience selectively when displaying his vast knowledge of presidents’ wives.

When I told these stories to parents in the workshop, some were upset that I was "blaming the victim," and not valuing or honoring the child’s uniqueness.

Funny, I greatly value kids’ unique qualities, but I also have my feelers out for when some of these qualities may be getting them into social hot water. (It’s a tough shark pool out there.)

While they thought I was guilty of blaming the victims, I thought I was empowering them by helping to read the social signals better.

To keep some of the sharks at bay, my money has "Hot Cross Buns" and Dolly Madison staying home!

What’s your view?



Sometimes parents are living in Dreamy-Dream Land when it comes to accommodations and 504 Plans. They come up with all these schemes and interventions that may make some sense (although often it doesn’t) on paper, but in reality the child wants no part of the accommodations and is not interested in the schemes. If you are not around too many kids (other than your own) you may have forgotten the one predominant law in the universe of childhood – “Don’t do anything that will embarrass me or make me look different.” Now, we may not like that law and we may do some teeth gnashing, that it is unfair, but laws are laws. This is a law that has stood the test of time. It has never changed. So, if your child may be having trouble distinguishing sounds, for example, but is embarrassed to be the only one in his/her class with an FM auditory trainer, maybe you shouldn’t push too hard. Maybe it’s not worth it. Or if your child is the one who has some blinking device on his desk to cue him in to pay attention at different intervals, you may be winning a battle (paying attention better), but losing a war (shame). Most of us experienced shame at some point in our schooling. Many experienced it far too often. You probably can remember like it was yesterday when you heard snickers from others around you when you were made fun of for something you did. So, when you are drawing up your elaborate 504 Plans, put yourself in your child’s shoes before you do battle with the school. Maybe the child’s core feeling is, “Thanks, mom, but no thanks.”


A mom of a fifth grade child, Alison, who had some reading issues (decoding, fluency, etc.) asked, "Was this a problem that could have been averted?

My answer:

"There are essentially two categories of kids. In the first category, these kids get out of the gate smoothly. The road may have a few pebbles, but it is a pretty easy ride from first grade forward. With the second group, this is not the case. The road has many more potholes. These potholes could have been identified much earlier."

If I were in charge of the whole education system (or King of the World) the answer would be very simple. There are powerful screening measures that can be given very early (kindergarten, first grade) that take about 15 minutes per child to complete,

From the screening three essential groups would be identified:

  • Group 1 = those who are "Good to Go" or Green Zone Kids (about 60% of the population)
  • Group 2 = those who are showing some signs of caution or Yellow Zone Kids (about 30%)
  • Group 3 = significant to severe signs of caution Red Zone Kids (about 10%)

Of the 40% of the kids showing signs of concern, just giving them the regular curriculum (stories, literature, whole language, etc.) is not what they need. The ones in the Yellow & Red groups need much more structured, sequential approaches to reading development.

Unfortunately, for the Alisons of the world they are often not screened, nor are they given structured approaches. They read literature and stories that have no discernible, layered sequence of skill mastery. Then in the later grades they stand on a foundation of balsa wood.

It would be so easy to screen these kids and give them what they need, but then again, I haven’t been made the King of the World and no one’s asking my opinion!!!


The followings question came to me regarding the pros and cons of having a child on medication while being tested:

“Please address whether a child should be on medication while assessing a child with executive function issues. Some of the specialists we refer to around the country say to lower the medication when testing so you see the real child. Others say give the meds so you can see the potential. What do you think?”

This question comes up a lot for me. Before bringing their child in for an assessment, parents will often ask, “Should I keep him/her on medication for the testing.”

Like most things in this business, there isn’t a clear-cut answer. (That’s why my hair turns progressively gray with each passing day.)

To me the question is answered by another question, “What’s your purpose of doing the assessment?”

For example, let’s say your child has had a year of tutoring (while on medication) and you want to know how the child is progressing. In that scenario I think having him on medication during the assessment makes sense.

In a different example, if your purpose is to get a second opinion as to whether the child still needs to be on medication, then it probably makes sense for the psychologist to see the child off of his medication, so he can get a better feel for the child. You child could also need medication for a number of other reasons, you may find yourself looking to an online pharmacy to assistance with permission from your doctor.

(Mind you, with this question I am only making reference to stimulant type medication here (e.g., Adderall, Concerta, etc.), as stimulants are very short-acting and are in and out of the system very quickly.)

Bottom line, get clear on your purpose for doing the assessment and this will help to resolve the question of medicating or not during the evaluation.

Gumby Parenting

In the 1950’s into the early 1960’s rigid, authoritarian parenting was one of the predominant styles of parenting.  Perhaps a function of so many men formerly being in the military, children were often treated like little soldiers who had to march to parental commands (See Robert Duval in “The Great Santini.”) 

Fast forward into the 1990’s and  through to the present day and you will find the pendulum has swung to the other side with many parents embracing “Gumby Parenting,” characterized by NBD (No Backbone Disorder Disorder). 

Gumby parents are fundamentally unable to call their children out on anything. 

Is the child loud in a restaurant?  … “Hey, what’s the problem with you?  It’s a public place and we have our rights?” 

Running wildly down supermarket aisles?… “Why are you so uptight? They’re just letting off steam.” 

Disruptive in the movies? … “Look, buddy, I paid for a ticket too.”

No manners?… “That manners thing was so 20th century.” 

With Gumby Parenting children will have trouble developing an internalized steering mechanism to guide them.  It’s not an easy way to live (for parent or child). 

Like most things in life the middle way, somewhere between rigid and Gumby, shows the answer.  Start early (it’s never too early) showing a backbone when one is needed and leave Gumby in the toy chest.


Latest Posts