Month: April 2011

“The House Looks Fine: What’s the Problem?”

Many times parents (moms) sense that something is wrong with their child and want to have the child evaluated in school. Once the mom raises the issue, often she hears a version of the following, “Well, she’s getting good grades – what’s the problem?”  The mom walks away thinking that she was being unduly concerned as the request for testing is denied, and she is given the impression that she is over-worrying.

Time goes by. The mom continues to see the child struggle and may seek an outside assessment. More often than not in a situation like this, what I find are “cracks in the foundation” that help to explain some of the struggling and validate the mom’s concerns.
These cracks are like the ones in your house. Sure the house looks fine, but the foundation may be a little shaky. 
With a child the shaky foundation doesn’t necessarily mean that the child is “disabled,” but it also doesn’t mean that the child is fine. The good grades may be masking some of the issues of concern (the foundation).
A child can get good grades for all kinds of reasons. For example, you can probably get a B in most classes in elementary school if you don’t give the teacher a hard time, hand in your homework, and exhibit other teacher pleasing behaviors.    Many children (especially the girls) have that figured this out. This approach is a good strategy for not drawing any undue negative attention to yourself. (Boys are notorious for not figuring this out.)
Listen to your “mother gut.” When you think there are concerns, they are usually there. The school may not act on your concerns, but if you are able to do so you should try and have someone check out the foundation. 
Ignoring the cracks is never a good policy, whether it is your house or your child. 
Cracks widen over time. Problems magnify.
There is no gain in taking no action.


Playing the Odds: Which Horse Would You Bet?

Having been raised by a father who enjoyed playing the horses, I have been well-acquainted with how odds work, and I often find myself looking for the best horse racing tips so I can make a bit of quick cash here and there.

No, this is not going to be an essay on how to win at the track, but it is one on changing the odds. You can learn to bet on sports elsewhere if you’re looking for tips, but we’re doing life lessons today.

Kids rarely think about changing the odds in school, yet they should. They need to be schooled in odds. These are the kinds of skills that can prove very useful in adult life. People that can learn things like odds from a young age may even go on to do things like Buy a betting shop when they’re older. However, if you already have these skills, this may be something you look towards doing now.

Take the conversation I had this week with James a very sincere, 20 year old, junior in college. Among other things, James told me how hard it was for him to pay attention when he was in lecture hall. I dont know why I just tune out, James said. I always had trouble with lectures.

Let me guess, I said to him. When you arrive at the lecture hall, youre not thinking about much, right? You kind of land wherever you land in the class. Then about ten minutes into the lecture, you pull out your cell phone and check the internet. About 15 minutes or so into the lecture you start texting your friends. Twenty minutes in you have no notes written, have no idea whats going on and are dying to get out of the class. Is that your experience?

James grinned widely thinking I was some kind of prescient mind reader.

I said to James, Seriously, would you bet on that horse? Now, if we were actually going to be betting on horses then it might have been a wise idea to look at the likes of these GG tips for UK horse racing (at this point I wanted to take after my father and maybe place a bet or two myself!). However, there are no such tips for the other side of this analogy. It could have been a long stretch to make him understand what I was trying to get at, although he knew exactly what I meant, luckily.

So, James, Lets look at a different horse. lets change the odds. Maybe there are little things you could do to change the odds a bit. For example, one thing you might want to do is sit closer to the teacher. Just changing your position in class may help you pay attention.

How about trying to make some pictures on the right side of the page along with some written notes? That might help you get more connected. (James liked drawing.)

Lets also say, you forced yourself to jot down at least five questions that came up from the teachers lecture. These questions would be ones that you predict might occur later on a test. Forming questions might help you be a more active listener.

Compare horse A to horse B above which one will you pick?

James got the message immediately and seemed excited to try a couple of the suggestions.

Helping James see that he could improve his odds was a good first step. It will take a long time for James to fully buy in, but it was a start. He was at least thinking about the odds, something he never had previously.

Now, off to the races.

“Step Right Up Folks” – Curing All Things Child

  “Step right up folks! Our unproven, unsubstantiated therapy and treatment are guaranteed to cure all things bothering you about your child. That’s right for the low fee, special offer of $3,499 over the next year, we will cure bed-wetting, ADHD, reading disabilities, and just plain child orneriness!!! All you have to do is plunk down your money (special 10% discount if paid in full up front) and bring your child in for special treatment – twice a week over the year, and you will see results in all things child. We also have a special deal on this nutrio-supplement that we offer at 60% off the retail price ($199) when you sign up for the therapy!!! This nutrio-supplement will get your child to stop bothering you at the dinner table and in restaurants. It might even cure sibling rivalry! That’s right folks. Step right up!!!!!!”

It seems that every five years or so there is a hot new treatment on the market that is guaranteed to cure ADHD, dyslexia, behavior issues and other child issues of concern. I have known parents to spend thousands of dollars for questionable, unproven therapies, only to have the child left in the same place he/she was in when the therapy was started.

Many of these therapies make no common sense and have little legitimate research support. In addition, they often present an indirect approach to address the problem. For example, if you want your child to learn to read better,  then target reading with sensible approaches that have been well field tested. Don’t go seeking alternative, roundabout means of developing reading skills.

There are no vitamin supplements or balance beam exercises that will develop phonics or reading fluency.

Takeaway Point

Before you try and cure all things child, be very careful!

Don’t be so quick to sign up for the cure!

(Adapted from “School Struggles,” by Richard Selznick, Ph.d. Sentient Publications: 2012)



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Putting the Responsibility Where it Belongs (Squarely on the Child)

This week a mom talked to me about her very strong willed, temperamentally challenging child named Abbey. You know the type. Abbey always went against the grain. Whatever direction the family wanted to go, she wanted to go the other way. Flexibility of style and “going along with the program” were not qualities that came to mind when thinking about Abbey.
We talked about how the mom felt like she was turning into a screaming, raving lunatic (her own description). For example, getting dressed and out the door became an enormous battleground, whether getting ready for events like birthday parties or going to school.
My question to the mom was why she cared so much about any of it when there were logical, built in consequences to the child’s choices that were there for the child to experience. 
Why do we get so caught up in rushing kids to events like birthday parties and soccer, when there is often minimal child compliance?
I know that some of you will react negatively to my suggestion thinking that the child is too ______________________ (fill in the blank with a diagnostic category) to be able to handle a consequence, but I go back to good old fashioned approaches and mindsets with the vast majority of children. 
A firmly delivered, but very matter-of-fact statement, such as the following works wonders:
“I know you wanted to go to your cousin’s party, but you didn’t get dressed when I asked. Now we are staying home. I’ve been to many birthday parties in my life. I’m really fine not going to this one. Sorry you’re going to miss it – I know you were looking forward to it…. Oh, and one more thing, there’s not one electronic anything on in the house for the rest of the day.”
No anger. No lecture. No raised voice, but eminent clarity.
These lessons tend to stick (even with kids who don’t pay attention very well).


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