Month: September 2017

Parenting Styles

As part of my constellation of professional activities, I often talk to parents about their child’s behavior.  Frequently, I find myself highlighting two fundamentally different styles of parenting.

With “Reactive Parenting,” as the name implies when a negative behavior occurs the parent reacts (yells), pretty emotionally to a situation as it happens.  I find reactive style parents are not thinking too much of the odds of an event occurring.  It is very “of the moment.”

Kids are pretty predictable.  If I said to you any of the following behaviors were shown recently, what would you say the odds are of them occurring again?

  • Running ahead an ahead in Target even though you warned not to.
  • Had a fit in the supermarket when she couldn’t have exactly what she wanted.
  • Dawdled getting ready and was very uncooperative getting out the door.
  • Back seat arguing and screaming with sibling.

Thinking of odds, I would bet you would say that if these behaviors recently occurred, the odds are pretty good they will occur again.

Proactive/Strategic approaches take the odds into consideration before going into a given situation and help to shift the odds in the other direction.

For example, for the child who runs ahead in Target she can be talked to in calm (but direct tones), something like the following: “The last time we went to Target you broke the rules and ran ahead.  This made Mommy very unhappy.  It will not happen that way today.  If you run ahead, we will stop and go straight home.  No McDonalds afterward – nothing.  Even if we have to put everything in the cart aside, that’s fine.  That’s how it’s going to work.”

If the child runs ahead, give a simple warning and if this is ignored, then go straight home.  No yelling, no screaming, no time-out.

Later, when it is time for bed (“tuck-in time”) you can calmly talk about what happened and offer to go back tomorrow and try again.

Odds are the next time you go the child may be showing a different set of behaviors (at least that’s the horse I would bet on).

Takeaway Point

Front-end thinking (considering the odds of a given event or behavior occurring) helps you to anticipate and put strategies in place before the behavior occurs.  This is not fool-proof and it does not mean that all negative behavior will be eliminated, but the odds of occurring will be greatly reduced.

Over time, the child will learn to anticipate better on her own, which is the ultimate goal of “self-regulation.”

Adapted, School Struggles, Richard Selznick, Ph.D,  2012, Sentient Publications


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Comprehension – Sometimes Forgotten in #Dyslexia Land

Those of you who have followed this blog or any of my stuff over the years, know the importance I place on the development of decoding skills and reading fluency.

In fact, I have viewed the mastering of decoding as a possibly the central task or hurdle for a child to get over in their early school years (see My Decoding Hurdle Obsession: ).

I’ve also been in the business long enough to see important movements in education and educational psychology fall by the wayside and be relegated to the Attic of Forgotten Educational Initiatives & Research.

I see Reading Comprehension as having been placed up in the Attic.

For years (approximately the mid 1980’s into the mid-1990s), comprehension as a research topic in cognitive psychology and as an educational initiative was red hot. A number of universities around the country were awarded millions of dollars in grant money to study the processes involved with reading comprehension and to find ways to enhance a child’s ability to understand text. There were lots of teacher training initiatives, too, designed to enhance teachers’ skills in teaching comprehension.

I thought of the research and these initiatives the other day when I evaluated a child, young Luke, a 9 year old fourth grader.

Luke’s testing did not show any of the usual “dyslexia” concerns, such as difficulty with phonemic awareness, phonics or fluency, but when it came to responding to questions Luke was genuinely puzzled. Particularly, challenging for Luke were answering questions that involved inferences, or what I call the “hmm, let me think about it” type of responses (vs. straightforward and factual).

Within the testing, Luke read a story about a treasure hunt. The story talked about how one child sent a lantern signal to another child who was out in a rowboat that it was ok to row ashore. When Luke was asked why the signal was given, he looked at me blankly and could further no guesses, stating, “It didn’t say why.”

That it didn’t say “why” explicitly was true, but one could infer it from the story.

By contrast, another kid I tested recently, gave a great answer to the same question showing full understanding, by saying, “It was to give the ‘all clear’ signal.”

Wow, what a great inference.

I refer to children who read reasonably fluently and who don’t show any great decoding difficulty as Type II Readers.

Just like Type I Readers (the ones with decoding and fluency difficulties), these kids also need direct and explicit instruction (along with a few other things in the mix.) We will be talking more about these specifically in up and coming blog posts.

Takeaway Point

The Attic of Forgotten Educational Initiatives & Research is really filled to the brim. You should go up there sometimes and blow off some of the dust and the cobwebs. You might find some things of interest.

For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To receive free Dyslexia Infographics and updates, go to:

Screen Junkies?

Here are a couple of things to consider from an informal survey I have conducted with kids and the parents regarding the children they know in their social circle and at school:

  • 95-99% of the kids starting at age 12 have cell phones.
  • 95-99% of kids age 4 – 7 are playing on devices like iPads.

That’s a lot of kids on devices.

How are they doing with their devices? Here are a few stories from the technology front.

  • While walking home from school, one kid, Matt, age 12, is so absorbed in his phone that he comes close to getting run over, as an irate motorist shocks him out of his phone absorption to avoid getting hit.
  • Another child, an 11 year old, rides on his bicycle talking on the phone. While swerving in and out on the road, he is looking at the screen as he holds his phone in one hand and the the handlebars with the other.
  • George, age 14, posts a very scary message on Snapchat that could have easily had the police knocking on his door. He was stunned that his message caused people to get upset.
  • A five year old had an hour-long melt-down, throwing everything around his room after his parents told him he needed to get off of the iPad and come to dinner.
  • Another 7 year old also melts down when his parents make a half-hearted attempt to have quiet time to get the child to read for a half hour. “I hate reading; it’s stupid and boring,” he screamed as he slammed the door of his room refusing to read.

I’m sure there are all kinds of guidelines out there on children and their device use, and I’m sure that most of you know the importance of having something like the norton secure vpn to help when it comes to online security, but here are a few of mine to help you through these perilous waters:

1. Above all, remember, DEVICES ARE A PRIVILEGE.

Just like driving a car at 16 or 17, it is a privilege to be handed the keys, not a right. Modern kids think that access to iPads, cellphones, etc. are a right. You need to straighten them out about this concept. Explain to them that the only thing you are required to provide is clothing, food and shelter. There are no rights when it comes to devices.

2. As the saying goes, “The Lord giveth and Lord taketh,” so it goes with their devices – only this time it’s you as parents deciding whether device use is being misused.

3. Lay out the rules very clearly. If the rules are not followed and the privilege is being abused, then it’s a great learning experience to see what happens. Such a learning experience also sets the groundwork for the future when the kid wants the privilege of driving.

4. If they have temporarily lost the privilege of their devices, don’t fall for impassioned manipulations such as they,”must have them for school work!!!!!” Write the school a note to let them know your child is temporarily not allowed to have access to any devices. The school will more than appreciate that you are taking a stand.

5. Finally, stay strong. Be clear. Don’t weaken. From where I sit, they are all becoming little screen junkies anyway, so you need to really set your boundaries and be vigilant.

Takeaway Point

Devices are a a privilege.


For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To receive free Dyslexia Infographic and updates, go to:



The Curriculum Ship Leaves Port

It’s early September. The “Curriculum Ship” is leaving the dock.   This ship moves full steam ahead with its goal of getting to the distant shore on the other side by about June 1st.

About 70% of the kids can ride the ship pretty well.    While there may be a few ups and downs along the way, the journey is pretty smooth sailing.

It’s the 30%, many of whom have learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, or ADHD that will be riding on stormy seas.  The curriculum ship does not stop or wait if anyone falls off the side.

Teachers are under a lot of pressure from various sources to cover the curriculum.  They know that in their class there will be some who just can’t keep up with the pace of things. Sometimes these kids are referred for special education assessment, but many times there are kids who are not seen as “bad enough” or they are ultimately seen as ineligible for receiving extra help.

Take young Luke, a seven year old child who is showing signs of reading struggling.  Luke is entering second grade, but there is a definite gap between where he is in reading (and spelling and writing) and where the average child is in his class.

Luke is already feeling some stomach pains (so is his mom) and he is getting ready to pull out his range of avoidance maneuvers, such as going to the bathroom a lot, class-clowning and others.

Here’s a few pieces of advice for the Luke’s out there:

  1. Fairly early into the school year, talk with your child’s teacher. Use plain language and stay away from clinical terms or diagnostic categories.  For example you might say something like, “Mrs. Jones, Luke really likes you as a teacher, but the work is way over his head.   He is coming home every night panicked that he can’t keep up.  He’s starting to make himself sick. What can we do to help this.”


  1. Most of the time, especially in early elementary grades, kids like Luke are having trouble with the words in the worksheets and stories that are not all that common (i.e., the bigger words). Encourage the teacher to preview the material with the child  (not in front of the other kids), so he can get a better sense of the words that he will encounter prior to any reading or independent activity.


  1. Think skill development Know what you are going to target. Don’t wait. Seek help in the form of focused, skill-based tutoring.

Adapted, “School Struggles, ” 2012, Richard Selznick,Ph.D., Sentient Publications

For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To receive free Dyslexia Infographics and updates, go to:


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