Month: December 2017

Frustration Intolerance: Part II

Last week we talked about a trend that I see in childhood where kids will have major whining events or meltdowns over seemingly small to medium amounts of frustration (discomfort), such as homework.  We gave it a name F.I.D or Frustration Intolerance Disorder.

Here’s one mom’s response to the post:

Don’t keep us in suspense!!! I’m sure I’m not the only parent that deals with this issue on a daily basis. In a world of instant gratification, our children cannot handle any sort of discomfort (mental or physical). It is a daily battle in our household. It is one of the most frustrating challenges of parenting today.

We’ve completely indulged our children in more than just material goods. We’ve told our children how great they are to a fault. Trying to foster self- confident children, we’ve created self-absorbed, impatient monsters that are not equipped to deal with any distress.


With the way child rearing is headed it scares me to think about what generation and future generations will become.

I guess that lays it out pretty clearly.

I know there are elaborate behavioral systems out there and programs that train parents (and teachers) to be on top of their game for exquisite responding at the moment of melt-down, but most parents that I know don’t have the time or energy for all of that.

Much more “meat and potatoes” guidance is needed to try and do two things:

  1. Reduce the frequency of these occurring,
  2. Responding effectively when they do occur.

Responding Effectively When Occurring

To respond effectively there are some basic principles to embrace.  These principles guide you as a parent.

It’s my experience that when you take care of this one (#2), then #1 takes care of itself.

  • Once the child starts whining or moving toward the meltdown state, think of it as the child is baiting the hook and trying to suck you in. DON’T BITE THE BAIT.   Do anything but bite the bait.  Go outside for fresh air, pour water cold water on your face, anything but engage.  Engaging is oxygen for the smoldering fire.
  • As a famous phrase goes, remind yourself that, “This too shall pass.” Think of it as unpleasant noise or a storm.  (You don’t yell at storms.) Just make sure the knives and breakables are out of the child’s reach.
  • After the “storm” has passed, calmly ask your child, “Are you ready to try again. I am happy to help out if you’d like.”  Understand that it is totally the child’s choice.  If he doesn’t want to go back to completing his work, then that’s his choice.  He can choose to be unhappy.  But,  there is no access to any of the various and sundry “pleasurables” that are within reach such as iPads or whatever. 
  • Keep in mind relative to point three, that you are not punishing your child and you aren’t setting up a control battle. He just hasn’t made the choice that will lead to the usual “pleasurables.”
  • If the child starts whining for something like a video game or some other such pleasurable, calmly state, something like, ”Aww, it’s such a shame, but iPads and video games only comes to kids who choose to face their work. Let me know when you are ready.

When the child manages things well, praise and put a nice check on a visible calendar – a paper one, not on your phone.

That’s it.

Usually in these situations parents are expending all kinds of energy, yelling, arguing, cajoling and getting themselves all worked up. It’s exhausting and depleting. In this approach, (The shrugging and “Oh, well” style of parenting) the parent expend very little to no effort and puts the choice squarely where it belongs – on the child.

Reducing the Frequency

When you don’t give it fuel it starts to die out over time.

You can explain during moments of openness such as “tuck in time” something like the following

“I want you to understand that the whining and fits that you are having are  going to stop.  You’re a big boy/girl (even if the child is little it doesn’t matter) and big boys manage their homework on their own.  Mommy will be close by if you need help, but when you start to whine, complain or cry I am going to leave the room. When you’re calm, I will come back and work on the problem together.”

After tuck in, pour yourself a glass of wine and forget about it!!


Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

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Frustration Intolerance Disorder

I don’t know if it’s an official documented trend or not, but there is something that I have seen in kids (boys, in particular).  To give it a name, we’ll coin a new term, “Frustration Intolerance Disorder” or F.I.D.

FID manifests in many ways, the chief among them are meltdowns (e.g., total spasmodic fits) when encountering mild or moderate frustration.  The frustration may be come from sources like homework, but can also show up while playing video game, engaging with sports or anything where the child is asked to do something that causes some difficulty or is unpleasant.

Look, I know when I say the following, I risk placing myself back in the era of log cabins, but I don’t remember any of us as kids melting down when we lost a game, missed a shot or struck out.  Sure we didn’t like losing, but there were never full-out tantrum-fit.  I think we would have been mortified if we had one.

Take Blaine, age 7. He thinks he is a really special athlete. (His family certainly has told him so many times in his short life.)  Somewhat a more natural an athlete in his estimation than his peers, James shows good sports instincts while playing basketball, swinging a baseball bat or hitting a tennis ball, for example.  His parents’ first child, they have watched his every swing and shot, praising him lavishly with the successes they have dutifully witnessed.

Blaine and his dad recently went to a pitch and putt golf course.  Of course, Blaine’s sense of self was such that he thought he would sink virtually every putt that he had to make.  Well, after two holes missing putts that professional could miss, Blaine had a display of FID, throwing himself on the ground, melting down, crying and pounding the ground.  His dad did his best to console him, by telling him how wonderful he really was.

The girls can be in the mix too.  Take young Chloe, age 5.  Chloe overreacts to everything.  For example, while putting Chloe in her car seat, her father jostled her slightly beyond what she expected and she started crying and screaming at her dad that he was hurting her on purpose.  Chloe’s dad apologized profusely to her so as to try and calm her down and help her regain a sense of composure.  Some call it “sensory” with Chloe – that is she has “sensory” issues and that’s why she reacts like she does.  I’m not so sure, as she never shows these behaviors in school or in other situations beyond the home interactions.

It’s not just young kids though.

Mark, age 15, is very tied in to his X-Box, playing games with his “friends” (you know the people online that he “socializes” with who he has never met) about four or five hours a day.  The other night while his parents were upstairs, they heard James have a teen meltdown.  Cursing, throwing his game controller against the wall and nearly putting his fist threw the dry wall, James was heard screaming, “I suck…I suck.”  When his parents went  to calm him down, Mark was inconsolable.

These FID-like kids are not easy and in many ways they are the product of our current child-rearing philosophy of no frustration along with the over concern of self-esteem, making sure that the child feels overly positive in every situation.

There is no quick fix, no magic solution, but there may be a few considerations when looking at FID.  We will address this in upcoming blog posts.

Takeaway Point

In modern childhood there may be a trend in the making – we have labeled it Frustration Intolerance Disorder. 


Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To receive free Dyslexia Infographics and updates, go to:

Lego Brain Kids & Self Esteem

Any of you who have been following this blog for some time or who have read Shut-Down Learner, know that we pay particularly close attention to the kids I have called “Lego Brain Children.” These are children who gravitate to “hands-on” visual thinking activities like building with Legos, making pictures or constructing things.

While most people learn best when there is a multisensory presentation of information, these kids really thrive and are “wired” for the visual. In the classroom they often look quite drifty and inattentive, yet give them some hands-on tasks (drawing, building, creating, taking swimming lessons somewhere like Coast2Coast First Aid and Aquatics) and they can do these activities for hours, with little to no sign of inattentiveness. Typically, their reading spelling and writing are shaky at best.

I have literally evaluated a few thousand kids in my career and I continue to be struck by how children like these are misunderstood and quickly put into “disordered” categories.

Perhaps the question is not whether the child is disordered, but “disordered for what?” That is, I may be pretty “disordered” at this task in front of me (say, paying attention in school or reading, for example), but am pretty capable in this other area (say, creating elaborate Lego cities).

Most of you are aware of the different “intelligences” (e.g., verbal, visual/spatial, social, musical, athletic/movement, interpersonal/social, mechanical, etc.).

It’s my guess that the vast majority of people are pretty good at one or two of the intelligences, fair at a few others, and pretty poor at another two or three.

It’s just the way we are wired.

Neurodevelopmental variation rules.

The problem is we form much of our self-esteem and core set of self-beliefs within the first 10 years or so in our life and if we are one of those Lego-brain types who are not reading, spelling or writing very well, not to mention drifting off task, we form some pretty erroneous conclusions that become deeply hard-wired in our belief system.

“I am really dumb” is one of the core beliefs held by these children, hardwired into the personality and mental structure at a very young age.

(As I write this I reflect on the thought that most of my professional life has been devoted to one thing – trying to help kids overcome this one core belief.)

Understand this. While many talk about dyslexia and ADHD (who are often Lego-Brained children) being a “blessing and a gift,” underneath it there is often great pain.

Sure, it’s wonderful being able to build elaborate cities with your Legos and to create elaborate drawings, but when you are getting frowny faces and “D’s” on worksheets that are not readable by you, at that moment you’re not easily reflecting about the blessing or the gift.

Takeaway Point

On an email I received recently from a colleague, the bottom of her email had the following quote:

Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid ~Einstein

I think that about says it all.


Not in the Philadelphia area, for a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To receive free Dyslexia Infographics and updates, go to:



Not a Broken Bone #Dyslexia #ADHD #LD

Each week (probably every day) of my professional life, I grapple with the concerns that parents bring to me.  Usually, they involve questions of learning disability, dyslexia and ADHD/ADD.

Why grappling?

I mean, I’ve been in this business a while.  Shouldn’t it be a piece of cake?  Just give the kid the equivalent of the “Dyslexia or ADHD X-Ray,” and wisely pronounce while scratching my beard, “Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, your child is dyslexic,” or “Your child is ADHD and needs to be on medication.”

Ah, to be so wise.  Life would be so much easier and clearer.

Not for me.  I live in the gray zone where things are rarely clear cut.

Young Marla, age 9, is a lovely and spirited child, but she is starting to get on people’s nerves.  Singing at inappropriate times during recess, chatting a little too much during quiet periods in class, others’ patience toward her is starting to wear thin.  In short, Marla is getting a bit annoying and people (parents and teachers) are raising the ADHD question.

I meet Marla and can see some of the areas of concern – she’s a bit too hasty on different tasks when she should be thinking a little more deliberately. She’s a little too exuberant. Rating scale data completed by parents and teachers are elevated on the ADHD factor, but not all that much. So, is she “disordered?”  Certainly, most neurologists would have called her so with little hesitancy.

Perhaps this 9 year old does not need to be on medication, though. Perhaps she needs a little more time to grow up?

Then there’s George, age 8, who is having some difficulty with reading, spelling and writing.  I evaluate George and find most of his scores clustering in the dreaded “average range,” a little left of strict average, but not all that alarming.  I see he has some trouble with reading, spelling and writing and his phonological processing scores are also tilted to the left side of the curve, but not all that much.

So, is he “dyslexic?”  Is he disabled?  When I tell parents that he may not be dyslexic and that with some focused instruction the gap may close, they almost seem disappointed.

I certainly understand the movement (#saydyslexia) to bring awareness of dyslexia forward and to more comfortably use the term and we are now in the decade of dyslexia. (For the longest time dyslexia had Voldemort status and was “that which should remain nameless.”)  But I still maintain there are many kids who show signs of struggling with reading, spelling and writing who may not be dyslexic.

Takeaway Point

Learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia are just not broken bones that show up on an X-ray.  It’s often falling in the gray zone.


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

To receive free Dyslexia Infographics and updates, go to:


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