Month: March 2019

More Boy Delusions

Recently I talked to you about the delusion of the modern American (male) child and their fundamental inability to face pain (Delusions of the Modern American Boy ).

Not wanting to be redundant (hey, I’ve written nearly 350 blog posts over 10 years so it’s hard not to be redundant), but I find myself focusing, once again, on the delusions of the modern boy, as I see so many kids who seem to fit this description.

They have no sense of the law of averages (or reality).

Somehow they have gotten the notion that school should be this Candyland type of experience and when it is not, they are, well,…outraged.

I mean really outraged (with an emphasis on the “raged”).

15 year old Kyle was offering a litany of complaints about the horror of a class that he was failing when I stopped him mid-sentence and said something like the following:

“Wait!   Stop.  I can’t listen anymore.  You’re delusional…when was school ever fun? Since at least the 1600’s school has always been a pain in the rear end (said differently), so why should it be any different now.”

I asked Kyle to translate to see if he understood what I was saying to him.

He says, “School sucks and it always sucked.”

“Brilliant analysis,” I tell him.

Laughing he continues to tell me the horror of his teacher and why the class that he was in was so terrible, trying to convince me that all of his problems were due to the teacher and the way he ran the class.

Again, I stop him mid-sentence.

“Listen, a bunch of years ago I worked in an athletic shoe store in NYC and I started to complain about something to the owner of the store.  The boss listened patiently and then said the following:  ‘I’m going to tell it to you once – stop your complaining.  Here’s how it works. I got the gold – I make the rules.’”

That zipped me up pretty quickly.

I ask Kyle how that applies to him and his complaints about the classroom.

He says, “I’m not in charge.  I’m not the boss.  I should just shut up.”

“Brilliant again!!!!!!!!!!”   I scream with total glee.

From middle school through high school, kids will have about five or six teachers.  The law of averages (and the bell-shaped curve) tells us that one will be very good.  Two will be mediocre.  One will be fair and one will be poor.  It’s just the way it is.

Takeaway Point

There’s a built-in hierarchy to school (and much in life) that needs to be faced.  Helping kids understand the “law of averages” is an important step in the process of getting them over the school hurdles they face.

Copyright, 2018
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to

“Great Time Presenting to Fusion Academy”

On Tuesday, March 21st, 2019, Dr. Selznick spoke at the Fusion Lunch and Learn event. Among other topics, he discussed how dyslexia is assessed, how to approach remediation, and tips to help children conquer the most common learning disability.

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“We had such a good time presenting to parents, educators and clinicians at the Fusion Academy’s Lunch & Learn. Even though I didn’t get to eat and the food looked great, I still had fun.”

Taking An Effective Action – Overcoming Your Inner Gumby

Last week we revisited the notion that many parents embody “Gumby Parenting” (my term) as a way of interacting with their child and managing challenging behavior (I am a Gumby Parent).

Gumby Parenting leads to an array of child manipulations.


We talked about the cure for this style of parenting for parents to take the first step and “own it,” meaning they understand how they have become “Gumby parents,” with a repetition of the mantra – “I am a Gumby…Don’t be a Gumby.”

Taking an effective action is the next step.  Too often, this is confused by parents as yelling or some other type of excessive punishment, typically delivered in a highly reactive (angry) manner.

This is not what I mean by an “effective action.”

To be effective the child needs to take notice.  The action needs to feel uncomfortable to the child (I don’t mean physically, by the way), like there should be some type of internal reaction on the child’s part that goes something like, “Ugh.  This isn’t fun.  Mom really means business.  I really messed up.  I’d better change my ways.”

The action is situational.  That is, you have to determine what the effective action is for the given situation and the transgression on the child’s part.

For example, let’s say you’re at a birthday party and you see your child getting “rammy” (you know what I mean) and pushy with other children.  An ineffective action would be threatening something about his video games when you get home later in the day.    The threat of the video games has nothing to do with the situation at hand.

A much more effective action would be to march the child out to the car (after he’s had one warning)  and just sit there ignoring the child for about 10 minutes while he sits in the back seat with no screen, no nothing.  Do not lecture or talk to him while he sits there.  Your job is to be chilly and ignore the child even if he is whimpering and pleading.

At the end of the 10 minutes you ask the child if he is ready to return to the party by saying something like the following:

“Listen, Mason.  Your behavior in the party was horrible.  You are not allowed to push, hit or be grabby with the other kids.  If I see you doing these behaviors, we are going to return to the car again.  It’s up to you.  I’m sure, it’s not fun to spend the birthday party in the car.”

Let’s go to another scenario.  If it’s a home situation, then you have different leverage.  Most kids are thoroughly and completely connected to their screens (i.e., they are addicted to them), whether it is the phone, a game system or iPad.

If you don’t get basic cooperation, then Mason can have a very boring and quiet night.  That is he didn’t earn those privileges with the way he behaved at home.

Here’s a model for how to speak to Mason:

“Mason, I’m sorry but you have lost all of your screen privileges for the night.  You were rude to mommy and you refused to cooperatively do your work, even though we asked you to do so a number of times.  It is going to be a very boring and quiet night around here.  Maybe tomorrow you will figure it out.  If not it will be another boring night.  It’s your choice.”

Trust me.  Mason is sweating it out big time and wondering what happened to the screaming ranting mom who previously took no effective action in spite of her yelling.

This mom is different and Mason knows it right away.  She’s taken an effective action.

He may not be articulating it exactly this way, but he is saying something like this to himself, “Yeesh, this mommy has a backbone – she can’t be twisted around like Gumby mommy.”

Takeaway Point

You know how I feel about Gumby Parenting.

Now go practice taking effective actions.

“I am a Gumby…Don’t be a Gumby”

On a weekly basis since 2009 I’ve tried to crank out a new blog post.  While I may have missed a week or two here and there, I think there are nearly 350 of posts on, drawing inspiration from kids and families to help generate ideas.

Over the next few weeks I thought that it would be fun to dip into some of the major points from the blogs and the books as a way reminding you of keeping certain key concepts in mind.

Here’s one that is near and dear to my heart taken from the “Parenting Road” in “School Struggles:”

             “Gumby parenting can lead to many child behavior problems.  Having a clear and firm parenting style is usually the               most effective.  Watch out for being too soft, but also make sure you don’t become overly rigid.” (School Struggles)

Ah, yes. “Gumby parenting.”


For those of you who didn’t play with Gumby as a child (he may have become an emoji or something to the current generation), he was a popular toy, a rubber figure who was very flexible.

He had no backbone. You could twist him any way you wanted.

Gumby parenting (a term I made up) is a common style characterized by their kids who usually have great difficulty   with the“n-word,” (i.e. “no”).  It’s not a word that they are used to hearing and when it is heard they have bad reactions to try and get the parent to give them what they want.

This leads to “EWD” (Excessive Whining Disorder).  (Sadly, children with EWD are often quickly put on medication as a first line approach as it is easy for doctors to call these kids ADD or ADHD.)

Other tell-tale signs of Gumby Parenting include overuse of the word “amazing” when referring to their child and rarely asking their kids to do tasks around the house (what used to be called “chores”).  Effectively, the parents do all of the tasks, while the kid plays on a screen or watches YouTube.

As a next step if you think you may be a Gumby Parent (it’s hard to admit) try and own it.  Maybe start by saying something over and over to yourself like, “I am a Gumby parent…Don’t be a Gumby.   Don’t be a Gumby.”

Building on the mantra, reflect on the fact that it’s ok for your child to feel displeasure.  They don’t have to be happy while doing the chores or their homework, but non-Gumbys insist on good effort without whining and complaining.

The essence of being a non-Gumby is taking an effective action when the child is not behaving well.  Parents almost always translate that erroneously into punishment (and yelling), as in “that’s it!!!  You’re not playing video games for the next two weeks!!!!!!!!”

An effective action is something entirely different and we will build on that concept in the next week’s post.

Copyright, 2018
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to

Delusions of the Modern American Child (Boy)

A number of years ago, I was complaining to my dad about something to do with work.  Never one to mince words, my dad said something that always stayed with me – “That’s why they call it ‘work,’ Richard.  They don’t call it ‘play.’

Modern children (typically boys between the ages of 6 – 14) need a variation on this lesson.

Reports from the parent front are quite frequent about their boys having full-blown meltdowns over homework on a nightly, or at least a regular basis.  Becoming the norm with this age group are full-blown screaming fits at parents, with statements like “I hate you…I wish you were dead,” while the child rolls around on the floor or storms around the house.

Why?  Because their parents are asking them to do their  homework, effectively cutting in to their screen time on YouTube and their video games?

These meltdowns are followed by a remarkable period of calm, where maybe 10 minutes after the meltdown no one could tell the child had just had a meltdown while the child “cools down” back on a screen.


I know.  I know.  Many of you will quickly fall to neurological explanations of the meltdowns, such as sensory integration disorders or other explanations (see my last week’s blog:

However, my sense of the modern boy is they are….


I’m not suggesting that the delusion represents a serious psychological pathology, but that their delusion is like my complaining to my dad – “It’s not called play, Richard” – in that they are deluded in their thinking that homework and school are supposed to be easy and fun.

Seriously, when was homework or school ever fun?

We (collectively) are to blame – parents and educators alike.  Somehow we have supported this notion that there is to be no discomfort or pain while doing work.

Sure, in an ideal world school and homework should be these enlightening and invigorating learning experiences that are also “fun,” but in truth the average homework assignment is a stultifying worksheet that is at best, one degree north of being a total drag.

But, here’s the thing, that’s why it’s called homework.  It’s a tool that theoretically reinforces a learned skill, but in truth is a way that kids indirectly learn to meet deadlines, tolerate frustration, and put their stuff away in folders to hand in the next day.

If that is not something that you buy into for your child, as some of you do not, then it means you need to find a very alternative school experience or create the “Matthew School” or the “Liam School. (or whatever the child’s name is).”

What I am saying as my dad said to me years ago, was there are certain realities that we need to face, starting around the age of six.

Modern kids are wired for pleasure.  Even if you think you are limiting the child’s screen predilections, trust me they are beating you and having about 95% pleasure to 5% pain each day.  That’s a lopsided ratio and it is not allowing your child to develop a thicker skin to work through their frustration.

When asked to face some pain, such as homework or schoolwork they are delusional.

Takeaway Point

“That’s why they call it “work,” Richard.


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