Month: November 2019

Back in the Anger River

I’ve said it to parents many times over the years –   “Below the ADD/School Struggling Swamp, lies the “Anger River.”

The Anger River results in much school resistance, avoidance and lowered motivation

Parents will do various back flips to address meltdowns and school avoidance.    Mostly parental interventions are reactive, delivered in the heat of the moment (e.g., “That’s it!!!  You’re not allowed on your iPad for the next two weeks,” after the child has not completed another homework assignment.)

At the risk of some redundancy (Hey, I’ve written over 350 blog posts in 10 years so you will hopefully cut me some slack), here’s what I said a while ago on the topic:

“Punishments are 99% reactive delivered in anger.   Most of the time they (the reactive punishments, like yelling) don’t work,  yet  we persist, largely because of ‘Parent Brain’ going into its automatic response.

If reactive punishments are misguided, what reduces the Anger River?

Not biting the bait.

Let’s take Sam, an 8 year old child, who has a “soup pot” of different issues, frequently melting down over his homework.  “I hate writing,”  Sam screams.  “It’s so stupid…why do I have to do this ????!!!!! (while throwing his papers around in a full-blown rage).

Based on a strategy we discussed, Mom, Beth, decides not to engage him, get pulled in, or bite the bait,  as every time she does it only increases his raging meltdowns.

Instead, while Sam pulled out every reaction to try and get out of doing his homework, Beth  went about her business, effectively not biting any of the bait.

After about 10 minutes or so of being left alone at the dining room table with no input from his mother, Sam started to calm down, still sniveling and whimpering some, but no longer raging.

At some point when the whimpering had subsided, Beth spoke to Sam in very matter-of-fact tones, “Look, Sam,  I get it.  Writing is not fun and it’s hard for you. You’re frustrated.  But here’s the deal, even though you’re angry and frustrated,  you still need to finish your homework with decent attitude.  I can offer you some help, but there’s no screen time until you’re finished.  Let me know if you need any help.”

It may take time, but when left on their own to work it out, most of the Sam types will work through their anger  and come around when handled calmly and directly (and with the looming concern of not having the iPad available).

The Anger River needs managing, not feeding.  The messages, body language and words you choose convey something to the child that will be interpreted one way or another.

One way (the reactive engaging, “biting the bait” approach) usually results in increased anger with ongoing meltdowns.

The other (not feeding the river) results in the anger being reduced considerably with the perception that the parent is in charge.

Through nonverbal and measured verbal communication the parent conveys a message and  a level of confidence that the child can handle it even if he will need some support.

Takeaway Point

Don’t bite the bait.

Copyright, 2019
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


Doing the FAPE Dance – “FAPING”

Let’s say you have a 7 year old child who struggles greatly with reading, spelling and writing and has been diagnosed with a learning disability (e.g., dyslexia).

The school has classified the child for special education and an IEP (Individual Education Plan) is being put into place.

As a parent, though, you’re not thrilled with the way the school has been handling things.  So you look into a specialized private school about 20 minutes away that has everyone buzzing that it is the perhaps one of the best ones in the country, the Dyslexia Nirvana School, commonly referred to as “DNS.”

Dyslexia Nirvana School comes with a pretty hefty price tag of $48,000 per year, so you want the public school to either provide what DNS does or to pay for your child to go there.

You come to me for support to run your ideas by me.  “Don’t you think the school should either do what DNS does or send her there at their cost?”

I know this is going to be one of those tough conversations where the mom wants to kill the messenger, so I breathe deeply going into my meditative mode and then offer the following answer –

“Nope, I do not.”

“What do you mean,” she exasperatedly responds, surprised I am that blunt and direct.  “Do I need to get a lawyer?”

From there I go into my understanding of special education and how it all works to try to get the mom on board (not my favorite conversation).

“Here’s the deal – the school is required by Federal Law to provide children who are given IEPs what’s called ‘FAPE’ (i.e., Free and Appropriate Public Education).  (The operative  word in FAPE being “appropriate.”) They are not obligated nor do they have the resources or the wherewithal to provide what a highly specialized private school such as what Dyslexia Nirvana offers.”

I continue, “Here’s the guiding principle.  Think of Dyslexia Nirvana as one of the best most expensive cars you can think of – maybe a Lamborghini.  Schools do not offer a Lamborghini and are not expected to by law.  It’s not that they are supposed to provide a mediocre product, but they can’t offer what a specialized private school offers.”

“Well, we want her to have the best,” says the mom.

“Then, at least for now, you need to enroll her in the Nirvana School and pay the tuition on your own.”

“What do you mean ‘at least for now.’”

“Look,” I continue, “I’m not a representative of the school and I’m just sharing my understanding of how it works, but at this point the school has barely worked with her.  The program they are suggesting is ‘appropriate’ meaning it is an acceptable program supported by reasonable research.

Let’s say some time goes by with this method and their approach and she makes very little progress. Then you are in a position to say they are not providing FAPE and you can make a good argument that she should attend the Nirvana School at their expense.  Let’s hope she makes progress, though .  We need to watch it closely.”

Takeaway Point

FAPE is the guiding principle, with the operative word “appropriate,” being open for interpretation.  Before you go for the Lamborghini and expect the school to pay for it, you need to go a step at a time.

Copyright, 2019
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




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