Month: June 2022

More on the ‘Drip, Drip Dripping’ of Behavior”

It looks like the description of the “drip, drip dripping” of behaviors resonated with some people.

People asked (rightfully) whether I had “strategies” for such children, like Carter who was previously referenced (.“Drip, Drip, Dripping”)

It will be essential that Carter’s teachers and parents are fully on the same page.  The parents and teachers need to agree on a targeted behavior of concern and define it clearly for Carter.

For example, if Carter tends to push on line or make clicking mouth noises, then those become the targeted behavior.  It will be helpful get a basic baseline as to how often it happens in the day (recognizing you will miss some).

Talking to Carter directly would be a next step.  The goal is not necessarily improving Carter’s behavior,  but increasing his self-awareness.

My theory would be that if Carter becomes more self-aware, then behavior will incrementally improve.

Here’s what a teacher might say to Carter.

“Carter, we need to talk about something.  You’re a nice kid and I feel bad that other children don’t want to play with you.  You do want to have friends, right?  You feel bad because you think others are mean to you, is that true?”

(Carter nods his head.)

“OK, we need to work on that.  I know other kids can be mean to you, but if you want to have friends you need to think about a few things, ok?

(Carter nods again.).

“Well, I’ve noticed that you make a lot of clicking noises through the day. Those noises really gets on other kid’s nerves. You also push on line a lot to try and get up front. What do you think happens then?”

(“They get mad at me and don’t want to be my friend.”)

“Brilliant!!!!  I knew you were so smart!  So, how about we have a plan.  When I come around to your table I’m going to listen carefully and if you are not making any clicking noises or  making  silly faces, I’m going o put a big green check on this chart that I’ve set up for you. At the end of the week if you get at least 10 checks then you can pick out a little prize from my bag of prizes.  It’s just going to be between us.  So what are we working on together?”

(“Me, not making clicky noses or silly faces.”)

“Right again! And what might happen after a while of doing that?)

(“They might start being my friend.)

Takeaway Point

Look, I know this is a made up dialogue and it’s not going to be this easy, but it’s a start.  The Carters of the world have a tough time of it.

You, as parents and teachers are looking to help Carter understand that he has some choice and that by choosing better over time things can improve for him.

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:



“The Drip, Drip, Dripping of Behavior”

Not sure why (I have my theories), but there has been a considerable increase of children landing on my doorstep with behaviors that have become something of a water torture of “drip, drip, dripping” to others around them.

The social fallout is the result of this this steady dripping.

Let’s look at Carter, age 7, who does very well in school and is viewed to be quite smart.

There is little that Carter does overtly that anyone can identify as particularly problematic, but the unrelenting “drip, drip, drip” of behaviors results in others reacting to his every small behavior.

Carter is stunned when other children yell at him, “Stop it, Carter!  You are so annoying.”

From Carter’s perspective everyone is picking on him and he has no idea why other children are “mean to him.”

What Carter is unable to see is that behaviors like his ongoing humming and mouth clicking noises start to add up.

The “drip, drip, drip” goes on throughout the day and no one wants to sit with him on the bus or in the lunchroom.  When his mother tries to make play dates, the children don’t want to come over to his house.

There are other situations that Carter misreads, which also has the effect described.  Carter insists on being first in line and continually calls out answers when the teacher asks a question without raising his hand.

When discussing Carter’s issues with his mother, she becomes somewhat defensive with one of the classic lines, “Aren’t all 7-year-old boys like this?”

There are many different opinions on children like Carter and what is needed.

Some will see if through the lens of ADHD. Others will view Carter as being self-centered. While others will dismiss the behaviors as “boys being boys.”

Plenty will be of the opinion that Carter should be on some type of medication.

Others will suggest he needs to be reading social cues better and should be in some type of social skills group or receive behavioral therapy.

Parents will seek my counsel as to how to “fix the problem.”

I always feel like I am letting them down when I say something like, “There is nothing broken and therefore it can’t be fixed.”

However, with various ends working in on the middle (i.e., parents, teachers, school counselors, therapists), behaviors can be modified and improved over time.

Without placing a child like Carter on the defensive, helping him to incrementally  become more self-aware is a good first step to slow down the dripping.

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:

“The Marginally Ready Child”

Over the years, I’ve been a bit of a hoarder. Like most things, there are advantages and disadvantages to this habit.

One advantage (not that my wife agrees) is that I have held on to different journals that were in the dustbins of Temple University’s renowned Reading Clinic, which at one time was one of the leading clinics in the country.

Attempting to declutter I started going through some of these journals and found many articles written by some of the top theorists and researchers in the field from 40, 50 and 60 years ago.

Skimming through them it was stunning how many brilliant nuggets are still very relevant  to the present day.

One that caught my eye  was an article by the late, brilliant, learning dishabilles pioneer Dr. Jeanette Jansky,  called  “The Marginally Ready Child.”

In the opening of the piece, Dr. Jansky refers to kindergarten and first grade children who do not get anyone’s attention and are only “marginally ready.”

Then Dr. Jansky pivots to talk about what happens to this type of  child some years later.

In our diagnostic and remedial practice we also meet children for the first time during their middle school years, when they are eleven, twelve and thirteen years of age.  They come with the complaint that they are close to failing in a number of school subjects.  Although they had learned to read at the expected time, they did not read easily, they did not enjoy it and their very mediocre academic performance never rose to the expectation raised by their often superior level of intelligence.

As the article continues,  “…I believe the marginally ready child slips past us all too often; he ‘sort of’ learns to read, gradually slides down, and becomes a middle schooler.”

“…By the time these children are nine or ten their problems have become as severe as those of a youngster whose early deficits were more obvious.”

“Very important to success of early intervention efforts is working with parents.  They need to learn about normal developmental differences between children and how their school deals with them.” 

“Parent’s anxiety about departing from the classical educational timetable is keen and we must recognize and help them with it.  Doing so is a matter of firmly establishing and fully interpreting school policy, not of holding a single meeting.”

Takeaway Point

Love the concept of the “marginally ready” child and how this shows up very early on and persists through the grades.

Looks like I’m not dumping stuff out too soon.

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:

“Stamina” (Part II)

Last week we talked about the idea that “stamina” is not a word  parents reference much to when talking about their concerns (“Stamina” (Part I)

This lack of stamina probably manifests in many different forms, much of which overlaps with some of the concepts of the popular term “executive function disorder.”.

While evaluating children I am always on the lookout for how quickly they may fall to answering “don’t know,” or giving up on a task.

Reading comprehension questions often reveal this style.

With factual questions (e.g., “How many ducks were on the pond?”) these can be quickly answered.  The answer is either known or it is not.  There’s no effort involved.

Inferential reasoning questions are a different matter.  The answer is not readily apparent.  Clues in the text  must be considered requiring a certain amount of what I call, “Hmm, let me think about it,” consideration before answering.

Usually, these are revealed in “Why” type of questions (“Why did the ducks leave the pond?).

Stamina (effort) is  required to answer such questions or complete challenging tasks where solutions are not readily apparent.  One must “tough out” the impulse to shrug and quickly give up.

One piece of advice for parents is to not dive in too quickly to offer help.

You might try and say something like, “You’re a big girl, I bet you can figure it out” may give the right message.  It conveys confidence that the child can figure it out, but that it may take some effort.

This issue of stamina is not just with schoolwork.

For example, I saw a mom readily help her child open  her snack bag while on  a break.  In spite of the fact that the child was perfectly capable of opening her bag, she was getting “help.”

As talked things over with the mom, I gently (I hope) chided her for helping her daughter too quickly.  The mom readily admitted to babying her too much rather than have her  “tough it out.”

I joked with the mom telling her not to worry that I would cure her of that problem quickly.

The mom took the chiding and said she would readily take on the mission and she was ready for the challenge.

Takeaway Point

Don’t be so quick to dive in.’

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:


It’s always interesting to me how words or terms come in and out of favor.

When parents come in to talk about their children, “stamina” is a word that I don’t hear mentioned too often.

Parents will make reference to a child having difficulty with “executive functioning,” they rarely know what it means and when I press them a bit to explain further, they look at me a bit quizzically, like why am I asking that?

Take a snippet of a conversation I had recently.

“I think my kid has some type of executive function deficit,” said Martha, parent of a 9-year-old girl in the fourth grade.”

“How do you mean,” I ask.

“I don’t know,” Martha went on.  “The teacher said something about it, even though I wasn’t sure what it meant.  She also said she gives up quickly on tasks, which I see all the time.  I think it’s because all she does for hours each day is swipe on her screens. It’s Tik Tok and YouTube all day and night.”

“So, you’re telling me she can’t tough it out.  She lacks stamina.”

“Yeah, that’s it.  Why can’t people talk like that.  I wish they’d stop using all of the fancy terms – it’s always ‘disorder this’ or ‘disability that.’  No stamina…that’s it.  Is that a brain dysfunction?  My dad used to say I lacked ‘grit.’  Now that’s a word I never hear used anymore.”

Takeaway Point

For the moment, stay away from “brain-disorder” thinking. Reflect on the word “stamina” and whether this is an issue for your child.

(More next week.)

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:


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