Month: July 2022

“Delivering the Message – Eminent Clarity”

Building on last week’s theme regarding the way parental messages are delivered ( “Your Inside Voice”), a mom recently talked to me about her very strong willed, temperamentally challenging child named Abbey.

You know the type – the ones that always go against the grain. Whatever direction the family wants to go, she wants to go the other way. Flexibility of style and “going along with the program” are not qualities that come to mind when thinking about Abbey.

The mom  told me felt like she was turning into a screaming, raving lunatic (her words). For example, getting Abbey dressed and out the door is an enormous battleground, whether getting ready for events like birthday parties, soccer or going to school.

My question to the mom was why she cared so much about any of it when there were logical, built-in consequences to the child’s choices that are there for the child to experience.

Why do we get so caught up in rushing kids to things like birthday parties or soccer, even school if the child is being difficult and minimally compliant?

As an alternative to mom’s characteristic style, a  firmly delivered, but very matter-of-fact statement, such as the following works wonders:

“Abbey, I know you were looking forward to going to your cousin’s party, but you didn’t get dressed when I asked. Now we will be very late,  if we even go at all.  By not listening when I asked you to get ready, this is the choice you made.  Let me know when you are ready.  Oh, and one more thing, if we miss the birthday party, there’s not one electronic device on in the house for you for  the rest of the day.”

No anger. No lecture. No raised voice, but eminent clarity.

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:

“‘Your Inside Voice'”

Modern parents can make you nostalgic for the good old days.

You know, those were the days when children went outside to play and basically did not see their mother for a solid 8 hours (except when she made them a nutritious bologna sandwich on white bread, which were wolfed down before running back out the door).

In contrast, self-conscious and very involved parenting is the rule these days.

Spend a few minutes in a public setting such as the supermarket or a local café’ and you may hear variations on the following:


  • “Now, Hayden…you know that is not your indoor voice, is it Hayden?” (While Hayden runs around the café yelling.)
  • “Remember Connor please do not run ahead, okay? (Connor has already blown off his mom.)
  • “Molly, you know you should not use your whining voice.” (Your whining voice???)
  • “Emma, where are your listening ears?” (Hmmm???”)
  • “William, don’t you think it is time we started our homework?” (Wait, you have homework too?)
  • Noah, I think it is time we went to bed, isn’t it?” (We??)
  • It’s time for us to brush our teeth, Ava?  (Trying to picture combined teeth.)

Compliance between parent and child can be complicated by many variables affecting the outcome.

Very often sender of the message (i.e., the parents) are sending a weak, low-level message/command conveying insecurity likely to be ignored by the child.

In attempts to be nice and overly measured  while worrying about the child “self-esteem,” the message is not clear or direct enough.

(More next week.)

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:

“‘When I Was Born There Something Wrong With My Brain, So I Took This Pill…”’

Jacob is an endearing,  extremely verbal 7-year-old.

Whenever asked a question, Jacob talks with great enthusiasm taking you on  a verbal roller coaster ride.

In psychology jargon, Jacob also has a problem with “self-regulation.” (Don’t you love all the terms out there?)

I ask Jacob, “So Jacob, how are you doing at camp…how’s your behavior going?  Are you following the rules?”

With bursting enthusiasm, Jacob says, “Great!!!  You see, when I was born there was something wrong with my brain, so I take this pill and now it’s better.”  (Jacob has recently been put on medication for ADHD.)

To no avail, I try and counter his view. “Jacob, your brain is fine,” I say.  “The pill may help you to focus a little better, but there’s nothing wrong with your brain.”

“Right,” Jacob exclaims, “but, when I was born…”  as he continues with his neurological explanations.

It may be my issue, but for a long time my mission has been to normalize things for children and families.

I do my best to move them away from “disorder” or “disability” language  to skill-thinking, framing paying attention as a skill that can be improved like any other skill.

Takeaway Point

Try and watch for kids like Jacob who show their cards when they say something is “wrong with their brain.” While you don’t have to go over the top with tell them “you’re amazing,” (another overused word), calmly explain to them that their brain is fine and the pill is a tool to help with the “skill of focusing.”

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:

“At the Self-Checkout”

Going through the self-checkout lines in supermarkets and in other major stores, I notice the combined feeling of sadness and irritation as the automatized voice (yet another)  commands how to pay and where to put my bags.

This reminds me of a reflection piece, “Those Little Interactions,”  published in my book,  “School Struggles.”

In slightly modified form, here is the piece as it is directly relevant to my feelings on the self-check-out line.


A considerable percentage of social interactions takes place while reading nonverbal/verbal cues and signals

While it may seem to be in the dark ages when I was in high school, we would call our friends (no cell phones back then) and often a parent would answer.  There would be a common pleasantry and brief small talk, “Hi Richard.  How are you?  How are your parents?  Please give them regards.  We hope to see you soon.”’

What happens for children when we greatly reduce these opportunities to practice small social interchanges?  Why bother having to deal with the middleman (i.e., the parents) when a cell phone gets right to the source?

Is it a loss that children don’t have to practice those small social skills?

I love having EZPass and feel quite smug watching others line up at tollbooths while I zip through, wondering what their problem is that they don’t have one.

Years ago when I was little, my family would go to visit relatives in Central Pennsylvania.  One thing that always struck me, even then, was how incredibly warm and friendly the toll takers were on the Turnpike.

‘How are you sir?’  They would ask my father with a smile as we pulled up to the booth.  “We hope you have a pleasant trip.”  My father would say something back pleasantly.

I never forgot those interactions.  They added to my model of what social politeness is and the value of little pleasantries.

Now as we use self-checkout in stores another example of modeling mannerly behavior for a child is eliminated.

Recently I attended a week-long seminar on ADHD.  The presenter commented on the loss of social manners as affecting all people in society.  As he said, “I smile at a mom and her little child in line at Starbucks and they shoot me a look like I’m a child molester.”

His comments struck me because I have had similar feelings in superficial social interactions (supermarket, cafés, etc.).  The sense of social invisibility is becoming increasingly pronounced as we cut off channels to learn the basics of social manners and pleasantries.

Our children lack models.

Take Away Point

Modern and living has altered many of our normal, every day social interactions.  Assuming these pleasantries (smiling, saying hello and good morning) matter, try to be aware of them to model them as much as possible for your child.

They still matter, I believe, and modeling is a key way to impart them.

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:



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