Month: February 2024

Remember the Child’s Primary Motivation

Understanding what children want can bring about a major shift in your thinking. If you embrace this concept, I predict your perceptions will change for the better, which then will impact your child.

So, what is your child’s primary motivation?

At the root of most of their challenging behavior, children are pleasure seekers.  Put simply, they want what they want, when they want it.

This isn’t fundamentally different from what adults want. We’re all pleasure seekers at heart. But the big difference between adults and children is that adults have learned to delay gratification and to put aside pleasure, at least theoretically.

Often parents will seek a range of psychological explanations for a child’s behavior.

While there certainly may be certain psychological and/or neurological bases for a child’s behavior, often there are simpler explanations.

Children are pleasure seekers and will do what they can to obtain it.

Yesterday, for example, in a local library there was a mother and her two small children standing in front of a snack machine.

The little girl, perhaps four-years-old, was having a major meltdown.

Why?  The mother wasn’t giving her what she immediately demanded.  Banging on the snack machine left the mother frazzled, as she desperately tried to appease her daughter, but not to her daughter’s satisfaction.

For an experiment, try seeing the behavior through the pleasure-seeking lens and see what happens (to you).

I predict that your behavior will change!

(Adapted from “Beyond the Power Struggle:  A Guide for Parents of Challenging Kids,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. 2023)

“Math Disability? Not So Fast”

Not sure when the reverence for word problems emerged, but it seems that children are almost exclusively taught math through word problems.  I believe it’s linked to the theory that math should always be enhancing “higher order thinking.”

Let’s look at Chris, age 7, a second grader who is given a worksheet with 10 problems.  Here’s one that he received as part of a 10-problem test:

“Winnie counts the oranges she picks.  Winnie counted between 400 and 500 oranges.  The number of oranges is an odd number.  The number of oranges is the sum of two of the numbers below.  (Show your work.”)

137                  258                  114                  164                  281

After Chris muddles through the ten problems with no idea what he was doing, at the top of the page was a grade of  “40%  (F).”

Keeping in mind the fact that Chris is just seven and doesn’t know what a % sign means or even what an  “F” represents, there’s also another  point to consider just using this problem as an example.

Within this problem, Chris also had no idea what an “odd number” was or the meaning of the word “sum.”

Then there’s Kelsey, a confused 8-year-old who is given:

Cullen wants to make 55 pizzas.  He makes 19 in the morning and 35 in the afternoon.  Does he reach his goal?”

“Wait,” Kelsey thinks,  “What goal?  I thought they were talking about making pizzas.  Who scored a goal?”

Needless to say,  Kelsey had no idea how to answer the question.

Takeaway Point

Confusion often reigns with the usage of math word problems.  Before concluding that your child may have some type of mathematical disability, try and figure out where the breakdown is occurring.  It may not be where you think it is.

In the examples above, the breakdown started with confusion of vocabulary.

Feel free to make comment below. 

To receive future blog posts, register your email:

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email:

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,

“Pictures Telling the Story”

Largely supported by the medical model, when parents have their child assessed they are often  focused on “the diagnosis.”    Such a model embodies a, “Yes, they have it,” or “No, they don’t have it,” (whatever “it” is) perspective.

In my corner of the universe, I wish things were that straight-forward.  I am hopelessly mired in identifying a pie-chart of interacting variables.

Less important than a “diagnosis,” a good assessment should  identify major “red flags” of concern and  guide you with  “next-step thinking.”

For example if the child has a reading problem, what type is it?  Is it primarily based in decoding/fluency or is it a comprehension based problem? What are the next steps?

If the child shows inattentiveness and distractibility, can that be clarified more specifically?

Just saying a child is “ADHD” doesn’t tell us much.  What situations pull for greater inattentiveness?

If the child’s behavior can be challenging, what seems to trigger the difficulty?

More than the diagnosis, what do the snapshots in the assessment tell us about the child?

I understand that I am sadly dating myself by citing a great song by Rod Stewart, but remember, “Every Picture Tells a Story?

What are the pictures that are telling the story?


To receive future blog posts, register your email:

To Contact Dr. Richard Selznick for advice, consultation or other information, email:

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,




Latest Posts