Modern Childhood

“Missed Opportunities for Practicing ‘The Skill of…'”

So much of a child’s world can be framed in an ongoing series of different skills.

For example, some kids have the “skill of” saying hello and greeting someone they meet for the first time.  Others may have the “skill of” manners in social interactions by saying “please” and “thank you” – things like that.   These skills of greeting someone or using social manners do not happen naturally.  They are learned and practiced over countless repetitions,

What happens when we shut off the ability to practice these skills? Then there are lost opportunities and the skills simply do not develop.

Marnie, a five year, old came to my office accompanying her mother who wanted to talk to me about her older sister, Jocelyn.  When I went out to greet the mom, Marnie was on some type of head set connected to a small screen device.  Marnie never looked up, never said hello. The opportunity was lost for that small social pleasantry and interaction of putting out my hand to greet Marnie and ask her a couple of questions about her world.

Marnie continued to spend the whole time quietly with her head set on, swiping her fingers across the screen.  I did not exist as a human being.   There was lost opportunity (for both of us) to practice the “skill of” social interaction.

Later in the day I went to “Saladworks” for lunch.  A 20-something was in front of me on line.  As she placed her order, “I’ll have spinach… I’ll have olives…turkey….banana peppers…” I was struck by the fact that there was no “please” or “thank you” mixed in that salad.  The person behind the counter dutifully filling up the woman’s salad bowl did not exist to her.  There was no real human or polite social interaction.

Maybe the 20-something was just an older Marnie, someone who never had the opportunity to practice essential skills.

There are continual opportunities to practice the “skill of ___________ ” (fill in the blank).  Out of expedience parents may be cutting off these opportunities.

It certainly is easier having Marnie completely quiet and transfixed on a screen than deal with the usual five-year-old behaviors.

It just seems that something is off, though,

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

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,


“‘Spilling the Milk’ & ‘You Owe Me’ – Child Behavior in Two Acts”

Since my latest book, Beyond the Power Struggle:  A Guide to Challenging Kids, was published some months ago, I have had some interesting interactions – a number of different interviews and parents contacting me about their kid’s behavior.

A nice surprise was a small group of parents, let’s call it a parent book club, who formed to dish about the concepts related to my book.

As we talked about different ways of handling challenging behavior, one of the dads asked about how he should have handled his four-year-old son pouring milk over the furniture (not accidentally).

We speculated how their grandparents’ generation would have handled it.  (One clue.  Their grandparents  would not have been dwelling over the psychological variables behind the child’s behavior.)

One approach to the milk crime would be to employ the often used (overused?) strategy of “time-out.”

To my ears, that approach would have little real impact on the child, as he would likely be kicking, screaming and raging while being marched off to time-out with little learning taking place.

Underneath many child behaviors, I believe most kids suffer from a syndrome I have come to call IWWIWD or “I Want What I Want Disorder.”

What did this four-year-old milk pourer want?  Probably a combination of “This will be fun to see how far I can go,” coupled with an immediate demand soon after to play with a screen – some kiddie iPad or its equivalent.

Some might write off the behavior under the category of “Well, he’s a four-year-old boy and that’s what they do,” effectively brushing it off.

Well, I wrote the book.  I should have an answer, right? Here’s my answer.

I think there are “kid crimes” that call for an action and misdemeanors that can be brushed off.  I wouldn’t brush it off.

If I were able to keep my wits about me (not easy to do in this situation), I like removing the child from the situation as quickly as possible. Then speaking in clear and firm terms I’d  say something like the following:

“That was not cute and I am very upset with you.  You know that’s not how to behave in the house.  We were going to go out and have fun, but now I’m too angry to go anywhere.   For now, there is absolutely no screen playing or TV watching.  I will check back with you later.”  Then I’d walk out and be a bit chilly.  Maybe an hour or so later I’d warm up by degrees. I made my point.

Some may disagree, but this approach has its value.  No yelling.  No time-out.  An effective and clear statement of anger from the parent with the linking up screen use as an earned privilege.  I would predict future desires to spill milk  might be filed away somewhere in boy-brain as not a wise thing to do.

In another story brought to me beyond the group,  Marcus, age 13, was being tutored in a public library.  Marcus knew the tutor well, having worked with her for a number of years.  When asked to do a writing exercise, Marcus had a 13-year-old version of a five-year-old meltdown.  It was quite a scene in the public library.

Mom, sitting close by was understandably mortified, later telling me Marcus’ behavior was “reprehensible.”

How did mom handle it?  Again, she didn’t use time out or other such low impact consequence.  Instead, she drove home in stony (chilly) silence, not speaking to Marcus.  There were no lectures or harangues. Thinking about what a waste of time and money that tutoring session was and how embarrassed she felt, this is what the mom did:

Once inside, mom said to Marcus, “I know you were saving your Christmas money for something with your game system, but that session wasted time and a lot of money.  You owe me  Please go into your room and pay me back the $65 for that session of embarrassment.”

Ouch!!! Elegant and to the point.  It certainly made a statement to Marcus that is likely to stick.

Takeaway Point

It’s not too early or too late to make an impactful statement.

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,

“Double Check Your Hypotheses & Theories” (#Child Behavior)

While meeting with parents to discuss the concerns they have regarding their  children’s struggling, numerous hypotheses and  theories are often offered as to why children do what they do.

Typically, the theories are linked to medical explanations, in other words there is a medical disorder that needs correcting.

Let’s listen to some recent statements:

After starting on Concerta, George seemed to be playing better with other kids, but now no one seems to want to play with him.  Maybe we should try Adderall.”

“My daughter is refusing to do her work –  we thought the Lexipro was working.”

We don’t understand.  We adjusted the Vyvanse, but he is still aggressive with his younger sister.”

The school said Michael was very disrespectful and rude this week – maybe his Intuniv needs to be changed.  Or maybe it’s his ‘sensory’ problems again.”

“Marla’s so unmotivated.  She just wants to do nothing but go on TikTok.  It must be the medication wearing off.”

And the beat goes on.  And the beat goes on.

Things often not stated:

I know my kid is manipulating us when he avoids his homework to go play video games.”

“Maybe the school is not the problem as to why she’s acting the way she is.”

“It’s not ok to say whatever you want in the class, even if you don’t like the work.”

“No one wants to invite Zach to their house or a birthday party; he never shares with the other kids and he has alienated them.

What to do?

One step is to help kids recognize that choices made have built-in (natural) consequences.  (“If you don’t share, others will not want to play with you.  It’s that simple.”)

If we buffer kids from natural consequences, there will be no reason for them to learn from their mistakes and try a different approach.

 Takeaway Point

Double check your hypotheses and theories.

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,

Join the Fun: “Empowered Parents Summit”

I am honored to be a part of this Empowered Parents Summit.  So many great speakers are presenting their view of parenting in the modern era.

I will be talking about issues related to my latest book, “Beyond the Power Struggle:  A Guide for Parents of Challenging Kids.”

Here’s the link to the conference – remember it’s free!!!  Click Here: Registration Summit Parenting Conference

Feel free to make comment below. 

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,



“Ongoing Themes: #Dyslexia #ADHD #LD Discrepancy #504 #Parenting”

Those of you following this blog for some time know there are some recurring themes in these posts (that mostly irritate me).

For others  newer to these posts, I will help to bring you up to speed with some of the predominant ones.

  1. The LD-Discrepancy Model: Easily the number one issue that gets under my skin is the LD-Discrepancy model used in many states (New Jersey being one) to classify children in special education as learning disabled.  I discussed it in my recent blog post  (, but if If you need a primer on the LD-Discrepancy model, this is a great overview: ( 
  2. Pathologizing Childhood: Not all child problems are neurobiological (i.e., “brain-based”) disabilities.   Some issues are just kids being kids. (Please see my blog on boy executive function deficits: ).  Also, sometimes the material being given to them is inappropriate to their level of reading ability.  That is not an “in the head” problem.  It’s a curriculum issue.
  3. “Diagnosing” ADHD Based on Small Data: Checking a few items (e.g., “Easily distractible….Inattentive, etc.”) on a rating scale like the Vanderbilt given in the pediatrician’s office is not enough.   There are a multitude of factors that could be producing the distractibility.  Many of these factors should be understood before putting a child on medication for ADHD.
  1. “We can’t diagnose dyslexia – you need to see a neurologist.” Parents are reflexively told this by the school when they raise concerns of dyslexia.   Seriously, how many neurologists or pediatricians that you know give a battery of reading, spelling and writing tests that are necessary to assess dyslexia?  At its core, dyslexia is a reading disability.  How can this be determined without a battery of reading measures?  Stop telling parents it is a medical condition.
  2. “This or That Thinking:” “I just want to get to the bottom of it,” parents will say.  “I just don’t know if it’s ADD or laziness.”   The problem as I see it is that there rarely is a bottom.  The truth is it’s almost never,  “this or that.”  With most kids it’s almost always, “this and that and that.”
  3. Overplaying 504 Plans: Listen up, gang. The reality of 504 Plans is that they do not do that much.  504s do not offer services, but basic accommodations (e.g., extended time).
  4. “Hey, Bud” Parenting: I hate to break the news to parents out there, but they are your children.  You don’t set limits with your buddies.  You set limits with children.
  5. Screen Addicts: I get it.  Times change.  I don’t get the newspaper delivered any more.  I have my phone with me most of the time and am in a froth when I can’t locate it.  With that said, kids care about little else than their screen time.   They are becoming addicted.   We’re not facing it.

 Takeaway Point:  I understand that some may think that I am just saying these things because I am at the “get off my lawn” stage of life.  Maybe it’s compounded by that fact, but I have been repeating these theme to parents for many years.

Perhaps getting it off my chest helps –  it’s still cheaper than real therapy!!!

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,


“Homework??? That’s So Yesterday.”

More and more, parents tell me that their children never get homework.

When there is homework, it is often a battleground.  Refrains such as, “It’s stupid,”  “I hate it,”  “It’s not fun,” and variations on these themes occur across the country starting in the afternoon, continuing through until about 8:00 at night.

Of course, there are the dutiful soldiers who don’t complain (rarely the boys), getting started on their own, completing the assignment (putting a check next to the completed task in their assignment book) and even putting it  back in their backpack so it can be found the next day in school.

I never have known whether homework has legitimate value as a learning tool for reinforcing or broadening skills. However beyond the potential reinforcement of skills, I do think homework has symbolic value.

Without stating it directly to children, the symbolic value can be summed up quite simply.   It goes something like this:

In order to be a functioning member of society you need to learn a few things, like getting out of bed and showing up on time.  As adults you will probably have deadlines for different tasks doing this thing we call a ‘job’ and it is in your interest to meet the deadlines.  Just going on YouTube, TikTok or playing video games for hours on end is not going to cut it.”

If kids are given a message like this directly it would likely  be tuned out, with the child staring into the attention-deficit ether, not hearing a word of it.

Homework conveys this message indirectly, starting in first grade continuing through high school and even into college.

With the current trend that homework has no value and is seen as purposeless, how will this message be delivered?

Probably not through TikTok or Fortnite.

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,


Podcast Interview Released

As a changes of pace, I am excited to share a recent interview that was conducted with me by “Beautifully Complex:  Navigating Neurodiverse Parenting.”

The interview is only about 30 minutes.  Would love to get your feedback on it.

If you enjoy it, please share it with others.

Here’s the link:     (Selznick Podcast Interview)


Feel free to make comment below. 

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,




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)

“And Now, For a Change of Pace”

My marketing manager (my daughter Julia) has been pushing me to create more short videos to spread around.

So, as a change of pace here are two that were posted to YouTube.  TRUST ME.  THEY ARE VERY SHORT!!!!  Hope you enjoy.  Let me know what you think.

The first one was posted a little while ago.  It’s a brief introduction to the purpose of these videos:

1. Introduction: Selznick Video Productions!

The second is adapted from my new book, “Beyond the Power Struggle: A Guide For Parents of Challenging Kids.”  It’s one of my favorite tips.

2. Challenging Children? Have a Mantra.

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,


Turning Down the Parental Heat

Parents do various back flips to address meltdowns and school avoidance.

Mostly,  parental responses 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 rolled around on the floor,  not completing another homework assignment.)

I think of parent yelling as a “go-to” strategy.  (“Hey, we were yelled at as kids, so why not keep up the family tradition.”)

The thing about yelling is it largely doesn’t work.

When was the last time your child said after your yelling, “You’re right mom.  I need to take more responsibility for myself.”

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, his mom, Beth, decides not to engage him with yelling, pecking or biting the bait,  as every time she does any of these they only serve to increase his raging meltdowns.

Instead, while Sam pulled out every reaction, trying to get out of doing his homework, Beth  just went about her business – zero reaction..

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 and you get frustrated.  But, here’s the deal, even though you’re angry and frustrated,  you still need to finish your homework without banging on the table or rolling on the floor.  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 without threats.

Effectively, it’s Sam’s choice.  It’s up to him to decide.

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2023,


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