Parenting Misc

“‘What’s the Matter With Kids Today?'”

“The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think nothing but of themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress.”  (Peter the Hermit, circa 1250)

Well, since he was a hermit, perhaps he wasn’t tuned in to the leading technology of the day, so what did he know.

Many centuries before Peter, Hesiod also despaired about the future and the state of youth at the time:

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous young people of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words.  When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful) and impatient of restraint.” (Hesiod, 8th Century, BCE).

A few hundred years after Hesiod, Socrates, as quoted by Plato, started to document ADHD in the classroom and the challenges that the beleaguered teachers faced.

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; and they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, and are not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”  (Socrates,  circa 870 BCE)

(Man, can you imagine if those hooligans in Socrates’ time had iPhones!!!!!!)

Plato built on Socrates and started his own documenting of oppositional defiant disorders and conduct disorder.

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders. They disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying.  What is to become of them?” (Plato)

Takeaway Point

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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“Theories & Hypotheses”

When you are a parent in struggling “Child Land,” there are all kinds of theories, hypotheses and explanations as to why children do what they do.

These hypotheses are revealed in statements made as to what is behind the child acting a certain way.

Let’s listen to some recent statements:

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

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

“My son, marches to the beat of his own drummer –  he’s more of a creative type. Rules just aren’t his thing.”

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.  2022,

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“‘What’s Your Mom Gut?'”

As part of the assessment process, I always conduct an interview (usually with the mom) to get an overview of the issues of concern.

Typically, there will be multiple disorders that have been raised by other professionals along with the parent diagnosing by Google.

A mom recently said something like the following:

“When I asked about dyslexia, the teachers raised the question of either dysgraphia or dyscalculia.”

“Phonological awareness/auditory processing disorder was raised by another.”

“My sister thinks he has an oppositional defiant disorder and is sure that there is an attention deficit disorder.”

“My therapist raised the issue of an emotional dysregulation disorder.”

“My husband thinks he is spoiled and just needs more discipline.”

At some point when I feel my eyeballs snapping as they often do when I am in the midst of “disorder speak,” I try and cut through it with a simple question:

“Without any psychological explanation, what’s your mom gut?”

Since no one’s asked the mom this question before, typically there is  a moment of being slightly surprised that someone wants her opinion stated in this way.

“Well, I think he has a reading problem and he hates doing it, because it embarrasses him.  He will do anything to get out of it.”

“Sounds pretty on point to me,” I respond.

Takeaway Point

I have learned to trust “mom gut” over the years.

About 99% of the time they are on the money.

(The dads are another story.)

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Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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“In the Restaurant”

A favorite pastime of mine is  watching how parents and their children interact.  There’s never a shortage of blog material.  For people watching, there’s not much better than cafes and casual restaurants where families tend to congregate.

This week I hit a bonanza minding my business (mostly) reading a book while having dinner in a local restaurant.

The bonanza was the family of four that sat next to me maybe three feet away.

There was an older sister about 12 and her younger brother perhaps 9 years old.  The parents looked to be  in their upper 30’s to low 40s.

What caught my attention was the non-conversation that took place.

Glued to their phones it did not look like the kids said one word to each other or to their parents.

At some point, I thought the mom looked a bit exasperated, particular with her daughter.

My sense was the mom was trying to get the girl off her phone, but the curly lip sneer she got back basically shut down any attempt by the mom to engage.  (The dad was no help, looking helpless and ineffective as he watched his wife try and get the daughter off  her phone.  I think they had already given up on the son.)

Dinner arrived interrupting this non-interaction for about 10 minutes while the children plowed through their food as rapidly as possible to get back on their phones.  As far as I could tell not a sentence was spoken in any direction, although the mom looked annoyed as she seemed to be trying to light a fire under the father but to no avail.

My guess is that on Facebook or Instagram they are presented as the model family with everyone liking and thumbs upping their birthday, holiday and vacation pictures.

Well, they certainly were entertaining, but probably not in the way they might have thought.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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Sitting at the Poker Table

Parents tell me stories.

I listen for the wording and try and picture what’s being told, that is, who is doing what and how the interaction takes place

Just like playing poker, there are often certain “tells,” minor clues that reveal the larger the picture.

Listen to Marianne talk about the story of the nightly homework ritual with 9-year-old Felicia.

(As Marianne starts the story, Felicia sits grumpily next to her unhappy that she has no access to her cell phone.)

“Well, we usually start our homework around 7.  If we do a good job, then there’s about 45 minutes or so of iPad playing and then it’s time for us to go to bed. In the morning we get ready for school.”

(Felicia rolls her eyes throughout.)

The “tells” suggest that the mom is in too deep.  Is it her homework or Felcia’s?  Does she go to bed with Felcia?  Do they get dressed together and brush each other’s teeth?

Give or take, past the age of five or so most kids can handle things that are given to them at their appropriate level.

Takeaway Point

Double-check yourself the next time you we “start to do our homework.”

You don’t want to be giving away your money at the poker table.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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“A Few New Disorders”

This week we turn our sights to a few disorders that may make it into the diagnostic manual upon its revision.

The first is one  that I know I have very badly.  It’s being called “PBD,” or “Pushback Disorder.”  PBD usually manifests when parents come in with theory upon theory as to why something is taking place.

Snippets of conversation reveal PBD.

Parent:  “My child has ‘ADHD,'” so that explains why he was rude to the teacher.”

Rapidly my PBD comes out – “How do you know the child has ADHD and that’s the root of the rudeness?”

The parent then talks about the pediatrician diagnosing the child based on the Vanderbilt Scales and my PBD goes into high gear.  “What about the reading skills?  Anxiety?  Social relationships?  Shouldn’t these and other things be considered before concluding ADHD is the entire story?”

The second disorder is one that is showing up in my office a great deal – IWWIWD (i.e., “I Want What I Want Disorder”).  IWWIWD shows up when the child has a meltdown over something that they don’t want to do, like get off their iPads or phones and start their homework.  IWWID is very challenging for parents to manage and often gets misdiagnosed as ADHD.

The final disorder that I hope makes the cut in the new manual is called NBD or “No Backbone Disorder.”   Sometimes referred to as “Gumby Disorder,” it is revealed when parents ask the child permission to do something like get ready for bed, but not stated  with any clarity or confidence.   Language is very revealing of NBD, such as when the parent hesitantly asks the child,  “Hey, bud, isn’t it time we got off our phone and got ready for bed?  (While fully expecting a full-blown fit from the child who continues playing Roblox on the phone.)

It is important to recognize how these disorders interact with each other and can increase in magnitude.  So a bad case of NBD coupled with a child who is showing IWWIWD can lead to lots of school and home issues that often land you in a psychologist’s office.

Just make sure you have the stomach to deal with a psychologist who has a bad case of PBD.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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




“‘Fix-It Talk’ vs. ‘Skill Talk'” (#LD #Dyslexia #ADHD)

I spend a good deal of my professional life assessing children in an attempt to identify their profile of strengths and weaknesses.   Once a child is assessed, I do my best to explain the data to the parents in straight-forward, non-jargon terms.

The part of the process I like the least is the question that inevitably arises: “Well, how do we fix it?”

The reason I don’t like this question is that I rarely know the answer.  I never think of kids needing to be fixed – they’re not car engines.

One suggestion would be to change your mindset.

“Fix-it language” suggests something is broken.  “Skill-language” leads to a productive understanding of what skills can be targeted,  which then leads to taking appropriate next-steps.

Really, almost all of the concerns you have as a parent can be framed in skill language, such as, “We need to work on the skill of organizing your backpack…or ‘the skill of comprehension,’. .. or ‘the  skill of sharing with others…or ‘the skill of waiting your turn.'”  All of these skills can be directly taught and practiced, as can most others you can name.

Takeaway Point

Better questions to ask than, “How do we fix it,” might be, “So, what do we do next?” “What skills are we targeting?”

Whether it be in the social/emotional realm or the academic, focusing on specific skills helps the child and the parents get their mind around what to do next and away from a “fix-it” mindset.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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





“New School Year Blues – Part II”

Last week we started our two-part series to try and help you have a smoother ride this school year and to try and reduce the New School Year Blues.

In the first three tips, we encouraged you to turn down the heat during homework; to find ways as a parent to back it down when you’re feeling the heat rising, and to also help your kid gain a little composure if he goes off the rails over homework.

Here are a few more pointers:

Don’t Wait Around:  In the early grades especially, but even for middle school, it’s all about the foundational skills.  If your child is on the struggling side of the road, chances are there are “Swiss cheese holes” in the foundational skills of  reading, writing and mathematics.     You know your child better than anyone. If you think he child needs help, then seek it out.  99% of the time parents (ok, the moms) are on the money their concerns.   Don’t wait around for the school to tell you that your child is showing weakness.  (They aren’t allowed to recommend tutoring, anyway.)

Know What You Are Targeting:  If you are seeking any kind of tutoring make sure you know  very specifically what the goals are and what the emphasis will be.  A good tutor will be establishing goals based on the diagnostic information she has available and you should be able to get a very clear, specific targeted goals.  For example, a good goal for a beginning reader (or struggling reader) who is in early Stage I of development might be for the child to “master short vowel sounds in consonant-vowel-consonant words within a six month period.”

Set the Tone:    Ask yourself how you want it to go at home relative to homework.  You set the tone. Lead and they will follow.  Reflect on being the captain of the ship and decide how you want it to go.  For example, if you value the need for electronic-free time zones (that is no phones and iPads) in your house, then set this as a parameter.  You may get a lot of push-back initially, but that’s ok. If you stay firm with how you want things to go, they will settle in.

504 Plans – What they Can & Can’t Do:   Many kids have 504 Plans.  504 Plans are usually generated for kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD.  (There are other reasons a 504 is developed, but for now let’s leave it at that.)  My impression is that people think a 504 will do much more than it really does.  The 504 Plan is meant to level the playing field a bit for kids identified as having a disability such as ADHD.  A few reasonable accommodations, such as not penalizing a child for spelling or having directions repeated are examples of ones that may be helpful.   For a smoother year, don’t overinvest in the power of 504.  It will only let you down!

Ok.  I could go on with so many other reminders for a smoother school year, but the 7 tips from last week through today should get you started on the right foot.

Copyright:  Shut-Down Learner

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



New School Year Blues – Part I

Well, it’s just past Labor Day.  You know what’s coming.

That pit in the stomach is starting to form. Yep, it’s back to school. I know that you will see all kinds of articles in parenting magazines and the internet such as the 10 Tips for Having an Easy, Breezy School Year.

From where I sit, though, articles such as these rarely get to the heart of the matter, the nitty-gritty, especially when it comes to kids who are on the struggling side of the road.

Struggling kids need different handling than those articles would suggest.

So, in an effort to get you started on the year on a good footing, over the next couple of weeks I am going to offer you my top tips to combat the school year blues – Selznick’s Tips for a Having a Smoother School Year.

If you’ve followed my blog for some time or have read the books, some of these tips may echo the ones you’ve heard before. They are sort of my best hits.

Homework Heat: Folks, listen up. Back it down. Turn down the homework heat. Mind you, I’m not saying that your kid should have free reign and not be responsible for meeting  responsibilities, but does it have to be so intense? It’s just homework. In the grand scheme, does homework mean all that much?

Homework is really only a tool we use for teaching kids to become more independent, self-reliant citizens. If you notice your parental anger temperature reaching a 5 on a scale of 1-10, try and take an action to turn it down to the cooler zone. Go wash your face in cold water. Take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.

When Your Kid Loses it: Point #1 is centered on you as the parent, but what about when your kid goes off the rails over homework? I have lots of parents describing situations where the child is having a full-blown meltdown over what would seem to be relatively minor frustration around homework. Usually, this melt-down also leads to the parental melt-down as noted in point #1.

In some ways the advice is the same as in Point #1. In calm tones, suggest that your child takes a break to change his “state” and reset himself. As a parent, you need to have a pretty good awareness of your kid’s temperature. If it is creeping (or skyrocketing) from 5 up to 10, you need to shut-down the operation for a while.

Noting productive will take place If his emotional temperature is 5 or over.

3. Have a Few Parental Mantras & Shrug a Lot:

Practice shrugging and pulling out a parental mantra that you can repeat when needed. For example, when your kid starts protesting and you feel his heat rising and nothing has helped, a parental mantra that says something like, “Hey, you’re a big boy. It’s up to you if you choose to do your homework,” can be very helpful in turning down the heat.

Start this mantra early even if he is not a big boy. It does wonders in putting the responsibility where it belongs and it saves you from having to keep running to the liquor store.

Remember, practice shrugging a lot as you say the mantra..

Takeaway Point

These will get you started on having an easier year.

More coming in the next few posts.

Copyright:  Shut-Down Learner

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


“What About the Grandparents? (Part II)”

This is an opinion driven business.  Sure, there’s research on child behavior and clinical theories, but ultimately it comes down to an opinion.

So, here’s one more.

When it comes to the question raised in the previous blog on the role of  grandparents  (Role of Grandparents?), my opinion is “it depends.”

For some parents they are fine turning the children over to the grandparents, as they are providing needed child care and the parents offer little guidance.  Effectively, the message is, “While it’s on your watch, use your own judgment.”

For other parents they want to exercise much greater control and end up directing the grandparents how they should manage the children and how they should respond to things that come up.

Let’s look at 5-year-old Cole.

Much to the grandparents’ dismay and disapproval, wherever Cole goes with his family – to restaurants, outdoor activities, the beach, etc., Cole has his kiddie iPad in hand.  The parents have made it clear that they feel Cole should be allowed to have it with him.  They feel it is “soothing” to Cole.

The grandparents disagree and came to me seeking advice on how they should handle it.

My guiding principle is simple and straightforward.  Even though, I too, am not a big fan of kiddie iPads, the grandparents need to defer to the parents.

While the grandparents may be playing a more central role than in other eras, the grandparents still take a backseat.  That should be the guiding principle.

A final suggestion that is not easy for many families to accomplish.

Try and have regular “sit down” family meetings between the parents and grandparents.

The grandparents can start the discussion with something like, “If we’re going to be in charge for a day or two a week, we want to make sure we are all on the same page. As the parents we will defer to you guys, but we would also like to be able to offer our input and perspective, for what it’s worth, so let’s have an open and honest discussion.”

(We welcome other opinions on the topic.)

Copyright, 2022

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