Parenting Misc

“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

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:

“What About the Grandparents?”

I will confess.

In the years that this blog has been written I haven’t given grandparents much of a thought.  In over 500 posts, I don’t think there was one of them where the grandparents were in my sights.

A good friend of mine, Lloyd,  who has been a faithful reader of these posts, said to me recently, “What about the grandparents?  You need to comment about them.”

My response was something like, “Well, I’ve always thought that it was grandparents’ job to basically indulge and enjoy their grandchildren.  Let the rest fall to the parents.  In other words when it comes to the children, they should ‘zip it and clip it.’”

Countering that view, Lloyd said, “Well grandparents play a very different role than they used to.  First of al people are living longer than they did another generation or so ago and with both parents often working, grandparents are frequently called upon to be the “parents” for a day or two a week.  It can be very challenging.”

That is, indeed, very true and while not a grandparent myself (other than to my kids’ dogs), many people I know are often taking care of the grandchildren a couple of days a week or more.

Some of the challenging questions that come to mind:

  • What if the grandparents look at the parents’ way of parenting with a bit of a jaundiced eye?  (There are frequently generational differences that come into play.)
  • Certainly, the same could be asked in reverse, as the parents see how the grandparents oversee the children.
  • When everyone’s together and the grandparents step in, is that ok, or are they overstepping and effectively butting in?
  • Should the parents be giving the grandparents more latitude?
  • How do these issues get resolved without there being arguments and resentments coming quickly to light?

More thoughts next week.

As always we welcome comments and input.

Copyright, 2022

Questions or comments email Dr. Selznick:


“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:

“Fun Dad Nation”

Every generation creates its own parenting style based on a variety of factors and variables shaping our view of what it means to be a parent.

For some time, I’ve jokingly referred to modern dads as a part of “Fun Dad Nation.”

These dads are a blast.  Involved with all kinds of sports, they love playing video games and doing goofy stuff at the dinner table – what a package!

As we go into Father’s Day here’s one bit of caution to the dads of Fun Dad Nation.  Hierarchy still matters in the family.  That is, parents need to be parents.  It can’t be “Fun Dad” all the time.

As I write this I  reflect on a memory from my own childhood to illustrate with a simple example.

Watching sports with my dad in the family room a couple of my dad’s friends came in to join him. Without blinking, my dad immediately commanded, “Get up, Richard, and let Uncle Frank sit down.”

(There is no way my dad would let Uncle Frank be relegated to the cheap seats while his punk kid sat in one of the “grown up seats.”  There was plenty of space on the floor for me to place my behind, so off I went perhaps unhappily.)

It’s my sense that the dads of Fun Dad Nation have a tougher time with this concept.

In other words, it is a more child-centered, less parent-centered era.  We are very oriented to making sure the kids are happy and comfortable.

Has it gone too far in that direction?

Many children that I meet seem to be running the show, making the demands, wanting pleasure without compromise.

Regardless of what parent era we are talking about, children still need direction from someone (preferably a parent) with clarity and a backbone.

Wishy-washy parenting never plays well with kids – they sense the weakness and take advantage of it.

So, dads of Fun Dad Nation, listen up.

It’s ok to give a directive  or set the rules, that may even make the kids a bit uncomfortable, even a little put out.

Restore order in the universe.

The tail can’t wag the dog.

Copyright, 2021
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

Like Giving the Kid the Keys to the Car

It’s pretty safe to assume that most of you out there in parent-land would agree that giving a 10- year- old the keys to the car and letting him/her drive would not be too wise.

What about giving a 7 or 8 year old her own cell phone?

While it may not be as reckless as handing a child the keys to the car, isn’t there a presumed age when a child should have access to something that is normally reserved for a certain age and level of of maturity?

By definition, a 7 year old is lacking in judgment, not necessarily because of some type of disorder, but because they are seven.  Handling a cell phone responsibly is probably not something that one would be wagering.

To illustrate, let’s take young Maddie, a seven year old who has her own phone.

While her mother is at work, Maddie calls or texts repeatedly throughout the day.  When the mom sees Maddie calling or texting, concerned that there may be something legitimately wrong, she feels compelled to answer  her.

What’s “wrong” is that Maddie will call her mother to make demands though the day, with “I want this…I want that” type of requests.  If Maddie does not immediately get what she wants, she will call back screaming at her mother again, and again and again.

Why does she do this?  The answer is pretty simple. She wants pleasure.  Literally every call and text is a demand for one pleasure or another.

Putting brakes on her actions was never one of Maddie’s strong suits.  She’s a child and she lacks judgment.

Giving access to a cell phone and all that comes with it, like “Alexa,”  is simply too much too soon, not unlike giving a 10 year old the keys to the car.

While it is fully recognized that this position being advocated may be a generational point of view and perhaps the parents from a more modern generation see things differently, children are still children.

They are fundamentally pleasure seekers.

Takeaway Point

Before “turning over the keys,” ask yourself, does your child really need a cell phone?

Copyright, 2021
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –


Turning Down the “PNQ” – Parent Nag Quotient – Part I.

If you’re a parent with kids still under your roof or you are a parent with grown children, let me ask you this.

When you make comments or ask questions like the following, what kind of response do you get?


  • “Why haven’t you started your homework?”
  • “How come you never pay attention!!!???”
  • “All you do is whine and complain!!!!  Just get started!!!!”
  • “Your room’s a mess. I’m sick of picking up after you.”
  • “You and your sister are fighting again! Why can’t we ever have a peaceful dinner?”
  • “I told you before we got to the store to not run ahead and you completely ignored me!!! Why don’t you listen???”
  • “All you do is play Fortnite…I’m sick of your video game playing.”
  • “Why are you ignoring me all the time???”

Let’s say by the time the child is about 10 years old, with the literal thousands of comments, questions or complaints the parents have made like the ones above, has the child even once in the ten years responded to these with anything like:

“Gee, mom, you’re right. I should start my homework.  Thanks for reminding me.”

“Yes, my room is a chaotic mess and it will be good for me to put my things away.”

“I love my sister and I know that we are disrupting dinner, so we will be more supportive of each other from now on.”

“You know, dad, I have been overly addicted to playing Fortnite and I will start reducing my video game playing time so I can focus better on my school work.”

“You’re right, mom, I disregarded you when we went to the store last time and I will walk by your side today.”

Even though nagging and pecking never produce the desired result, they are the number one, “go-to” strategy used by parents everywhere (followed closely behind by yelling as the most used strategy).

On and on it goes with no positive result.  So why do we do it?

There have to be more effective alternatives.

Take Away Point

Turn down the “PNQ” –   the “Parent Nag Quotient.”  It is having zero impact.

In Part II of this post  in the next few weeks we will offer strategies more effective than the  “PNQ.”

Copyright, 2020
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –


“Meltdowny Children”

Lots of parents come to me to talk about their children who are “meltdowny” (a word I made up).

To explain these “meltdowny” types, let’s look at the story of five-year-old Jared.

Prone to having meltdowns when he does not get his way, Jared shows extreme reactions whenever his parents ask him to do anything he does not want to do.

Demanding and difficult, Jared is simply quite often out of control.

Jared’s mother, Beth, explains his behavior in neurological terms, believing that “sensory and ADD issues” are at the primary cause.   (Having met Jared, I wasn’t so sure if these hypotheses were correct.)

I ask Beth to tell me different stories that illustrate the nature of the meltdowns and what seems to trigger them.

The stories are all variations on a similar theme  – when it’s time for dinner, time to go to bed or to get off of his xbox, as examples, explosive meltdowns are typical reactions.   These can last for some minutes or even up to a half-hour or more, depending upon the situation.   The meltdowns turns off like a faucet when Jared gets what he wants.

What does Jared want?

In basic terms, almost always, Jared wants pleasure – fun.

That’s it.

Pure and simple.

For most modern kids, pleasure comes on devices, such the xbox, iPad, or while watching YouTube.

With inflexible and difficult-style children, when they are not getting access to these devices, they can make a parent’s life miserable and hold them hostage with extremes of behavior.

In Jared’s household, this type of interaction is a daily ritual that can occur multiple times.

My sense is that these days there are a lot of Jareds out there.  A small amount of frustration leads to huge reactions

What do you do in these situations?  How do you handle “meltdowny” children? While there’s a lot more that I can say beyond the confines of a short blog post, start with a concept called “active ignoring.”  That is, don’t react.  Stay cool and don’t try and do anything to get him out of the state he is in.

While the tantrum is taking place (presuming nothing is being broken), go about your business.  There should be no pleading, coaxing or yelling, as these will only add fuel to the fire.

Also, be careful with giving in to the meltdown with some sort of statement such as, “Ok, you can have 10 more minutes and then you have to go upstairs.”  This will only encourage more of these in the future.

Takeaway Point

“Meltdowny” kids are tough.

Be strong.

Don’t “feed the beast.”

Copyright, 2020
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of  “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to

During These Times

During these difficult times and the uncharted waters that we find ourselves, there are endless streams of articles on what to do with your children to help them through. So, why not throw our hat in the ring.

Claiming no particular expertise on children and pandemics, we look to the sage advice of the old masters. Years ago, there was a question on the then popular game, Trivial Pursuit (I know I am dating myself badly here). The question was something like, “What was Dr. Benjamin Spock’s (the famed pediatrician) main advice for parents about raising children?”

The answer that he purportedly said was, “Feed ‘em, love ‘em and leave ‘em alone.

In other words, even though there will be a tendency to try and control things with children, the best approach is to let them be, let them find their own way.

Does this wisdom apply during this current crisis?

I think now more than ever.

(Funny, I wrote this blog early Thursday. Later in the evening I read this op-ed piece in the NY Times, where a mom wrote essentially the same thing, reflecting on what she should be doing with her kids at home: )

Of course, playing family games, like old school board games (if anyone plays them anymore), would be encouraged, but you have to make it fun and lively, not like it’s a chore for them to do. Maybe they are more interested in the current video games like Dota 2, Minecraft, Call of Duty, or anything else. Consequently, it could be smart to invest in a dota 2 mmr boosting service or similar options for them rather than forcing them to spend time playing old board games.

Honestly, board games were more fun and less violent than these new-generation games, and a few developers are trying to revitalize old games on online platforms. In the same way, now you can play Catan online with your family, which is very similar to a board game called Settlers of Catan. Well, you can’t deny that old is gold!

I know that some schools are setting up Google classroom and other such stuff, so they have to meet their basic requirements. Some families may also be looking online to see if there are any Xfinity internet deals, or deals with other providers, to see if they can get a better connection in anticipation of the increased usage that these times will no doubt bring. With the kids, my suggestion would be to set up the structure, that is the schedule, let them know the basic rules and then “let ‘em alone.”

I would sit the kids down and talk to them in very plain language (adjusted to age and level of understanding) and say something like the following to them:

Listen up kids. We need to talk about something. You probably understand that we are all functioning very differently because of concerns with the coronavirus. We will do our best to answer any questions that you may have, but we are not experts and may not have ready answers. In terms of the day-to-day, here’s how it’s going to work. We’re not going to set up too many rules, but the big rule is that you log on to Google classroom and take care of whatever the school is asking you to do. That has to come first. If you need help with it, you ask.

Beyond that, you decide what you want to do. Video games and playing outside are fine. It’s your call. We would love to play some games with you – and we are even ready to learn how to play video games like League of Legends by checking out guides and resources on websites like mobachampion, as we want to make things as fun as possible. The only other thing that we are asking, is that you stay out of each other’s face. If you start fighting with each other, it’s not going to matter who started it. After one warning, if you keep it up, you’re both going to spend 20 minutes by yourselves in your rooms or in separate areas with no cell phones, iPads, or other electronics. That’s it.

Now, I don’t know if Dr. Spock (the pediatrician, not the Star Trek one) would fully approve, but I’d like to believe what I am recommending is in the spirit of “Feed ‘em, love ‘em, and leave ‘em alone.”

Copyright, 2020
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick. Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email –

To purchase a signed copy of “What To Do About Dyslexia: 25 Essential Concepts” & Dr. Selznick’s other books and to receive blog updates go to

(*** Please note: Dr. Richard Selznick is a psychologist, clinician and author of four books. His blog posts represent his opinions and perspectives based on his years of interacting with struggling children, parents and schools. He reminds readers that he is neither a scientist, nor a researcher. The advice in the blogs and in practice is governed by one overriding principle – “If this were my child, what would I do?” The goal of the blogs and the website is to provide you with straight-forward, down-to-earth, no-nonsense advice and perspective to help cut through all of the confusion that exists in the field.)


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