Hi Dr. Singer,
Halloween is here again. Woohoo! Yippie Skippee. I am not a big fan of Halloween in the first place, but this year, I am having an especially hard time because my pre-teen daughter wants to go as Miley Cyrus. I have a lot of difficulty with any costume that that chick wears on stage and don’t want my 13 year old daughter dressed in it. Of course, I am getting a mouth full from her as well as some of our neighbors. Any words of wisdom for how to lay down the law? P.N.
The good news is that it’s coming soon so it will be over soon too! Just do it, mom! Lay down the law. If the costume is too much (or shall I say too little) don’t let her go there if it is your desire for her. Actually, I see several problems here. The costume is one thing and I will get to that in a moment, but if your daughter is idolizing Miley Cyrus, there may be more discussions that will need to happen. Her costumes are the least of her problems from what I see.
Now depending on where you live, there may be an obvious issue that can maybe help?! When Miley Cyrus wears her outfits (pieces of material????), it is usually on stage, indoors, under very hot lights so she doesn’t freeze. Might your daughter be outside at the end of October? Maybe quite a difference. Of course that doesn't help for indoor parties right?!
The type of situation you are talking about here is really no different than any other behavior that parents and kids differ on. She, like any kid, will want to do lots of things that you don’t want her doing and somehow you have to be able to stand up to those things. If saying “no” to your daughter is tough for you, you need to get beyond that and that becomes the real issue which may be tougher. She is at an age that this may become common. You will need to be on top of more than costumes.
I have only one thing to say about the neighbors. Forget them! Who cares what they think, at least on this topic. You can be friendly and nice about rejecting the comments, but the truth is, this is your daughter and your preferences, morals and values must prevail for her. Don’t be surprised if you get a bunch of “guff” from both your daughter and them. If you believe in what you are telling her or what you are asking her to do, and it is in her best interest, it cannot be wrong. Also, there are a lot of parents out there these days, who are very permissive and are allowing their very young kids to do things that are really not in their best interest. Just like your mom used to say to you, “if your friends were going to jump off a bridge, would you do it too?” What is good for your neighbors is not necessarily good for you. Also, be ready for your daughter to tell you about how willing the neighbors are to let her do what she wants. Don’t’ let it get to you. Just follow your instincts and do your best and know that what might be tough to do now for her and what might seem ill advised to her, will most likely be something she will thank you for later in life, especially after she has her own daughter! November 1st is only a little bit away! Good luck !
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One of the things I constantly struggle with as a homeschool mom, is how much should be required that is strict curriculum and how much leeway I should give for creativity. I had such a proud mom moment a few days ago that supported the creativity side big time and it will be one of those moments that glows forever!
A little background....I have always cherished my time reading with our kids before bedtime. Since the 1st day of bringing our 1st baby home, every night was cuddling up breastfeeding and reading those wonderful little books with the cute, colorful drawings. We had and have quite the library and some of my favs still get read to this day. Through all 3 kids, every night, with only a few exceptions has had our cozy, warm, reading time. I am thrilled to say that even though they are 13, 11 and 8 at this point, they still love to gather round and do this with me, although now, even though still reading, it is an exercise in humor a lot bc I will spice things up and change words mad lib style to make sure they are paying attention and to get a laugh out of them. Or I might make the sound of something like a car instead of saying car and they and I have a laugh riot. It is a boatload of fun. The lexile ranges our kids have makes me proud of this happy habit and memory. I knew I was on the right track when our daughter's 4th grade testing came out at College age lexile range and the challenge became finding books that would match her range but be appropriate in content for a 9 year old.
Ok so, more of the background...when I had our second child, a nurse was not exactly used to a woman who had no epidural and did childbirth naturally as I did. She got kind of nervous and over exuberant and pushed my neck too hard during labor. Needless to say, she caused a nerve problem that made my mouth go numb, caused fear of a stroke and sadly, got in the way of my nightly reading for our second child. The only period of time I lost the every night marathon. The nerve healed eventually and thankfully all was ok, but the time lost with that reading always made me sad. We have more than caught up now, but I think that different beginning for our 2nd child, made the love of reading that our first child thrived on and thrives on, a lesser force for our second.
So my way of approaching this for him was to not be forceful about it trying to be respectful of that different beginning and honoring and celebrating the wonderful differences in our kids. While our 1st is very strong with reading and writing, our second is super strong with math and science. Not that I don't want them to learn all of it and they do. While our first born is already blogging, writing fan fictions and setting up websites at 13 years old with lots of followers, our 2nd has never been much of a writer or comfortable with creative writing but is amazing with building things. Everyone has their own wonderful strengths. A little humorous side note, our 3rd who is named Trace, was amazing with picking up Spanish when he was only 1. One of our friends made the comment that this made sense since he was our 3rd child and named Trace (Tres). We got a good laugh out of that for sure!
So the other day when our 2nd came to me to share with me the stories he has started writing, mind you, with no force or pressure from us to do so, that he is making into a serial fan fiction of his own, my heart swelled with so much pride it nearly burst! Huge hugs and happy support and interest were easy! He had watched both myself and his older sister writing a lot on PC, telling stories, writing articles and blogging. OF course theses kids had grown up with a newspaper columnist mother for most of their lives, so the idea of writing was never a stranger in our house, but to see him so excited and proud of his new story about crazy cows, which made me laugh out loud, was an awesome addition to any day.
I have always been a proud and strong advocate for allowing kids to find what they love to learn about and to write about, to get that kind of experience. I have seen so many kids be forced into writing bc it is supposed to make them learn to love it or experience it when it is meaningless to them, to find out if they do. My theory was supported in this experience, that forcing someone to do something that is not in them at the time, will not force a love of it. The person has to be ready to love it in their own creative way and once they do, it means something to them.
Yep! That was a great day!! Have you had one like that?
School at home is rarely quiet. For those of us who have multiple kids we are schooling, we know that noise is an inevitable part of our day. Many parents have pulled their child out of school because the child has trouble focusing in the classroom and they feel that the home environment will be more helpful for the child to have the quiet he needs to work well. While I am an avid fan of homeschooling and a homeschooling mom of 3 myself, I will say that there is something bad that can happen from this. An environment that is too quiet, can actually harm a child’s ability to focus and concentrate. Yes I did just say that.
As a processing skills and motivation expert for almost 30 years, I can say that the kids who learn to work in a noisy environment will be much more able to handle the noise in the future and not get put off of their work by it. This does not mean I am advocating a classroom over homeschool as I am aware that homeschool has many, many benefits. I am simply saying that keeping it too quiet can harm a child's learning. Somewhat like the parents that are super quiet for their baby sleeping and they can’t understand later why the child needs perfect quiet to sleep. Many will tell you that having some noise around is a benefit. This does not mean I want you to flood your child with noise while they struggle and feel overwhelmed. Quite the contrary, I am talking about a supportive training that if done right can get rid of the overwhelmed feeling around noise.
But what kind of noise and how much? If your child is learning in your quiet kitchen and the sound of the tv and dishwasher is all he has to contend with, his distraction tolerance is going to be very low and when he gets out in the world, he will have a much harder time acclimating to noisy environments and continuing to work. There is a real tendency these days, with so many kids being diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism, to make the environment a perfect one for the child to feel comfortable. To make it so contrived and artificial that it becomes unrealistic. The problem becomes that this perfect environment does not stay perfect or controlled later on in life and that can create some bone crushing frustration and unhappiness as well as failure.
Since the time ADHD became a diagnostic category, I have seen a move in too many parents and teachers to take these kids out of stimulating environments and put them into controlled ones. I believe this cripples the child further as training to live and work in a perfectly controlled, quiet environment is not realistic and is just way to kick the can down the road to a place where frustration and lack of distraction tolerance skills can be much more limiting and worse and the costs much greater.
My way of doing things is to train kids with the correct support, to be able to handle all noise and activity around them while they work so they can learn to take it in stride. If they are able to handle noise while they work, their distraction tolerance goes way up. This is a training that is done in a specific way with specific timing so kids can acclimate without too much frustration. Not just throwing a bunch of stimuli at the kid.
Kids in classrooms of 35, don’t really have a better advantage over homeschooled kids because that is too much activity and too much noise and usually these days, not under much control.
Homeschoolers have a bad disadvantage though, when they work with little to no noise, because they go out into the world trained for that, and many times, that is just not possible. After working in a quiet or quieter environment for a number of years, when faced with too much noise or activity, these kids can feel very overwhelmed.
Making sure a child is trained to be able to handle the noise and activity around him or her while working can make the difference between a child having many options for their future or just a few. I’d rather train them young so they can comfortably handle whatever comes their way as opposed to needing the continued special environment for their lives.
These days it seems that everyone is either on a medication or recommending one. NOT ME. I may be in the minority, but I beleive that most problems we face these days are ones of lifestyle that can be reversed through lifestyle choices as well. I especialy get upset when I see young kids being labeled and medicated for behavioral or attention related issues, even at super young ages.
Let's cut to the chase. Meds are cheaper and faster especially in the insurance world. If meds stop the problem immediately, that person doesn't need sessions to work it out. Finding out what the core habit is that supports the symptoms and working it out is rare these days. It takes time to change habits that people get stuck in and sometimes those habits feel safer or people are used to them and don't want to stop doing them so meds feel easier, especially with the promises made on the non stop commercials we see every 2 minutes on tv. Of course, if you listen carefully to the list of side effects, once you stop laughing or crying, as the case may, be from listening to the quivering pile of bleeding jello you can become from their list, you realize the symptoms you are trying to get rid of, are part of that list of side effects, but it is at the end of the list and who can keep up with the fast talking to find that out?
The sad part is that the lifestyle changes I speak of are mostly easy and not as big as people think. Actually the problems I have seen people go through switching meds and dosages have been much more stress and more difficult then making the right lifestyle choices to get the symptoms to stop.
After meeting with literally 100's of families over 30 years of practicing, sleep deprivation/ interruption, food choices and 1 other thing that I will get to shortly are 3 of the top problems in my mind, that cause the very attention, behavioral and anxiety problems parents see and want to help their kids with so intensely. But the super interesting part is that these parents see the problem as some biological issue causing the interruption in sleep rather than the lack of sleep causing the symptoms. Too many people do not know about how to make a child and a room conducive to good sleep and therefore have no other choice but to think that it is biological when it might not be. Did you further realize...
...that food choices and especially at school can cause the symptoms and also the sleep problems. Have you seen the choices for school breakfasts and lunches? I have. There is no doubt in my mind why kids are easily labeled as having attention or anxiety problems when maybe they don't. More later on this...
Here is that 3rd mystery thing I mentioned earlier...Are most kids allowed to exercise and move around like they are supposed to...BUILT FOR... or are they kept in a fluorescent box all day long made to sit still and quiet, and in structured after school activities with the same fluorescent lighting. Lighting that, by the way, can cause attention and behavior problems by itself?
Many say these meds r safe with no dangers. Ok so if that's the case, then why do the names of the meds constantly change and why do you see lawsuit commercials on a daily basis? Do we know for sure that a child's brain goes back to normal chemistry if you try a drug and then go off of it or is there some alteration that stays? Many parents I have met and worked with feel that is enough to steer clear of anyone who recommends meds. All the violent mass acts being committed these days mostly by young people and mostly by young people on lots of meds. Do we know for sure that this is not a causative factor or at least part of it? All questions that parents have brought up to me when they have left the therapist they were with who recommended medication, or worse, refused to work with a child without that child on meds, and those parents wanted no part of it. and came to me, someone who does not do that and instead focuses hard on all the lifestyle things that could be changed to get symptom reduction.
The truth is there are 2 kinds of parents out there and I don't judge either kind, but truly think that one needs to know more about what ELSE is happening. The first parent is one who trusts in meds and wants a super fast and cheaper alternative to taking the time to change the lifestyle habits and the second parent is the one who wants to do it through lifestyle changes. I happen to be about the 2nd option and always have been. Some parents would get angry at me for saying this and would tell me that I don't understand the lifetime of stress the child has created for them and how it is the last option they have and they have to use it.
To them I would say, that as a mom of 3 with one of mine being on the spectrum and also having an everyday education into researching lifestyle habits and how they effect these kinds of symptoms, I DO know and I have helped many people to change that perspective too. Maybe they have just not looked at an option that educates them on how to change the lifestyle the right way for results.
For example, did you know that most kids are not sleeping long enough hours and that some of the food they eat can keep them awake at night or not in deep sleep which by itself can create really nasty symptoms? Just that for 1 night can create horrible symptoms that would send any parent running for the hills. Did you also know that if you feed a child the wrong kinds of foods in the morning for breakfast, let's say for school breakfast, that this child can have a severe blood sugar drop afterwards that can look a heck of a lot like an attention problem? Adults get the drop too when they eat cake for breakfast. Whoops did I say cake? I meant, a waffle or pancakes. Same thing ya know! The difference between the adult and the kid is that the adult is not strapped into a chair in school, forbidden to move and being watched and scrutinized for any hint of biological disorder to pop on meds. Unfortunately these days the adults are doing it to themselves.
I'm not railing against all meds and I am certainly not advocating or recommending to take or not take meds. I am also not suggesting that those with a verified biological condition stop taking them. People on heart or diabetes meds need them to survive. That's different. I just think that for kids, behavioral, anxiety or attention based issues, medication should not be the first thought, the first action or the rush to judgement before doing a thorough examination of all lifestyle habits to see what can be changed, especially just bc it is the shorter term or cheaper option.
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