Advice: Success at School

Video and Audio

A video about how to Ease Your Kids' Back To School Anxiety

WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston, News Feature
Ease Your Kids' Back To School Anxiety


FOX 25 Boston
Are preschool pressures too high?


FOX 25 Boston
Canton, Dedham getting rid of HS rankings


Tough Mornings Ahead
Article by Dr. Rao, Excerpt

We've turned the corner on summer. Soon, back-to-school ads will be popping up everywhere reminding us of the difficult transition this fall. Hardest hit are children. In one day, they go from unstructured outdoor play to classrooms with strict routines, sitting, and long lessons. Neurologically speaking, it's very challenging for very young kids. It takes time for them to adjust. Here are some ideas to help families get ready for the start of school:

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Helping Young Boys Get Through School
Article by Dr. Rao, Excerpt

Recently, I met with a mom from Boston. She'd been repeatedly told that her five year-old was a serious problem at school. Josh wasn't sitting still, asked too many questions, bumped into other kids, and played rough outside. When I concluded that Josh wasn't the problem, she let out a long breath. Instead, I told her, the problem is a national one — fitting active boys into a narrow definition of education that goes against the grain of their normal development. Like the many parents I advise across the country, I told her to buy Josh time to grow and develop. She needed to stop seeing him through the eyes of everyone else, and start protecting what precious time he had left to be a little boy. Read More.

We are less willing to let boys be boys in classrooms
Interview in the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Excerpt

As a longtime practicing psychologist, Rao says the number of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder diagnoses has nearly quadrupled over a 10-year period. "We used to miss a lot of learning problems in boys years ago," says Rao. "But now we are looking so aggressively for them and we are looking earlier and earlier."

The problem, he says, is that reliable assessments are difficult in boys younger than 6 or 7. That's why Rao recommends teachers, pediatricians and parents delve deeper and wait longer before applying labels and adopting such interventions as special education services, medications or class pull-outs for young boys. Read More.

"The Way of Boys"
Book by Dr. Rao and Michelle Seaton, Excerpt (pp. 163-164)

Jack was so excited to go to kindergarten the first day. He was tugging at his mother's sleeve to get her out the door. He bounded into the classroom. His mother, Kim, says he was truly bored at home and couldn't wait to be a big boy who learns to read and make friends. He even longed to ride the bus like the older kids. But within a few weeks, he was complaining about school, saying he didn't like it. He told his mom that the teacher doesn't like him. Soon he was crying and screaming at the classroom door, absolutely refusing to go inside. Kim was beside herself, wondering why he hated to go to school, wondering if something had happened to upset him and whether this early reluctance meant that he was doomed to failure in school.

I met with Jack and Kim in my office. Jack told me that his teacher was mean and that school was too hard. These aren't unusual complaints even at this age level. Teachers who typically have to manage twenty or more children for a full school day have to develop a much stricter discipline style than boys are used to at home. Teachers tend to use and expect a lot of eye contact in the classroom, which many boys aren't comfortable with at such young ages. In additional classroom work, even at the kindergarten level, demands a lot of sitting still and listening to directions and waiting your turn to speak. Not every boy is cut out for these behaviors at such an early age.

. . . I explained to Kim that it takes some time for little guys to understand that other big people in the world will have control over them and expect things from them, tell them what to do, and can even discipline them. Lots of boys come home saying that a teacher is mean or that "she hates me." These boys just aren't used to someone calling them on their misdeeds for six hours at a time, someone who isn't Mom.

I also told Kim that meltdowns are frequent in the first few weeks of school among all types of boys. Their immature emotional regulation systems can get tripped off like oversensitive alarms by minor frustrations in a strange environment. Their clumsy social skills make sharing and waiting turns difficult. Their less developed language abilities make listening and following classroom rules a challenges. Piled onto all this is that many boys pick up on every mom's natural anxiety about having to leave her son behind in some new place, in the care of a stranger. This can make a boy more resistant to sign on for his new school experience. Book Info.