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How to Handle Talking Back and Arguing

iStock_000027533641SmallcroppedThe best thing to do for back-talk is to completely ignore it. By that I mean you deliver your request (e.g., please pick up toys, turn off the TV) calmly but firmly and then you say nothing else. Any negative behavior that follows (or precedes) is handled with a straight poker face. Make no eye contact. Turn your body away. Leave the room if needed. It sounds crazy, I know, but this works. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick to this, it will turn things around. The reason it works is that kids (and many adults I know) seek out negative attention. They love to argue because it gets a reaction. So don’t play into their game!

Generally, when you do make any request of your kids, make sure they are making eye contact. Ask them to repeat what you said or else there’s no accountability. And attaching a consequence to your request strengthens this. The consequence doesn’t need to be delivered right away. It can be something later on. They can earn or lose something like t-ball, swimming, a playdate… anything that motivates them to change their behavior in the future. The trick to better parenting is less emotion and letting the consequences (good and bad) do the work.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.


Coping with today’s competitive youth sports

Q: My 5th grader just found out he didn’t make the two baseball teams in our town. He’s very frustrated. He is certainly not an elite athlete but he can play. My husband and I feel like if he doesn’t specialize by age 10 he has to give up a sport that he likes playing and is pretty good at.  I find that so hard to iStock_000001605222Smallbelieve. He is being penalized in all sports because he likes a lot of different things. 

You’re up against the realities of youth sports in competitive towns. The movement nationally is exactly what you’re experiencing. By 5th grade/6th grade, the few classic “team sports” we offer children (baseball, football, hockey, soccer, basketball) move from fun, physical, and social outlets of play into serious, highly selective performance sports. That’s the reality, although many don’t like when it’s their kid getting sidelined. It hurts. It feels unfair. Don’t forget, the sports are like this because that’s they way we are and how we tend to push ourselves. Youth team sports are a reflection of who we are as adults.

There’s a valuable lesson sitting right in front of us waiting to be exploited. Consider this:

We don’t always do what others do. We’re unique and individual. We have talents that haven’t even been hatched yet, just waiting for us to explore… provided we have the courage and patience to try. The world is much bigger than five team sports. Athletics and physical outlets and social interests are only as limited as our imagination. Time to pick up and investigate new things. Think out of the box. Explore what’s around you. Find other kids in other towns to meet up with and see what they’re doing. Talk to other parents. Set up something brand new for kids to do in your town and school.

This problem with growing competitive team sports is happening to all kids, particularly as they  enter 5th and 6th grade. You’re not alone. It’s a shake up and you need to positively name this as opportunity – not as unfairness. You have to lead. Show your kids what we do when we’re faced with an obstacle. We figure out best next steps, not worry or focus on the loss.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.


Flying Below The Teachers’ ADHD Radar Screen

Getting noticed or standing out is usually a good thing, but not for American boys in school. Their diagnoses for ADHD continue to be too high. What drives this? In my practice, it seems to be coming from teachers. They don't realize it, but over the last few years they have been telling parents there are more ADHD symptoms in their classrooms, mainly among younger boys. One study found that teachers report ADHD symptoms in an unbelievable 23% of their students.

What's behind this? As teach-to-the-test and Common Core push schools to make kids sit longer and learn in less interesting ways, misdiagnoses will continue to grow. The ADHD-is-everywhere problem won't change until there are reasonable breaks for young students to move about while learning, permission to stand at desks and stretch, and more time outdoors for healthy physical activity.

Parents need to act. There are things you can do - at school and at home.

First, band together with like minded teachers and parents and hold meetings at school. Approach the school board. Start with one voluntary classroom. Do it for a few terms and track the positive changes. Use breaks between lessons, more hands-on learning, time outdoors, integrate natural environments and fun-competition into the curriculum. Currently, all learning tends to be flat (book-screen-paper). Brand your trial program something fun and positive. "Low Stress Learning" or "Healthy Learning". Remind all parents and the school that there's a growing body of evidence that these techniques improve learning, lower aggression and distraction, and motivate kids to want to learn. It saves money too. Less time disciplining, providing special resources that may not be needed, and decreasing IEPs. It may even lower rates of bullying. Everyone can get behind that!

Second, parents need to make changes at home if we're going to get a hold on over-diagnosing ADHD. All too often, kids aren't being prepped correctly for the realities of school. They go from being special, with lots of adult attention, to one of many in a quiet, contained setting. There is much less freedom to talk and move at school when they feel the urge. Basic behavior expectations at home need to be synched more in line with school. If not, there's often trouble. And this impacts younger boys the most. They get noticed. They stand out. They don't fly below the teacher's ADHD radar.

Practice these anti-ADHD techniques. They will protect your child against an accidental diagnosis.

1. Hold off on getting adult/peer attention:

Is he used to getting heard, getting his way, and getting undivided attention at home? This won't happen at school. He has to learn to wait and be one of many. Start a simple program. Delay your reposes when he asks for something. Count in your head 2-3 seconds before you answer, then look up and respond. Tell him you are practicing/teaching him to learn how to wait. This is the basis of patience. If he can wait quietly, give him social praise for the effort. Use a simple point system if that works better. The goal is to wean him off from frequent, immediate attention. You are helping him wait longer and longer, holding back his urges/wants/needs. This won't work unless you practice this 100% of the time!

2. Tell him he has to attend fully to the directions and requests of adults:

Kids at home do not have to look up and listen every time you talk to them. In a perfect world, they should - but they don't. I see this all the time in my office. Parents repeat themselves and their kids treat them like they are invisible. At school, your child is likely missing a lot of what the teacher is asking or telling the class unless he shifts his attention more fully. The fix is to practice (at home) what he needs when we walks into the classroom everyday. Four steps.

Every time you ask/tell him something, make sure:

(a) He gives you his eyes... he looks up when he hears his name. It should become like a reflex - happens every time - and he continues to look at you while you talk. If he doesn't, assume he's only getting 50-75% of what you're saying.

(b) Deliver your request in as few words as possible. Nothing turns boys off more than long conversations/lectures. Use a firm clear voice.

(c) Make him repeat it back to you (in his own words). Now those words belong to him and are in his head too.

(d) Seal the deal by nodding together, a fist bump - and if you can - attach a consequence.

Now you have a true social contract. Over practice these four steps. If you don't, he won't get the practice he needs and it wont carry over to school.

3. Eliminate silly noises

At home, designate certain times of day when he must suppress this urge.  (e.g., when at table eating, in front of TV, or when noises bother others). For non-compliance, use a brief time-away in his room and try again. The goal is that he becomes more aware that these sounds are a choice and he has control over them. They are ok on the playground or with friends, but not in the classroom. You have to be tough and consistent on this - or gains won't  translate to school. Kids who are too free with silly sounds, blurt out things, and interrupt more, are going to get tagged as ADHD.

4. Improve his boundaries - help him be aware of others'  personal space.

This is another common complaint about boys who are physically active and hands-on. They tend to invade personal space more than girls.  They need more boundaries set up. This is tricky to do at home where you are more playful and relaxed about boundaries. Unfortunately, if your son is touching peers or getting jn their faces while at school, you have to train him on a new set of social rules. When he's coming forcefully and unpredictably at you, throws himself on you (even to hug), you need to push him back and make him ask permission. You're not trying to be mean, you're trying to make him more successful outside the house in how he uses his ands and body. Try a "no touching rule" for a few solid weeks or months, where he always has to ask first. Model this for him. Greater self-control of body will help your son not be seen as ADHD.

Please contact Dr. Rao about reproducing any material found on these pages.


To Forgive or Forget? Three Rules