Author Archive

The other thing about Easter: Scary church stories

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In a previous Easter season, a worried mother sent this note:

One of the kids at my son’s preschool told him about the crucifixion, and what happened, with all the exact details and he was horrified. Telling him about Easter Sunday did not make him feel better. He has been crying about this at night and is afraid of regular pictures of Jesus in a book. I hope it’s OK to ask this question because it’s about religion and everybody has ...

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Birthday parties – a little bit of sanity please

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“Happy Birthday, dear Billy…” oh no…the candles are burning and everyone is singing, but Billy is definitely not a happy birthday boy.  In fact, tears are rolling down his cheeks and the wish he’s making as he blows out the candles is for everyone to just go away and let him play with that cool truck in the pile of presents.

How could it be that this perfectly planned event was not a wonderful experience for the honoree?  It was held ...

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Excitement vs. Fun

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In most circles excitement is a positive word – often considered synonymous with fun.

A movie, a television program, even an activity for young children, is praised for being exciting. Using the common definition, the opposite of exciting is boring, and boring is to be avoided at all costs.

Excitement, however, can also refer to agitation, over-stimulation and loss of control – the opposite of calm.

Parents, observing their over-excited children running around in circles – coming close to knocking over the birthday ...

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Why your kids don’t listen – and how to deal with it

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A mother of young children asked why she finds herself saying the same things over and over again, but the children don’t seem to be paying attention. “It would almost be better if they would openly defy me,” she said “Instead, everything goes in one ear and out the other. Why don’t they listen to me?”

As with so many of the issues we discuss with parents about those very complex little people – their children – the answers are many ...

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Please don’t scare the little ones at Halloween time

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Every year, the month of October brings a crescendo of frights leading up to Halloween. It’s all meant in fun, but for very young children scary fun isn’t fun at all; it’s just scary.

This piece was written a few years ago and we’re bringing it back now as a reminder to parents, educators and concerned adults.


Dear Grandmothers:  A few years ago, my 3-year-old Phoebe helped me hand out treats on Halloween and we were having a lot of ...

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Whining and Complaining

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“Stop that right now!”

“If you don’t stop that whining, I’ll give you something real to whine about!”

“If you complain about one more thing, you’ll go to your room!”

Listening to a child’s persistent moaning and crying can make the most patient parents feel frenzied and helpless. They want it to stop — now!

They want to exert their authority – make the child change and feel their power and control over him. After all, they are ...

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Painful feelings – theirs and yours

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Of all the developmental tasks that we hope our growing child will successfully master, none is more demanding on the growing parent than the child’s learning to express painful feelings.

We tell ourselves that we want him to feel free to tell us when he is angry, or sad, or frustrated, or annoyed. We are hopeful that if he acquires a complete feelings vocabulary, he will be able to cope with these emotions. We want this so much that we even ...

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Bedtime struggles with young children

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Children who resist bedtime are noted for their determinedly open eyes and, usually, loud protests at being put to bed, often at the hour when the caregiver is most desperate to have the child fall asleep. Unfortunately, such bedtime struggles are not something that occurs once and then is outgrown forever but is a stage that can appear at several different ages and for different reasons: in infancy, in toddlerhood, and quite possibly at regular intervals after that. Some children, ...

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Saying bye-bye to the ‘binkie’

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In Anne Tyler’s novel Digging to America there’s a humorous scene in which a mother plans an elaborate scheme for separating her 3-year-old daughter from her pacifier.

She invites all the mothers and young children she knows to a party, the climax of which will be the releasing of a clutch of helium balloons with binkies (pacifiers) attached to them. On her daughter’s balloon is the pacifier, of course, which will dramatically sail ...

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Promoting self-esteem

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“GOOD JOB!!!”

The heading on the sheet of stickers says “100 Ways to Say ‘Good Job!’”, and then all 100 – from “Awesome” to “Zero Mistakes” – appear with accompanying smiley faces and abundant exclamation points. These are sold to teachers as self-esteem promoters. Everyone, especially the children, knows them to be artificial at best. But at least they are evidence of the general awareness that self-esteem is important.

But self-esteem is not so easily created, and certainly not when imposed ...

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