Assume that helping your child with his homework improves his grades? Think again!

Just read a fascinating article in the New York Times about parental involvement. You might think it's a no-brainer that the more involved the parent, the better the kid's school performance. But that turns out to not always be the case:
My theory on this? If parents can be engaged and interested in their child's schooling AND not increase the stress load on their child, then their involvement may be beneficial.

what kids really need from their parents after a divorce

spoiler alert:  It's NOT an exact 50/50 split of overnights

I witness many parents fighting tooth and nail for 50/50 parenting time; investing tremendous amounts of time, energy and money into ensuring a perfectly equal distribution of their children's time and location.

And as a divorced parent myself, I am intimately familiar with the fear and anxiety that drives the fierce determination to be an "equal" parent.

But here's the good news and the bad news:  We are using the wrong variables in this calculation.

tip for divorce/joint custody mediation

During high conflict mediations, it can be tempting
to point out how unreasonable, wrong, misguided
or irrational the other party is being.

The risk of doing so is two-fold:

the lastest science about the teenage brain

Dan Siegel, author of the excellent parenting book Parenting from the Inside Out, has recently published a new book about the teenage brain: Brainstorm.

I just listened to him being interviewed by Dr. Laura Markham of and I think you'll really enjoy what he has to share. He explodes a lot of the unfortunately persistent cultural myths that stimulate parental fear and dread in our society. Teens really can be fun and energizing to parent when you understand what's happening in their brains and bodies.

You can hear the interview here:

For more information about Karen's parenting or interpersonal communication consultations by phone, visit

your baby cries in order to communicate - please don't ignore her

I would love to see this article by a psychology professor at Notre Dame given to every new parent -- will you help me pass it along?

There's a biological reason why crying is so physically aversive and every nerve in your body longs to quiet and soothe a distressed child: warm attention, gentle touch, and compassionate empathy are exactly what humans need to grow and thrive.

An important caveat - if you are feeling anger or rage, or afraid you might harm your child, it's always best to put her down in a safe place and let her cry until you've calmed yourself down.

For more information about Karen's parenting or interpersonal communication consultations by phone, visit

What's wrong with tickling my child, and what should I do instead?

You said in your last post not to tickle. Why? I tickle my child just a little bit and she seems to like it -- she even asks for it!

There are lots of different lines of thought about tickling, of course, and lots of different responses from kids.

Some kids have a love/hate relationship with tickling -- they love the playfulness and attention from their parents, but they hate the feeling of being out of control that being tickled produces.

My child is hyper and revved up in the evenings. How do I get him to settle down for bedtime?

My son gets so squirrelly in the evenings that he just can't seem to settle down at bedtime. We've tried music, stories, warm baths with lavender, massage, calming teas, and every other soothing aid we can think of, but he just seems to become more determined to bounce around or shout or throw things around. What else can we do?

Here's a different angle to try:  wrestle and play other highly physical games with him to allow him to playfully experience resistance and warm, fun physical contact with you. It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes when kids wind up in the evening it's due to a backlog of unexpended energy or some unprocessed emotional experiences that have accumulated during the day, and if that's the case, calming activities don't seem to settle them down (f anything, they sometimes have the reverse effect and wind them up even more!)

What NOT to say if your elementary-age child experiments with stealing (and what to say instead)

Your child stole something and you found out. You are simultaneously embarrassed, shocked, and worried that you've failed to install a sense of morality in your child.

It seems like it's time for a nice long lecture about how he's broken your trust and will now have to go to great lengths to earn it back, right?

Not necessarily.