it's not always about the teenage brain

I think it's unfortunate that popular culture in the US places the blame squarely on the teenager when power struggles erupt between parents and their offspring.

It's not always about the teenage brain!

what kids tell a divorce lawyer

sharing this great article for divorced/divorcing parents:

the food concern was one I had not heard before.

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

What Works Better Than Punishment?

I teach a parenting class at a jail. Today I was saddened to hear that every single one of the inmates in my class, without exception, was punished, often quite severely, for expressing anger as a child. They are in my class to learn how to parent differently than they were parented, so we began what will likely become an ongoing discussion about ways parents can teach and model healthy ways to express anger.

I was delighted to come home from class and find this post from Dr. Laura Markham in my inbox. I'll share it with my students next week, and thought you might enjoy it as well:

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

Joint Custody: When your child is upset about something at their other parent's home

Q: My six year old daughter told me that her father locked her in her room with no breakfast, lunch or dinner. She tells the same story over and over again like it happened yesterday. Her dad says it's her imagination, but I believe her. She has a lot of anger towards him. She won't get out of the car when I drop her off for visits, and she often says, "Stupid daddy." I told him to change the way he disciplines her. My daughter does have a therapist. Any other suggestions?

A: I'm so glad to hear that your daughter has a therapist. The therapist would be a mandatory reporter, so if you suspect neglect or abuse you should let the therapist know so he/she can determine whether it needs to be reported to the authorities for further investigation, and take appropriate action to do so.

With that taken care of by a professional, you can turn your attention to your daughter and the feelings she needs to work through.

Joint Custody: When Your Ex Talks Unfairly About You To Others

Q: My ex tells our daughter's teacher, doctor and her friends' parents things that aren't true about me. How and at what point should I defend myself against these false characterizations?

What teachers know but can't say ...

A touching perspective from a teacher about THAT kid -- the one your child talks about every day after school who smells bad or pushes other kids or is disruptive in class:
 I want to talk about THAT child, too, but there are so many things I can’t tell you.
I can’t tell you that she was adopted from an orphanage at 18 months.

I can’t tell you that he is on an elimination diet for possible food allergies, and that he is therefore hungry ALL. THE. TIME.

I can’t tell you that her parents are in the middle of a horrendous divorce, and she has been staying with her grandma.

I can’t tell you that I’m starting to worry that grandma drinks…

She really hits the mark, and I promise that after reading this you will never see THOSE kids in quite the same way again. You will also feel renewed appreciation and respect for all the juggling that teachers do behind the scenes ... Thank a teacher today!

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

The Trouble with Time Out

Before I begin, please understand that I believe time out is a major improvement over spanking and physical punishment. There's much to celebrate when a culture stops intentionally inflicting pain upon its children. And I while I am incredibly grateful for that shift, I think we can do even better.

I realize I might take some heat for writing this, because I'm critiquing a technique that many parents have been taught to use as their primary disciplinary intervention. I'm okay with heat. In my own life and work, I strive to periodically re-evaluate my strategies and take stock of their effectiveness. My parenting advice has evolved over the years since I started doing this work, and I hope it continues to do so for many years to come. My intention here is to inspire you to take a closer look at whether this technique is truly working for you and your child.

If you have already done your own evaluation and feel confident that it is, that's great! No need to keep reading.

Nothing we do makes a dent in these troubling behaviors of our three year old

Q: Here are some of the troubling behaviors of our three year old son: 

- head butts walls and anything hard
- eats weird things like fluff and string
- steals lighters and sets fires in his room
- turns on all the stove burners and burns food to make thick black smoke
- sneaks and hides scissors to cut his clothes

- always speaks about himself in third person, never says I or Me

We have tried time outs. We don't believe in smacking or spanking. We have taken away toys he likes and he doesn't care. 

We are young parents and people we talk to think we cannot cope but this is wrong! He can be a loving and caring child but when he has "that look in his eyes" we feel like we are talking to a brick wall.

We have done a lot of research but nothing helps. Any ideas are welcome!
A: Bless your hearts - it sounds like you are doing your very best to do right by your son, and he's lucky that you are so dedicated to parenting him well. And good for you for not resorting to smacking him.

I think you are right that these behaviors have nothing to do with being young parents or not being able to handle him -- what you describe does seem outside the typical range of developmentally appropriate behaviors for kids his age, and you deserve every possible bit of support to help you work with him.

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

I 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.