Hero Dragon

My friend and colleague Sue Kranzdorf was recently interviewed on the radio about her Hero Dragon workshops and book.

Sue embodies a deep understanding of human nature, and her model is a very powerful one that helps parents more effectively guide and support their children. I cannot recommend Hero Dragon highly enough.

From her site, http://herodragon.com/:

A Brief Introduction to Hero Dragon

Hero Dragon helps parents point out and improve unwanted behavior patterns in a game-like way that’s both fun and effective. When tempers flare or fussiness abounds, Hero Dragon invites family members to collaborate to awaken heroes and subdue dragons instead of escalating anger or frustration. There’s less pleading, bargaining, judgment and blame, and no distraction or avoidance is necessary. Families discuss the real issues involved, allowing for continuing improvements instead of short-term fixes. With understanding of the general principles, Hero Dragon can be molded and personalized to meet the specific needs of any family.

Please listen to the radio interview here:

At what age do children understand and show remorse?

Q: My 3 1/2 year old has had issues in preschool, and his teachers say that he shows "no remorse" for his actions. Is he capable of true remorse at this age, and if so, at what level?

A: I love this question! The fact that you are exploring this tells me that you will be an excellent advocate for your son.

I don't believe that children can feel true remorse for their actions until they are able to distinguish their own experience from that of others. According to Piaget, the ability to take the perspective of another, as well as to understand the relationship between cause and effect, is not fully supported cognitively until at least age 6 or 7.

Dealing with Constipation While Potty Training

We finally got our constipated two and a half year old daughter in to see the pediatric GI specialist, and received a prescription for a laxative. Now the poop is soft and no longer painful for her, but she still tries to hold it in for days at a time. I suspect it has become a mental issue, not physical one. She's under no pressure at home or at school to use the potty, and for now I just praise her when she doesn't hold it in and goes in her diaper. I would like to start potty training her soon. Can you please give me advice about how I can help her understand that it hurt before, but it won't now, and to help her get over her mental block to pooping?

Sounds like you have been very conscientious about making sure your daughter's needs get taken care of. She's lucky to have you as her mama.

I love that you are thinking about the issue from more than just a physical perspective. I think you are right that she may be scared that it will hurt. It's easy to comprehend why she might decide that she'd rather be on the safe side and hold it in.

The laxative will ensure that eventually she'll have enough pain-free pooping experiences in her memory that she will forget to be afraid. Keeping the poop soft is an intervention for both the body and the mind.

I also love that you are not pressuring her at home, and are advocating for the same thing at school. Well done! I'd encourage you to continue with this approach. The attitude you are wanting to embody is one of trust ... trust that it won't hurt forever, trust that her inner motivation will take her to this destination, and trust that it can happen without force. You are already doing all the right things to support her in this.

I don't think there's a magic trick that can help her understand that it won't hurt. And in fact, if there was one, I wouldn't want you to use it, because there are no guarantees that it will never ever ever hurt again. However, you have an even more powerful tool at your disposal: empathy.

If she says or shows you that she's afraid to poop, you can acknowledge her without necessarily agreeing by saying something like, Yes, I understand or You are scared right now. Often kids just need to know we understand them, and are not really asking us to fix the problem. They use our presence and love and validation to shore themselves up so they can take the next risk and start fixing their fear themselves.

So you may try saying things like this to her when you see her trying to hold it: I know honey. It hurt a long time ago, and you are scared it might hurt again. Mommy and the doctor are doing everything they can to make your poop soft so it won't hurt. Would you like me to hold your hand while you let it come out? Just be there with her. Stay connected. Don't try to change her mind or get rid of her fear. Meet her where she is. This is the most powerful way to help her, and it really does make a difference.

Inviting her to go potty along with you is an excellent way to start helping her move in the direction of independent toileting. Continue keeping it casual, emanating the attitude that Of course she'll want to go on the potty sometime soon, because it's natural to prefer feeling clean and dry.

You may want to just put the idea of having to 'train' her on the back burner for a while, to take the pressure off of yourself. You might find that it never comes back to the front burner again, because the process moves along organically and it just sort of happens by itself.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions, or would like to schedule a parenting consultation for additional assistance. Please visit www.karenalonge.com/forclients.htm for more information.

My teenage daughter rarely talks to me about anything ...

Q: I have a 15 year old daughter, and have been somewhat strict with her over the last few years. Could you give me any advice on how to get her to talk to us and get her to open up more? She rarely talks to me about anything ...
[There was much more to this email, so I whittled it down for brevity's sake.]

A: First I would like to refer you to a few earlier posts that may be helpful.

26 Ways to Get Teenagers To Stop Talking to You


Correct them.

Raise your voice.


Question their intelligence and judgment.

Criticize them.

Don't take them seriously.

Use sarcasm.

Lecture them.

Speak condescendingly.

Tell them they are wrong, misinformed, or immature.

Talk more than you listen.

Compare them to other kids: Why can't you be like ...

Tell them how worried you are about them.

Bring up something they told you out of context later.

Offer solutions that they did not ask for.

Punish them based on what they disclose to you.

Try to manipulate them using guilt or shame.

Remind them that you are in charge.

Be a hypocrite: tell them to do as you say not as you do.

Lie to them.

Demand respect, but don't give it.

Betray their trust or confidence.

Refuse to acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes at times.

Bring up a list of transgressions from the past to help you prove your point.

Predict a negative outcome for their future.

7 ways to deal with all that Halloween candy

For parents who are not big fans of sugar, chocolate, or artificial colors and flavors, Halloween presents a real dilemma. You don't want to be the heavy and spoil the fun, but on the other hand, you also may not be eager to deal with a kid who is hyped up on sugar for weeks or even months after the big day. Here are some ways to handle that gargantuan pile of candy:

1.) Let them eat all they want for a certain period of time, then throw out the rest. Share your opinions about health and nutrition with your child, and collaborate together on a time frame that feels relatively okay for both of you.

Expect major indulgence during that time. You are not allowed to make even one tiny little comment like "Are you eating candy again?" or mutter as much as single "I told you so" under your breath. The beauty of this option is that your child gets to experience his own tummy ache, sugar crash, headache, brain fog, or whatever. And when you stay out of it, he's got nowhere to place the blame except the candy.

By the way, I asked my dentist about this, and she said a few days of total indulgence is not likely to lead to tooth decay. It's far more damaging to bathe the teeth in juice, soda, coffee with sugar, or hard candy on a regular basis. So you've got the green light from her to use the approach.

Oh, and if you go this route, you might feel better about it if you focus on serving ultra-nutritious meals during that time.

2.) Let them have one piece a day. When we did this, the candy became a major focus of every day- which kind, when would they get to eat it, could they have just one more piece today, pretty please, Mom? I was the candy controller, which was a job I didn't care for. This option may deprive your child of getting to experience the joys and perils of overindulgence, and thus remove the opportunity for her to learn to regulate her own intake. Some kids will lose interest or forget to ask at some point, and then you can just throw it away.

3.) Do nothing. Just keep serving nutritious meals and snacks, and let them work it out on their own. The idea would be to fill 'em up with tempting and tasty healthy stuff, thus leaving less room for candy and giving their bodies more nutrients with which to process the junk. When my kids were little, I was too much of a nutrition and control freak for this to work for me, but I put it in the list for those of you who are more laid back and trusting than I was.

4.) Buy them off. Some parents pay money, and others prefer to exchange toys or fun activities for the candy. This can work pretty well if the payoff is big and exciting enough. I met hardly any resistance when I made the offer a day or two after Halloween. When they are getting sick of candy anyway, a new toy or trip to the aquarium looks pretty appealing.

5.) Teach them the possible effects that candy could have on their bodies, moods, and concentration, tell them you know that they will figure out what feels best for their bodies, and let it go. Invest your energy in being a good role model and preparing nutritious meals instead.

6.) Substitute healthier versions. Sunspire makes tasty chocolate, Panda makes yummy licorice, and there are lots of other options at your local health food store, including vegan gummy bears!

7.) Argue about it every day until their trick or treat bucket is empty. Tell them their teeth will rot if they keeping eating all that candy. Try to make them feel guilty for liking sweets. And let me know how that works out for ya!

My daughter is scared to be alone.

Q: Our 4 year old daughter has recently become scared about going to the bathroom alone, and also doesn't want to go to sleep alone. Sometimes when she hears a loud noise, she hits whoever is next to her. We don't know how to handle this situation.

A: You mentioned that this started recently. I'm not a therapist, but it sounds like perhaps she experienced some kind of traumatic event, and her nervous system has decided it needs to stay 'on alert' all the time.

That 'on alert' response isn't only triggered by something big, like a death or an injury. It can happen any time a child feels powerless to control something that is hurting her -- like being bullied, visiting the doctor or dentist, hearing a scary story or seeing something on television, or even witnessing something painful happening to somebody else. Some kids are more sensitive to this sort of thing than others. At age four, kids step out into the world in a bigger way, and they hear lots of things that might be scary. It could be as simple as that.