great article about weight issues in preteen girls

by Dr. Laura Markam at

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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.

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

Q: 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!

A: 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?

Q: 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?

A: 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.

How can I make my daughter's father see that he is hurting her feelings?

Q: I am so worried about my 18 year old daughter. Her dad and I split up when she was a toddler, and she does not have a good relationship with him at all. He criticizes her often, and leaves her out of family events and outings with his wife and their children. Both my daughter and I feel hurt and upset about this, and she recently told me that he's been texting her but she refuses to respond. What can I do make him realize that it's wrong to treat his daughter that way, and that he's having a huge negative impact on her?  

A: I totally understand that seeing your daughter being left out could trigger a "mama bear" reaction. And it's important (and often quite challenging at times) for parents to separate our own reactions and feelings from our children's. 

How do I help my teenage daughter deal with mean girls?

Q: When I hear about some of the things these girls are doing and saying to each other, my blood just boils! I know I can't call their mothers or confront them myself, but what am I supposed to do when my daughter comes home in tears day after day?

A: That movie Mean Girls did not come out of nowhere. It was actually based on a book called Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, which is a pretty good read, as I recall.

Here's the first and most helpful thing you can do:  Calm and soothe yourself, so you can attend to your daughter and her upset feelings without becoming fearful, angry, or feeling compelled to intervene on her behalf.

It goes without saying, of course, that if she's involved in a violent or abusive situation, she needs your help contacting the proper authorities.  But if you assess the situation as ugly and uncomfortable but not dangerous, then read on.

How do I instill a strong work ethic in my teenage son?

Q: My 13 year old son was given the opportunity to make some extra cash this summer by doing yardwork and other small projects for friends and neighbors, but because he often decides not to put out much effort, he's earned much less income than he could have. Of course I hope he grows up to become responsible and make a worthwhile contribution to the world. How do I teach him a strong work ethic?

A: My guess is that you are already doing the very most important and effective method for teaching a strong work ethic:  Modeling it.

Joint Custody: How to Answer Your Child's Questions about Parental Conflict or Disagreements

Most children of divorce are well aware when conflict is going on between their co-parents, even if they have no idea what it's about and you've taken great pains to protect them from witnessing or overhearing it. (And by the way, kudos to you for protecting them from these things -- it's very important that kids not witness parental conflict.)

Sometimes your savvy and perceptive kids will ask questions about your conflict that you know you shouldn't answer. A good rule of thumb here, if you need one: NEVER share the details of a parental conflict with your child -- it's too painful, divisive, and confusing for them. 

Truth is, even when it appears otherwise, your kids are rarely actually interested in the details. What they are really asking for is reassurance that their parents are still able to love and take good care of them, even during times of conflict.

So what do you say when they ask you?

connection builds intelligence

I highly recommend this resource from Hand in Hand Parenting about emotional outbursts, tantrums, and the important role parents play in the development of their child's brain. It's a fairly quick read with the potential to totally transform your understanding of why kids misbehave, as well as what to do about it.

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

it's impossible to talk to your baby too much

From the minute my babies were born, they heard me constantly narrating every single thing that was happening -- sometimes people even make fun of me for it when they watch our family videos. (I talked even more back then than I do now, if you can imagine such a thing!)

delivering limits with a spoonful of sugar

Today's communication tip arrives
cloaked in song from Mary Poppins:
a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine
go down.

Pharmaceutical companies have you
covered on the actual medicine ... they
can make even the nastiest stuff taste like
bubble gum these days!

So I'll talk about another kind of medicine:
limits and boundaries. Parents need to
help kids learn what's okay to do and
what isn't. Children are not pre-wired with
the knowledge of what is acceptable
behavior in the culture they were born
into. Instead they are wired to watch and
learn from their parents. This information
is much easier for kids to absorb and
incorporate when it is delivered with

What do I mean by sweetness?

patty wipfler on setting limits that build cooperation

This is a very powerful five minute video. Patty Wipfler from Hand in Hand Parenting shares insights into why children respond the way they do to the limits that parents set.

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grieving preschooler cries about everything except her loss

Q: My daughter is four years old and is currently undergoing many big changes in her life. A few months ago, she lost her granddad whom she was extremely close with. She speaks about him every day and misses him terribly. She doesn’t cry, but speaks about him and recollects little details of their time spent together.

A month later, we moved and she started attending preschool and daycare. Every morning when she wakes up she cries about going to school and her entire morning routine. When she gets to school, she cries. When she gets picked up by her daycare provider, she cries again. 

All this crying doesn’t last very long after I have left. She doesn’t want to change classes and says she loves her teacher. She doesn’t want to change her aftercare teacher for the same reason. But yet she cries non-stop just rambling on with different reasons.

I don’t know what to do anymore, because I don’t know if it’s all the changes or if she is just crying to get her way. What can I do to help her?

- Concerned Mom 

How do I tell my friend that I think her child might need to see a therapist?

Q: I babysit for a girl that shows no remorse or empathy for anything she does. Minutes after she gets in trouble, she acts like nothing happened and goes back to playing. How do I tell her mom that she may need to seek counseling without her taking offense to it?