Category Archives: Ask Mr. Bartley

Ask Mr. Bartley is a reprint of the “Ask Mr. Bartley” column in the Daily Citizen News of Dalton, Georgia.

Tom Bartley is a retired educator and currently is the director of the Success By 6 Program, located at the Family Support Council, 1529 Waring Road in Dalton. He can be reached at P.O. Box 1707, Dalton, Georgia 30722 or

Give Presence Not Presents

Christmas is fast approaching, and some parents may be concerned about their family’s financial situation, and the money problems they may be experiencing this holiday season. This column is adapted from an article by Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman, parenting experts. I have used it before and have been asked to use it again.

The giving of gifts during the holiday season is an honored tradition. However, if you are wondering what gifts to give if you have to “tighten your money belt,” then
maybe the answer lies in the gifts that are given. Be honest with your children about your financial situation in a non-frightening way. But you can give them what they really want from you: presence, not presents. All children spell love T-I-M-E. What we parents can give to our children is our attention, our availability, our closeness, and our time.

Are you being fully present with your children? Can you let go of your worries about money? Can you suspend your agenda to focus on theirs? Can you learn to be there for and with your children?

Consider the following suggestions as a way to give the most important present this holiday season, your presence.

1. Be there regardless of what you are doing. The holiday season requires an added measure of balancing kids’ schedules, visiting family, and cooking as well as keeping up the regular requirements of work, laundry, cleaning, everyday cooking, etc. When feeling pulled in several directions, many parents turn to multitasking. Avoid the urge to multitask and strive to stay focused on the moment at hand. When you sit with your children, whether it’s to play a game, read a book, or just talk, give them your undivided attention.

2. Make a “be” choice. How you choose to “be” affects whatever you choose to “do.” When you are with your children, choose to be interested in what they are interested in. Choose to be happy that you have the time to focus on their needs and wants. Choose to be excited about the time you have with them. Even when misbehavior occurs in your children, choose to be glad that you have the opportunity to help them learn a new behavior or a new way to communicate a desire or express a feeling.

3. Focus on listening rather than telling. Children spend a great portion of their day following directions: pick up your clothes, make your bed, sit down, be quiet, go play, chew with your mouth closed, stop picking on your brother, hang up your coat, brush your teeth. To kids, the list of commands seems endless. Remember, children have valuable things to say too. Many times parents get so focused on telling that they forget to listen. Value your children’s opinions. Allow them opportunities to vent. Embrace their points of view. Invite suggestions. Listen to their voices.

4. Connect physically. Touch is a powerful way to communicate “I love you.” Get close and touch your children’s heart with a warm embrace or a gentle squeeze of the shoulder. Snuggle under a blanket and read together. Go for a walk and hold hands. Wrestle on the living room floor. Dispense hugs, smiles, winks, and an occasional high five.

5. Connect emotionally. Feelings are always more important than things. Create an environment where it is safe to be emotional. Encourage the expression of feelings. Allow your feelings to extend to your children as you share traditions, reflect on holidays past, and gather as a family. Demonstrate empathy, compassion and understanding.

6. Unplug from the electronic world. The television, computer, video games, and other electronic gadgets have the potential to create a disconnect from personal interaction. Stand up, walk away from the TV, and go shoot baskets, skip rope, go for a walk, read a book, play a board game or card game, or ride bikes with your child. While riding in the car, tell your children a story about the day they were born, relate a favorite holiday memory, sing, or play 20 questions.

7. Play by the kids’ rules. Play with your children at their level. Make mud pies, jump in rain puddles, roll down a hill, spray whipped cream on the kitchen table and join in the creation of artistic designs, and then eat them! Cover the driveway in sidewalk chalk. Let your children take the lead and change the rules of a game if they want. Know that play, no matter how childish or silly it may appear, is an investment in connecting with your children. Play regularly with your kids, and remember that the reason for play is to play, not to win.

Make a commitment this holiday season to give the best gift you can give by being present in your child’s life. Be active and interactive on a daily basis with your children. Be the parent God called you to be. Give your presence, not presents!

Thanksgiving Thanks

This is a column I have used the last few Thanksgivings; and I always have many people who ask me to re-run it, so here it is.  Millions of parents will pause this Thanksgiving to do what the day was created for – to give thanks for the many blessings that exist in their lives. Turkey, pumpkin pie, and especially the presence of loved ones surely will receive their fair share of gratitude. Parents will also give thanks for their children’s health, their own health, and the health of their other loved ones and friends. The abundance provided to us in this country, our freedoms, the opportunities for meaningful work, and the laughter of children will be acknowledged with thanks by loving parents as they thank God for their many blessings. Indeed, this traditional holiday does call for the traditional thank-you’s. But what if your appreciation this year took on a new look? What if the blessings you counted included situations that aren’t usually regarded as helpful, useful or valuable?  Consider the following. 

Why not be thankful that your child is behind his grade level in reading ability? This struggling reader is giving you the opportunity to read to him regularly at night. This evening ritual will help build connectedness between you and your child while at the same time modeling your love for the printed word. Great literature like The Little Engine That Could or Make Way for Ducklings can be shared as you simultaneously bond with your child. This opportunity can be an incredible blessing. Appreciate it.

Why not be thankful that your daughter’s soccer team lost their last game? It is important that your children have experiences of both winning and losing. By losing, children have the opportunity to learn to handle defeat and bounce back the next time. With your help, they can learn that winning or losing is not the measure of who and what they are as human beings. They can learn they are more than the score. They can learn that it’s effort, energy, and playing up to potential with good sportsmanship that defines a winner, not the scoreboard. Appreciate the opportunity the loss brings and be grateful for it. 

Why not be thankful that your teenager received a speeding ticked for going 45 mph in a 25 mph speed zone? Getting a ticket is not necessarily a bad thing…not if your teen learns from it and slows down her driving. If she takes personal responsibility, pays the ticket, and is more cautious about her driving, the ticket may well save her life or the life of someone else in the future. Bless the ticket and give thanks for its blessings.

Why not be thankful that your 8-year-old shoplifted in the grocery store? This is the perfect time to teach your child about shoplifting. Better now than when he helps himself to someone else’s car when he is 18. Teach him how to make amends. Teach him what to say as he returns the candy bars to the storeowner. Help him learn to articulate what he learned and what he intends to do differently next time. Bless this perfect time to teach lessons about taking things that don’t belong to you. Be grateful for the opportunity.

Why not be thankful that your youngsters track mud and sand into the garage and house? The next time you stand in the garage furiously sweeping sand and wishing that your children were better behaved; quietly remind yourself that one day you’ll wish you had sand to sweep out of the garage. Love the mud. Love the sand. Be grateful for the signs of the presence of children in your life.

Why not be thankful for sibling rivalry? “He got more than I did” and “It isn’t fair” are common childhood refrains. Hitting, poking and teasing your sister are typical childhood behaviors. Bless these opportunities to help your children learn how to get along with each other. Use them as times to teach interpersonal skills and the importance of touching each other gently. Sibling rivalry can be a signal that your children need lessons on how to interact positively with each other. Bless their unskillful way of asking for help. Be grateful that you recognize it and help them grow in working and playing cooperatively.

Why not be thankful that you got to stay home with a sick child last week? You didn’t have to stay home. You got to stay home. You didn’t have to take him to the doctor. You got to take him to the doctor. You got to make sure he received the health care he needed. You got to show him you care enough to drive all over town to the doctors, the pharmacists, and back home again. You got to be with your child while he was sick. Not everyone gets to be with their children when they are sick. If you did, chalk it up as a blessing. Celebrate it.

Why not be thankful that your adolescent asked you about oral sex? This is a great sign. It means your child trusts you enough to talk to you about sex. It means she is not getting all her sex knowledge from the street. It means you have been taking your role as sex educator in your family seriously and that you have moved beyond “the talk” to having an ongoing, honest conversation about the important subject of sex. Congratulate yourself. It is a blessing that you are willing to fulfill that role for your child and that she is responding to it positively. Give thanks.

Why not be thankful that your 22-year-old has moved out of your home? Did you really want to raise a 30-year-old Nintendo player who sits around your house all day sucking up Coke and pizza? Hardly! Your goal was to raise a responsible, caring, confident child who would move away from home when the time was right for her. You have been successful. Pat yourself on the back. Yes, it would nice if she had chosen to spend this Thanksgiving with you rather than with her boyfriend’s parents…but maybe next year. This year give thanks. Your child is a responsible adult. That is a blessing.

Why not give thanks that your child is spilling milk, talking with his mouth full, wiping his hands on his new pants, refusing to eat his vegetables, and interrupting his grandmother at the dinner table? It means you have more work to do as a parent. It means your job is not yet done. This is a blessing. You are still needed to help your child learn to pour milk more carefully, improve his table manners, learn to eat nutritiously, and show respect for elders. Give thanks for these opportunities.

Why not be thankful for your special-needs child? Do you have a child with ADHD? Is your son autistic or dyslexic? Does your daughter have Down’s syndrome? Is your child facing a serious health challenge? Your children are in your life for a reason. Perhaps God sent them to help you learn patience, understanding, or commitment. Perhaps they are here to teach your family about tolerance, acceptance of differences, or unconditional love. Their presence is a blessing. Be thankful for the contribution they are making to the world and to your family.

This holiday season remember that parenting is a ministry. It is a sacred role that you are being called upon to perform. Give thanks that you have been called. Give thanks that you are willing to step forward and accept that call. Appreciate that you are being shown the way. Celebrate yourself and your contribution to healing the planet by helping your children evolve into the people they were meant to be. Give thanks that you are up to the task.

This column is from an article written by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the country’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it or obtain more information about how you can better meet your parenting needs, visit their websites: or


With the holidays coming, we will all be under a lot of stress. Also, if you are a parent nowadays, your “to do” list is never ending; and your idea of relaxing is checking Facebook every 10 minutes when you’re waiting in the carpool line.

But think about this: all the stress you carry around on a daily basis can affect your kids. A recent study found that stress is contagious between children and their parents. A child as young as one mirrors its mother’s bodily stress responses, such as increased heart rate.

And a study published in Pediatric Obesity found that parental stress is linked to weight gain in young children. Furthermore, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 20% of children have chronic stress.

But it’s not hopeless. Children are very perceptive, so if you deal with your stress appropriately, they’ll realize that stress is something they can deal with too. Here are some suggestions from an article in Kids’ Health by Colleen Oakley.

Think positively. When you find yourself thinking something negative, replace it with affirmation. For example, rather than say, “I hope I’m not getting sick,” say, “I am healthy and well.” Shutting out negative thoughts can reduce stress. You can teach this technique to your kids as well.

Don’t wait. Most of us know good stress reducing techniques, such as eating healthy, exercising, and taking time for ourselves, but we often wait until we’re stressed to do them. Work on stress reduction every day, even when things are easy. That way, you’ll create a pattern of healthy coping mechanisms.

Unplug. Recent studies link social media use to stress levels. Try a self-imposed technology break. Limit screen time for yourself as well as your kids. Pick a cutoff, maybe 7:30 every night, after which you won’t check your phone or email. You may be surprised at how much more relaxed you feel when you are unplugged.

The following behaviors in your children may be signs of a child with chronic stress:
1. Does your child have more meltdowns than usual?
2. Do you notice an increase in fatigue, irritability, headaches and stomachaches?
3. Is your child sleeping poorly or waking up from night terrors?
4. Is your child acting angry?

All of the above plus your instinct can be signs of stress overload.
If you think your child may be overstressed, the book Stress-Free Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Build Self-Esteem, Manage Stress, and Reduce Anxiety in Children by Lori Lite might help.

Fighting Fears

This month brings a lot of spooky activities as Halloween approaches. There are many ways to experience the magic of this holiday as a family, such as by sharing stories, attending community events, listening to spooky music, and reading mystery and scary books together. Sharing a few age-appropriate thrills and chills can a fun experience.

For some children, though, being scared is nothing to laugh about. Some children have heightened anxiety about a wide range of perceived threats ranging from animals to insects, characters in costumes, and things they believe lurk in the dark.

A certain amount of caution is healthy and normal for children. But parents should help kids confront unreasonable fears so they don’t grow bigger and scarier. Here are some ways to do it.

Respect feelings. Dismissing kids’ concerns isn’t the answer. Fear feels uncomfortable. Your child’s heart is racing, and he or she wants to escape to safety. Be your child’s ally and accept her anxiety. If she isn’t ready yet to pet a dog or sleep without a nightlight, don’t push it.

Search for the words. Kids can’t always express what scares them, especially when the body’s fear response is energizing them to fight or flee. Help your child identify specific concerns using age-appropriate words. Ask “What is it about the dog that worries you?” or “What might happen when the lights are off?” Defining the fear will help you combat it. You can’t devise monster-slaying strategies if you don’t know the enemy.

Find understanding. Fear festers when the imagination runs wild. The more your child learns about the feared situation, the less powerful his imaginary thoughts will be. Hold hands while you check the closet for monsters. Read about snakes or spiders together. Knowledge is power.

Stand up to fear. Encourage your child to argue against frightening thoughts or to repeat a calming phrase such as “I am fast and strong. Monsters can’t catch me!” Talking back to fear, either out loud or in your head, shrinks scary thoughts. One parent recalls how her son was sure there were creatures under the bed and in the closet. “We put a sign on the door that read ‘Monsters KEEP OUT’ and they obeyed,” she says.

Take baby steps. “The best way to face a fear is a little at a time, from a safe distance,” says author and family therapist H. Norman Wright. For example, help your child face a fear of heights by imagining the scary situation first. Then, move on to climbing a low structure, followed by a taller one, and so on. Give high-fives as kids conquer each challenge.

Be there. Kids need to know you’ll stick with them when they face their fears. If your child’s fears and anxiety are truly crippling, you might consider getting help from counsellor, therapist, or other child development expert.

This column is adapted from an article by Heidi Smith Luedtke, PhD.


When Harvard University’s Making Caring Common Project released their report, “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values,” the study found that many kids value academic achievement and individual happiness over caring for others. In the report, the authors explained that the children’s values reflected what they believe the adults in their lives value.
We live in an age in which we are more and more connected by technology, but this connectedness doesn’t seem “to be translating to genuine concern for the world and one another.” Research from the University of Michigan has shown that college kids today are nearly 40% less empathetic than they were 30 to 40 years ago.
In the wake of these disturbing study results, the Making Caring Common Project and the Ashoka Empathy Initiative created a set of recommendations for teaching empathy to children.
Empathy goes beyond being able to see another person’s point of view, according to Rick Weissbourd, the co-director of the Making Caring Common Project. He points out that sales people, politicians, actors and marketers are able to do this kind of “perspective-taking” in pursuit of their professional goals. Con men and women use this ability to manipulate their victims for personal gain. In order to be truly empathetic, children need to learn more than simple perspective-taking; they need to know how to value, respect and understand another person’s views, even when they don’t agree with them. Empathy, Mr. Weissbourd argues, is a function of both compassion and of seeing from another person’s perspective; and it is the key to preventing bullying and other forms of cruelty and discrimination.
To that end, the project offers these five suggestions for developing empathy in children:
1. Empathize with your child and model how to feel compassion for others.
Kids develop these qualities by watching us and experiencing our empathy for them. When we show that we truly know our children by understanding and reacting to their emotional needs, exhibiting interest and involvement in their lives, and respecting their personalities, they feel valued. Children who feel valued are more likely to value others and demonstrate respect for their needs. When we treat other people like they matter, our kids notice, and are more likely to emulate our acts of caring and compassion.
2. Make caring for others a priority and set high ethical expectations.
Kids need to know that we are not simply paying lip service to empathy, that we show caring and compassion in our everyday lives. Rather than say, “The most important thing is that you are happy,” try: “The most important thing is that you’re kind and that you are happy.” Prioritize caring when you talk about others, and help your child understand that the world does not revolve around them or their needs.
3. Provide opportunities for children to practice.
Empathy, like other emotional skills, requires repetition to become second nature. Hold family meetings and involve kids by challenging them to listen to and respect others’ perspectives. Ask children about conflicts at school and help them reflect on their classmates’ experiences. If another child is unpopular or having social problems, talk about how that child may be feeling about the situation, and ask your child how he or she may be able help.
4. Expand your child’s circle of concern.
It’s not hard for kids to empathize with their immediate family and close friends, but it can be a real challenge to understand and feel for people outside of that circle. You can help your child expand their circle by “zooming in and zooming out”; listening carefully to a particular person and then pulling back to take in multiple perspectives. Encourage your child to talk about and speculate on the feelings of people who are particularly vulnerable or in need. Talk about how those people could be helped and comforted.
5. Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively.
Even when kids feel empathy for others, societal pressures and prejudices can block their ability to express their concern. When kids are angry with each other over a perceived slight, for example, it can be a real challenge for them to engage their sense of empathy. Encourage kids to name those stereotypes and prejudices, and to talk about their anger, envy, shame and other negative emotions. Model conflict resolution and anger management in your own actions, and let your kids see you work through challenging feelings in your own life.
Educators will tell you that a classroom full of empathetic kids simply runs more smoothly than one filled with even the happiest group of self-serving children. Similarly, family life is more harmonious when siblings are able feel for each other and put the needs of others ahead of individual happiness. If a classroom or a family full of caring children makes for a more peaceful and cooperative learning environment, just imagine what we could accomplish in a world populated by such children.
This column was adapted from an article by Jessica Lahey, an educator, writer, and speaker. She writes about parenting and education.

Talking About School

The school year is now in “full swing.” So think about the school-related dialog you engage in with your children about school throughout the school year. To make those conversations more meaningful, gather increased information, encourage and nurture self-responsibility, and build positive relationships with your children, consider the following do’s and don’ts.

Do listen, listen, listen. When your child begins talking about school, put down what you were doing, resist the urge to multitask, turn and face your child, give strong eye contact, lean forward, and pay attention. Let your body language communicate “I am here for you. I am present. I care what you have to say, I am interested.”

Don’t judge what your children are saying. The instant you judge with “That’s a good/bad idea,” “How could you have done that?” “You should have done this . . .” you are inviting an abrupt end to the conversation. Judging sends a “Big Me/Little You” message. A judge by definition is above the person being judged. Children do not like being in that position and will give you less information in the future.

Don’t say “I was bad in math, too.” First of all, this statement announces that you agree that your child is bad in math. Your child is not bad in math. She is simply learning fractions slowly right now. Second, this sentence invites her to view her math ability as hereditary. This can quickly transfer into a dead-end belief: “Being bad in math runs in the family.”

Do invite goal setting. Help your child set goals for the year, week, or even the day on occasion. Also show them that when they have a goal, it requires action steps to reach it. For instance, if their goal is to learn their multiplication tables, what do they need to do to get there? 1. Make flash cards. 2. Practice with 2’s and 3’s by myself. 3. Have someone else practice with me. 4. Do a timed practice test. 4. Move on to the 4’s and 5’s. And so on.

Don’t ask “Do you have any homework?” This question is often the first words out of a parent’s mouth when they greet their children after school. “It’s good to see you. Hope you had a great day” is a more inviting, nurturing greeting. Then a little later, you can ask about homework.

Do praise effort over intelligence. When parents predominately praise intelligence, as in “You’re so smart. You have a great brain there,” children come to see intelligence as a fixed commodity. They think people are smart or not and there is not much anyone can do about it. Through effort, intelligence can be increased. To praise effort, say, “You worked on that Spanish until you learned to use all of the 15 color words,” or “You sure are working hard on that term paper/book report/science project. Looks like you’re going to have it done on time.”

Do invite your children to share what they have learned with you. “How about teaching me how to do that?” “Is there something you learned in school today that I might not know? I’d like to hear about it.” The fastest way to lock in learning is to teach a concept or skill to someone else. Have your children move their learning into their long-term memory by teaching it to you.

Do ask questions that require more than a one-word answer. “How was school today?” is going to get you the often-spoken “Fine.” “If you could change one thing about today, what would it be?” will likely be the start of a meaningful conversation. “Tell me about the most interesting/surprising/humorous thing that happened today” will invite your children to enter into an expanded dialog.

Do not say “If you get in trouble at school, you’ll be in trouble at home, too.” Having this conversation before inappropriate behavior has occurred sends the silent message that you expect inappropriate behavior to occur. In addition, it is applying double jeopardy. If your child is held accountable by the school personnel, you do not need to pile on extra consequences.

Do not say “This year will be a lot harder than last year” or “That’s going to be a tough class.” Sending ominous warnings creates an expectation of harder and tougher in your child’s mind. Do you really want your child going into the new school year thinking the class/grade/teacher will be hard? If it is hard, they will figure that out soon enough.

Do inquire “How did you choose to BE today?” instead of “What did you DO today?” Over time, this question helps children understand that they do indeed choose how to BE. They become conscious that their attitude and demeanor are controllable, and that they, themselves, are the controller.

Pick a couple of these suggestions to implement this week. You will know which ones.

This column was adapted fro an article by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. Their websites are: or

Social Competence

Parents who want their kids to succeed have been known to play Mozart in the nursery and quiz their preschoolers with flash cards, but a new study suggests these parents might want to go back to the basics by teaching children to share and take turns.

Kindergarteners with strong social and emotional skills were more likely than their peers to succeed academically and professionally, according to a 20-year study that followed more than 750 children until age 25.

Youngsters whose kindergarten teachers gave them the highest scores on “social competence” were more likely than other kids to graduate high school on time, earn a college degree, and hold full-time jobs.

Social competence involves more than making friends, according to the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Teachers rated kids on the ability to cooperate, resolve conflicts, listen to others’ points of view, give suggestions without being bossy, and other social skills.

Kids with weaker social skills were more likely to develop substance abuse problems, be unemployed, smoke pot, get arrested, live in public housing, or receive public assistance, according to the study, which included children from low-income neighborhoods in Nashville; Seattle; Durham, N.C.; and central Pennsylvania.

For some measures of adult success, good social skills appeared to be more important than academic ability, said co-author Damon Jones, a senior research associate at Pennsylvania State University. Likewise, social competence often proved to be a better predictor than race, sex, or family income.

Children with poor social skills in kindergarten are by no means a lost cause, pediatrician Dina Lieser said. The study provides a hopeful message because it’s possible to improve social skills throughout childhood, said Lieser, chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Early Childhood, who wasn’t involved in the study.

A growing number of studies point to the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping the brain and later behavior. A 2011 study found that people who showed more self-control as preschoolers were healthier and wealthier by age 32, even after researchers considered influential factors such as IQ and social class.

A person’s social development starts at birth. Even tiny babies begin to interact with the people around them. They respond to voices. They cry to let caregivers know they need something. They make eye contact and smile at those who feed them, hold them, or play with them.

Adults and older children, intentionally or not, are models for young children of how to behave with other people. In fact, a great deal of children’s social behavior is influenced by what they observe other people doing.

Most children’s social skills increase rapidly during the preschool years. It is important to keep in mind that children of the same age may not have the same levels of social competence. Research shows that children have distinct personalities and temperaments from birth.

Relationships within the family also affect a child’s social behavior. Behavior that is appropriate or effective in one culture may be less so in another culture. Therefore, children from diverse cultural and family backgrounds thus may need help in bridging their differences and in finding ways to learn from and enjoy one another. Teachers can help by creating classroom communities that are open, honest, and accepting of differences.

Much research suggests that pretend play can contribute to young children’s social and intellectual development. When children pretend to be someone or something else, they practice taking points of view other than their own. When they pretend together, children often take turns and make “deals” and decisions cooperatively. Such findings suggest that children in early childhood programs ought to have regular opportunities for social play and pretend play. Teachers can observe and monitor the children’s interactions.

The Social Attributes Checklist* below was created to help check to see whether a child’s social competence is developing well. The intent of this checklist is not to prescribe correct social behavior but rather to help teachers and parents observe, understand, and support children whose social skills are still forming. The list is based on research on elements of young children’s social competence and on studies comparing behavior of well-liked children with that of children who are not as well liked.

Many of the attributes included in the checklist indicate adequate social growth if they are usually true of the child. Illness, fatigue, orother stressors can cause short-term variations in a child’s apparent social competence. Such difficulties may last only a few days. Teachers or parents will want to assess each child based on their frequent direct contact with the child, and observation of the child in a variety of situations.

If a child seems to have most of the traits in the checklist, then he orshe is not likely to need special help to outgrow occasional difficulties. On the other hand, a child who shows few of the traits on the list might benefit from adult-initiated strategies to help build more satisfying relationships with other children.

I. Individual Attributes

The child:
▪ Is usually in a positive mood.
▪ Usually comes to the program willingly.
▪ Usually copes with rebuffs or other disappointments adequately.
▪ Shows interest in others.
▪ Shows the capacity to empathize.
▪ Displays the capacity for humor.
▪ Does not seem to be acutely lonely.

II. Social Skills Attributes

The child usually:
▪ Interacts nonverbally with other children with smiles, waves, nods, etc.
▪ Expects a positive response when approaching others.
▪ Expresses wishes and preferences clearly; gives reasons for actions and positions.
▪ Asserts own rights and needs appropriately.
▪ Is not easily intimidated by bullies.
▪ Expresses frustrations and anger effectively, without escalating disagreements or harming others.
▪ Gains access to ongoing groups at play and work.
▪ Enters ongoing discussion on a topic; makes relevant contributions to ongoing activities.
▪ Takes turns fairly easily.
▪ Has positive relationships with one or two peers; shows the capacity to really care about them and miss them if they are absent.
▪ Has “give-and-take” exchanges of information, feedback, or materials with others.
▪ Negotiates and compromises with others appropriately.
▪ Is able to maintain friendship with one or more peers, even after disagreements.
▪ Does not draw inappropriate attention to self.
▪ Accepts and enjoys peers and adults who have special needs.
▪ Accepts and enjoys peers and adults who belong to ethnic groups other than his or her own.

III. Peer Relationship Attributes

The child:
▪ Is usually accepted versus neglected or rejected by other children.
▪ Is usually respected rather than feared or avoided by other children.
▪ Is sometimes invited by other children to join them in play, friendship, and work.
▪ Is named by other children as someone they are friends with or like to play and work with.

IV. Adult Relationship Attributes
▪ Is not excessively dependent on adults.
▪ Shows appropriate response to new adults, as opposed to extreme fearfulness or indiscriminate approach.

*(Adapted (with some additions) from McClellan & Katz (2001) Assessing Young Children’s Social Competence and McClellan & Katz (1993), Young Children’s Social Development: A Checklist.)

10 Tips for Raising Unspoiled Kids

The following column is adapted from an article by Dr. Sheryl Zeigler, a counselor and therapist at the Child and Family Therapy Clinic in Denver, Colorado. In her practice she often sees middle and upper class families struggling with wanting to raise “grateful and unspoiled children,” despite having a comfortable lifestyle, going on nice vacations, having lovely homes; and owning the latest gadgets, toys and cars. These parents ask if it is really possible, and the answer is “Yes, but you are going to have to work at it.” She calls it intentional parenting and it takes self discipline to pull it off.

So, here is her list of the top 10 things around which you need to have clarity and consistent follow through in order to raise unspoiled children whether you are wealthy or not.

1. Say no. Practice delayed gratification and simply not always giving your children what they want, even if you can easily afford it.

2. Expect gratitude. Go beyond teaching your child to say please and thank you. Also teach them eye contact, a proper hand shake, affection and appreciation for the kind and generous things that are said and given to them. If this does not happen, have them return the gift (either to the person or to you for safe keeping) and explain that they aren’t yet ready to receive such a gift.

3. Practice altruism yourself. Donate clothes and toys to those in need (not just to your neighbors when it’s easy and they have younger children!) and have your kids be a part of that process. Do this regularly as a family and sort through, package and deliver the goods together so the kids really see where their things are going. Do this often and not just around the holidays.

4. Be mindful of the company you keep. Be sure family or friends you are spending significant time with have similar values to yours, otherwise you are going to feel defeated after a while.

5. Write thank you cards. Yes, handwritten on paper with a pen! Kids these days generally have shorter attention spans, are easily distracted and aren’t taught to take careful time and attention to express their appreciation. This simple yet important act can go a long way as a skill to teach expression of feelings and thoughtfulness.

6. Don’t catch every fall. Practice natural consequences from an early age — share some of your own experiences and teach them lessons such as “life is not fair.” In addition, don’t over-protect them from disappointments. You have to really understand and believe that failing and falling are a part of successful childhood development.

7. Resist the urge to buy multiples of things. Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should! Don’t buy four American Girl Dolls—buy just one and have your child love and appreciate what they have.

8. Talk to their grandparents and explain your intentions to them. Share with them your desires to have respectful, appreciative, kind and responsible children and the ways in which you are going to achieve that goal. You will need their help in doing this if they are like most grandparents who want to spoil their grandkids! Ask them to spoil them with love, time, affection and attention—not toys, treats and money.

9. Teach them the value of money. Have your child manage their money through saving, giving to charity/others, and then spending. If you do this from an early age you are truly setting a foundation of responsible wealth management.

10. Share your story. Last but not least, you should tell your kids the legacy of your family’s good fortune. If you come from wealth tell the story of how that was earned and created. If you are self-made, tell that story too—just don’t forget that “giving your kids everything that you didn’t have” is not always a good thing. There is probably a lot that you learned along the way by stumbling to make you the person you are today.

And at the end of the day, if you have a spoiled child—one who relentlessly nags, cries and throws a huge fit when they do not get what they want—you only have yourself to blame! Stop giving in and start applying most if not all of these values and approaches. You will have greater enjoyment in being a parent, your child will be happier and better adjusted and there will be greater peace and love in your home. And that is something money cannot buy.

Heat Entrapment

Warmer weather is here and we have already heard of the seemingly inevitable news that children have died from heat stroke while trapped in a vehicle.

It has been known to happen as early as February if the temperature is warm, but typically around the middle or end of March we hear of the first event of the year – a disturbing, horrific incident of an infant or toddler dying from being trapped in a sweltering car.

Since 1998, the annual average of juvenile deaths in cars has been 38, according to the Department of Earth and Climate Science. Since 1998, there have been more than 700 juvenile deaths triggered by hyperthermia, or heat stroke; more than 70% of these are under the age of two and two thirds under the age of 6. Here are some other statistics:

• Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2014: 31
• Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2013: 44
• Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2012: 33
• Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2011: 33
• Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2010: 49
• Child vehicular heat stroke deaths for 2009: 33

Parents running quick errands may think their cars will remain cool; but even on mild days, temperatures inside vehicles can rise to dangerous levels in just minutes. A young child’s core body temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult, causing permanent injury and even death.

The family car parked in the driveway can also be dangerous. Unlocked cars pose serious risks to children who are naturally curious and often lack fear. Once they crawl in, young children often don’t have the developmental capability to get out. About one-third of heat-related deaths occur when children crawl into unlocked cars while playing and become trapped.

Here are some tips on protecting your children:

•Never leave your child in an unattended car, even with the windows down, even for a few minutes. It takes just 10 minutes for the temperature in a car to go up 20 degrees. Cracking the windows or parking in the shade are not sufficient safeguards.
•Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination, particularly when loading and unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping infants.
•Make sure you check the temperature of the child safety seat surface and safety belt buckles before restraining your children in the car.
•Use a light covering to shade the seat of your parked car. Consider using windshield shades in front and back windows.

Trunk Entrapment:
•Teach children not to play in or around cars.
•Keep car keys out of reach and sight.
•Always lock car doors and trunks, especially when parked in the driveway or near the home.
•Keep the rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent kids from getting into the trunk from inside the car.
•Be wary of child-resistant locks. Teach older children how to disable the driver’s door locks if they unintentionally become entrapped in a motor vehicle.
•Contact your automobile dealership about getting your vehicle retrofitted with a trunk release mechanism.
•If your child gets locked inside a car, get him out and dial 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately.

Let’s make summer a fun and happy time with none of these tragedies of children being left unattended in parked cars.

Being Fair

As parents, we’ve all heard our children tell us, “That’s not fair!” So…

Do you try to make sure both pieces of cake are exactly the same size?

Do you count the Christmas and other gifts so each child gets the same amount?

Do you let your teen attend events that her friends attend even if you have misgivings?

If so, you’re attempting to be fair, and it won’t work. Here’s why.

1. You can cut the cake as evenly as possible, measure how full the glasses are, and count out the exact number of Easter goodies placed in each basket. Someone is likely to see it as unequal anyway.

2. It requires a lot of energy to even things out. Measuring, counting and comparing are a waste of time, effort, and energy.

3. By making sure that everything is fair, you set yourself up for regular complaints and verbal hassles.

4. Attempts to be fair contribute to sibling rivalry. “He got more than I did.” This pits child against child.

5. You are setting yourself up for manipulation. Children can use your desire to be fair to invite guilt and shame.

6. Treating each child equally does not meet the needs of the specific person. If one requires eyeglasses and another needs a special diet, do you give both children glasses and put each one on the same diet? Of course not. Different kids have different needs. Think equity, not equality.

7. Attempting to make things fair for your children helps them develop a dysfunctional life myth that everything in life should be fair. While most child development experts don’t advocate telling children, “Life isn’t fair,” they don’t advocate teaching them through your behaviors that life ought to be fair either.

8. To allow children to expect that everything should be fair sets them up for recurring frustration and disappointment.

9. Striving to be fair encourages feelings of entitlement in children. It contributes to their learning to expect to get what they want when they want it.

10. When your teen says, “It’s not fair. Everyone else gets to go. Why not me?”, the adult is required to do the thinking. You end up doing the thinking and the convincing. Say, “Convince me why you should go,” to require the child to do the thinking.

Next time you hear, “That’s not fair,” explain to your children that you’re not attempting to treat them equally. Tell them, “Different people have different needs.” Say, “I address needs. I don’t try to be fair or make things even. Tell me what you need, and we’ll talk about seeing if we can make it happen for you.”

This information was adapted from an article by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, two of the foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children.