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How Can We Help Children Bounce Back?

All children, even the most fortunate, suffer emotional injuries. At home, in school and on the playground, all children experience disappointment, frustration and failure; criticism and disapproval; and exclusion by peers. All children experience moments when they feel discouraged and alone, even unloved. Many of these experiences (especially when kids are bullied or have difficulty…

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How to Get Your Child to Talk to You

“How was school today?” “Good.” “What did you do?” “Stuff.” Why don’t children want to talk with us about their bad feelings? Why are they so often defensive and uncommunicative, unwilling to even report mundane events of the day? Why do they so often tell us, when we clearly know otherwise, that “everything is fine”? Why…

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How Can We Help Children Become “Upstanders” to Bullying and Cruelty

Emily Bazelon’s Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy is a remarkably thoughtful and balanced study of the problem of bullying. Bazelon presents sensitive, insightful portraits of both bullies and victims, and the complex circumstances of their lives. In the course of telling the stories of…

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In Defense of Parents: A Child Therapist's Dissent

Perhaps it has always been this way, but recently it seems that parents are under attack. The criticisms come from all sides. We are over-involved or overly permissive. We fail to teach traditions and values. We over-diagnose, over-medicate, and over-accommodate our kids, often to excuse our own poor parenting. Especially, the critics believe, our children…

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Positiveness Part II: Encouragement, Appreciation, and Pride

Listen for the “beautiful sound” and the helpful moment. Last month, I discussed ways that parents can strengthen positive feelings in their relationships with their children. In today’s post, I will offer additional recommendations for how we can maintain an attitude of “positiveness,” even when we are frustrated by children’s challenging behaviors. • Encouragement In her book,…

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Nurturing a Spirit of Caring and Generosity in Children

How can we nurture a child’s feelings of empathy and concern for others? At this holiday season, I would like to offer a few thoughts on how we can help nurture in our children a spirit of generosity and concern for others. I cannot write this post, however, without first expressing my deepest condolences to the families…

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Positiveness, Part I: Strengthening Family Relationships

How to engage children’s interests and support their strengths. Most parents would agree that children are likely to thrive in a family atmosphere of “positiveness” – when parents are able to be supportive and encouraging, and nurture in their children positive expectations for their futures. (1) In the daily life of many families, however, positiveness has been eroded.…

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Helping Children Succeed

Principles of positive character development in children Paul Tough has written an excellent book on the importance of character to children’s academic success (How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012). Tough documents the devastating effects of adverse childhood experiences on children’s ability to cope with stress, and he reports on recent educational programs…

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Winning and Losing

Helping children learn to accept defeat gracefully In this week’s post, I would like to share some thoughts on an important aspect of children’s emotional development and a source of distress in many parent-child relationships – winning and losing at games. Everyone who plays games with children quickly learns a first lesson: how important it…

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