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Battles Over Homework: Advice For Parents

Guidelines for helping children develop self-discipline with their homework For this back-to-school season, I would like to offer some advice about one of the most frequent problems presented to me in over 30 years of clinical practice: battles over homework. I have half-jokingly told many parents that if the schools of New York State no longer required…

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Empathy Is Not Indulgence

Empathy helps children bounce back In previous posts, I have emphasized the importance of parents’ responsiveness to their children’s emotions – children’s positive emotions of interest and pride as well as their painful feelings of sadness, anger, and shame. In recent years, some parent advisors have argued that we now pay too much attention to our children’s feelings. The critics believe…

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Solving Common Family Problems: Five Essential Steps

  In every family, there will be problems. Often, there is a recurring problem. The problem may be getting ready for school in the morning or going to sleep at night. Or doing homework, or fighting with siblings. Children may be demanding or disrespectful, or refuse to cooperate when asked. Over time, these common problems of daily living begin…

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Emotion, interest, and motivation in children

When talking about children’s emotions, it is difficult to avoid saying things that are not already commonly known, or even common sense. Recent advances in the psychology and neuroscience of emotions, however, now offer us a new understanding of the nature of emotion. In childhood and throughout life, our emotions guide our thoughts and our…

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Understanding Children’s Emotions: Pride and Shame

Children need to know that we are proud of them. Discussions of children’s motivations and behavior too often overlook the importance of feelings of pride and shame. A child’s need to feel proud, and to avoid feelings of shame, is a fundamental motivation, and remains fundamental, throughout her life. It would be difficult to overestimate the importance…

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He's Not Motivated Part II

How we can strengthen our children’s effort and motivation to learn. Last week, I discussed the problem of a child’s lack of motivation and effort. In today’s post, I will offer five principles for helping children with this common, but often difficult, problem. When parents ask, “Why isn’t he motivated? Why doesn’t he care?” the answer is almost always,…

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He’s Not Motivated Part I

  As a child therapist, I am often told, “He’s not motivated. All he wants to do is watch television or play video games.” Parents urgently ask, “Why doesn’t he put more effort into his schoolwork? Why doesn’t he care?” Many parents believe that their child is “lazy.” The answer to these questions is almost always, “Because…

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Are Our Children Overpraised?

Children need praise. We all do. It has become common in recent years for parents to be warned about the dangers of praise. We are told that frequent praise, although intended to bolster a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem, may instead create increased anxiety and ultimately undermine her initiative and confidence. Many parent advisors are especially concerned, even appalled,…

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"Why Does Johnny Continue to Act This Way?"

Helping children regulate their emotions. Parents often ask, “Why does he continue to act this way—to tease or hit his sister, to refuse to do his homework or clean up his room, to lie when we know that he is lying and he knows that he will be punished?” Many parents (and some child therapists) assume that, in…

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