Boys will be boys – how do you bring out the BEST boy?

I am sure you have noticed, if your boy is a handful, that it isn’t helpful to focus on the negative: lecture and noticing misbehavior. Unfortunately, this is often parents’ and teachers’ automatic response.Boys WILL Be Boys - so HOW do you bring out the best? Amanda Deverich

But, what is “normal” boys’ characteristics:

  •  Physicality
  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggressiveness

These “boy” traits can be as assets in sports and were advantages during most of human evolution. Unfortunately, the expectations of most schools do not align with these natural boy characteristics. This can make school a frustrating experience for active boys who are frequently “in trouble” for behavior that doesn’t mesh with classroom expectations.

Boys’ auditory and cognitive processing differences can make the situation worse – when teachers and textbooks don’t target content and delivery to boys’ actual level of understanding, boys will tend to shut down – or act out. Is this YOUR boy?

There is hope. And he can be more successful – at home and at school, with a couple of simple changes:

    • Make a point of providing frequent opportunities for physical activity.

    • Boys need quality, one-on-one time with the father or other adult male.

    • Catch your son doing the right thing – look for even the smallest steps in the right direction and reinforce them with Descriptive Praise.

Master Parenting has a lecture / seminar about “Bringing Out The Best in Boys,” that can be brought to your church, mom’s group, MOPs group, or PTA meeting. I am also available for one-on-one coaching and even Family Counseling, if necessary (most issues can be improved with a simple coaching session for the parents through the simple techniques, I teach). Please contact me at 757-903-2406 for initial evaluation.

Have you found us, on Facebook, yet? Like us, here!

Amanda Deverich Positive ParentingAbout Amanda DeverichLMFT, NCC Marriage & Family Therapist and Professional Counselor 757-903-2406

Amanda draws upon formal counseling theory and education, on the job training and personal life experience.  She is skilled in structural family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Christian counseling. After earning her graduate degree from The College of William & Mary, she starting using the same methods that she was teaching her clients in her own home (for over 15 years!) – and parent after parent that she has worked with say the methods changed their lives. These methods WORK!

What should YOUR children be doing after school to be successful?

If you recall the article, “How Homework Could Flunk Your Marriage,” I have strong opinions about homework, free time, children’s responsibilities, how you can help your child become more responsible and do more things for themselves, pridefully. You’ll do this by using the techniques that I teach — in the proper order — and using Rewards and Consequences as a last resort. How does all this work, together, to make your child AND your marriage successful? Less stress. More boundaries.

We should all learn more about teaching children, successfully, by studying how Finland does it. This video really summed up some issues that I see in families that I work with all the time.

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Creating Happier Mealtimes with Picky or Sensory-Challenged Eaters

You have a vision as a parent of children that make healthy choices as they smile at you across the table – in reality, mealtimes are fraught with negotiating and arguing and always end in a huff. There is another way. Even a happier way.  How do you set the stage for happy and healthy mealtimes, at your home?

Master Parenting - creating happier mealtimes

First off, let’s assume what you are doing right now isn’t working. You beg and yell and they gag on the broccoli. They hoard goodies in their room or hold out for dessert. And you REALLY don’t enjoy your meal. Perhaps,  you are a short-order cook for your picky eater making them a separate meal. Oh, dear!

Second, let’s just assume that your child is special-needs, has a sensory issue or even comes from hard places and was adopted from an orphanage that taught them to hoard or stuff. For this article, let’s assume that your child is the worst-case scenario.

Third, let’s also assume your fantasy is what ALL parents want. And you should know that trust and ritual and closeness are built around the dinner table. Conversation and rituals around the table heal and create closeness that can happen at any age -for your toddler or your teen. Knowing that someone will feed you when you are hungry develops trust. Knowing that they love you and want to listen develops self-esteem. You trusting them to make good choices creates an independent eater. I know what you are thinking, “but I want them to eat broccoli and whole-grain bread!” This can happen when you are offering the “right” choices, but it won’t happen with badgering or nagging. In fact, the more you fight with your child about eating, the bigger the challenges it creates. In fact, they may stop listening to their body’s cues for being full or even what tastes good if it becomes too much of a fight. When you force feed them, it becomes harder for them to eat the right amount for health or to ever eat a variety. How to fix this battleground? Here are your tips to start having healthy eaters and happier mealtimes:

  1. Establish family meals, daily, if possible
  2. Serve reliable and routine snacks, every 2-4 hours. When children KNOW they will be fed, it helps heal anxiety (hoarding behaviors, included). And you serving regular meals and snacks vs grazing all day automatically creates healthier eating habits because you are giving the choices.
  3. Serve food family style. If you plate the food, they start negotiating. If they get to choose, they enjoy.
  4. Serve a variety of food in different ways. The best way to introduce many new foods is to make sure that each meal has a safe, familiar food. Offering different foods multiple times in a multiple ways. You may have heard that it takes 10 times of seeing a food to eat and enjoy it. But older children, or sensory-sensitive children, have to see a food many more times than that.
  5. Let them choose how much to eat. This is a source of frustration and concern for most parents because we want to control portions and have them eat “enough” and we want them to eat their broccoli. Still, let them choose.
  6. Serve foods according to their developmental stage. Smaller pieces. Separate ingredients. No noodle soup. Etc. Consider where the child has difficulties and avoid that food until the battle is gone, then introduce it, again.
  7. Reassure with verbally-comforting statements. “There will always be enough.” “You don’t have to eat if you don’t want to.”
  8. Lastly and most importantly  – smile and avoid the power struggles. It always backfires. You always lose and they always lose, too.

If you use these strategies with a lot of Descriptive Praise and Empathy for what they don’t like, mealtimes will start to become healthier and happier and YOU might start enjoying your meal, too.

Why is it so difficult to take care of you, when you have a challenging kid?

When children are often dysregulated and tantrum, often, you blame YOU. Others may blame you, too, and that judging takes its toll. And when we don’t know how to handle those dysregulated children well, we parents start to feel like we are yelling all the time. Then we start feeling anxious, overwhelmed and have trouble falling asleep. When you finally crawl into bed, exhausted, you re-experience your child’s aggressive behavior and words that they yelled at you and all the sordid details of how you handled it – or didn’t handle it. You start to feel as if you have changed. You want to make “sense” of your child’s words and deeds and feel helpless and overwhelmed at what to do. Here are some examples of what you might be feeling:

“Anxiety is in every corner of my life: sleep, family time, girl time, and one-on-one with my husband. I do a lot of crying.”

“Some days we start out in a great mood and then something sets my child off and then the rage begins. I don’t say “yes” to too many things because I am always fearful of another meltdown.”“I used to be a pretty relaxed, calm, confident mom prior to my second child. Now, I am easily overwhelmed and have trouble experiencing joy.”

“When my children arrive home…my anxiety increases.”

“When I have quiet time I’m literally replaying my words and feelings in my head.”

“My husband and I constantly bicker over who did what or why the tantrum happened. Our marriage is very fragile.”

“I feel like I am a shell of the happy woman that I once was – I have no ability to do more than routine, daily activities.”

Self Care - not an option.

When you are in this place, it can become increasingly difficult to maintain compassion and stay calm. Especially because you also feel guilty about not feeling compassion. Until after the fact. This causes you to shut down and withdraw. There is an answer to seemingly unending frustration. It starts with reaching out for support and ends with Self Care. You MUST take care of yourself. You must get sleep, laughter and plenty of hugs to be a good parent. Understand the nature of your symptoms: you need techniques for dealing with your children in a positive and firm manner, you need a support system and you need to take care of yourself. That last one? That might be the first thing to deal with. I challenge you to do more of that, this week. Let me know how it goes.

How do children become more self-reliant?

The more children are urged to eat the more the appetite is suppressed. The more you remind children to finish music practice, the more they whine. So, HOW do you get children to be more self reliant?Helping children become more self reliant

  1. you catch them doing it right – you catch them finishing music practice or you catch them eating their veggies
  2. you create routines. Routines help children make better choices. In general, routines reduce resistance. So, if the routine is to get a 1/2 hour of screen time after the music practice is done, and he never ever gets screen time, if he doesn’t finish music practice, a habit is created – especially if he REALLY wants the reward. Another routine might be about doing weekly chores. The children cannot go out for pizza night unless they work together to get the front lawn picked up and the vacuuming done.

How quickly the child becomes self-reliant depends on the child and his temperament. An Easy Going child falls into a new routine rather easily. But a child that has an Extreme Temperament will have a more difficult time. If your child is intense or impulsive, in general, even if they are very bright, they have more Inflexible Temperament. It will take more time with this kind of a child, but you just need to be consistent and lay on the Descriptive Praise a little thicker. It is important for you to realize that your child is not a bad child. He isn’t deliberately being impulsive or digging his heals in about routines. He needs you to help him learn the routine and wants you to notice him getting it. He wants to please you and you’ll notice when you do, he lights up with pleasure. Do more of that! The lighting up will help those routines become a habit.

So, in conclusion, you need your child to be able to cooperate and be self-reliant so that they can do things for themselves. Making clear rules and routines is the first step. If we need our children to be able to control their impulses, so that they can pay attention and follow the family’s rules, we need to take the time to help them learn and be cooperative about family routines. Cooperation follows Descriptive Praise. Routines follow Cooperation. Self-Reliance follows Routines.

How to Survive (and enjoy) the holidays with small children

Tough emotional moments happen during holidays – there is so much excitement and longer hours and lots of family visits and presents and surprises. The parents have greater expectations for their children in front of their family and finances can be stressed, during the holidays, so the parents might have a more difficult time being patient.

  • My first suggestion is to BREATH and remember the reason for the season and think about how you want your children to remember it. This will perhaps help you clear your plate and take time to enjoy the moments and not stress when your child loses it.
  • The second thing that you can do is to carve out Special Time with each child. It gives them a bubble of safe and comforting basking in the warmth of the parent’s attention and this can go a LONG way.
  • The third thing is to really try to take care of yourself, take a break and chat with a friend when you get frustrated. Especially during a stressful time like the holidays, you need to let some steam off and to focus on you and not the children or your ToDo list.
  • And…. when you’ve taken some time for yourself, cleared your schedule and given your child some extra attention, and your child just LOSES it, stay calm, make sure the child is safe, and listen. Listening helps. Reflective Listening (with genuine concern and interest). This means be empathetic. Don’t be logical with your child’s feelings.

If you have problems using the tools that I have been teaching you about, during the holidays, please schedule a call with me. I want you to feel “successful,” during this season – meaning that you handle the tantrums, move your child through his emotions without yelling, and still foster a loving relationship with your children.

Surviving your holiday starts with taking care of you

As always, I am here to help. I offer classes, groups seminars, on-line coaching and phone-coaching calls. My mission, as always, is to support YOU so that you can support your child – that is why I call it coaching.

Too Much Screen Time

Screen time is a huge problem, in most families. Hours a day in front of the television isn’t uncommon.  How you police your children about screen time? How do you get them to stop watching SO MUCH television, mindlessly surfing? How do you motivate them to watch less? This article is to help you create strategies for less screen time. 

  • Let’s first talk about what NOT to do. Stop harping about the television. Just think about what happens when you urge your child to eat more or eat more of that one thing. What happens? They stall and won’t. So what does work? When you notice that they DID eat the vegetable.
  • So, now what to do: 
  • Make a New Rule (the New Rule is that you have to do three things off your chore list to get 1/2 hour of Screen Time, for instance). Now that you have created a rule, how do you get them to take seriously?
  • You notice when they do the three chores without any whining or they turn the screen off right away when the 1/2 hour is up. You restate the rule at odd times (not when the TV is on or when they are doing the chores – but at more neutral times). You descriptively praise any step in the right direction. Descriptive Praise means that you notice and mention EXACTLY what they are doing right, even if it is only a LITTLE right. Like, that they repeated the rule to you. Or, that they stopped whining about not getting any TV before the chores are done. 

Turn off the TV with a new rule, Master Parenting

In conclusion, Screen Time has to be limited and earned. When they EARN television privileges, they are much more responsible and cooperative. How long should it take them to get used to the new rule and become more responsible? This takes weeks – not much more than that. Good luck! 


How do you get your child away from the screen if he is addicted?

Limiting Screen Time is becoming increasingly important – this means games, television and computers, too. There are easier ways to do this than just pulling the plug. How easy depends on what kind of temperament your child has. Do you expect drama around the television being turned off? Then make a new rule (not while he is watching it). Tell him that screen time will be limited to two shows a day that he chooses before he sits down and he cannot watch it until he feeds the dog, does his homework and takes out the recycle bin. This is obviously an example, but if you enforce it, you’ll get more chores done and your children will get out from behind the television. And when your children earn television, they are more likely to be cooperative and responsible.

  1. Do your children not eat their dinners, while the television is on? This is easy – no one should eat in front of the television as it makes mindless eaters out of us.
  2. Make sure that everyone that watches your children knows the New Rule, too. Even grandparents and babysitters.

Turn off the TV with a new rule, Master Parenting

If you police your children and the television, no one is going to enjoy it, least of all you. So, motivate your children to do other things to get to the screen. And motivation to do the right thing starts with Routines. Routines don’t take more than a few weeks to learn and accept. And that time can go much faster if you use a LOT of Descriptive Praise about how they are adjusting to the New Rule, remembering the New Rule, etc. etc.

Good Luck!


From CNN: Are we SPANKING the gray matter out of our kids?

Spanking the gray matter out of our kids

Master Parenting, Spanking the Grey Matter our of our Kid's Brains

By Sarah Kovac, of CNN

“The more you physically punish your children for their lack of self-control, the less they have,” Sarah Kovac says.

How to discipline the next generation is a hotly debated topic. In 2012, a national survey showed more than half of women and three-quarters of men in the United States believe a child sometimes needs a “good hard spanking.”

Science tells a different story. Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain — not only in an “I’m traumatized” kind of way but also in an “I literally have less gray matter in my brain” kind of way.

“Exposing children to HCP (harsh corporal punishment) may have detrimental effects on trajectories of brain development,” one 2009 study concluded.

Harsh corporal punishment in the study was defined as at least one spanking a month for more than three years, frequently done with objects such as a belt or paddle. Researchers found children who were regularly spanked had less gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex that have been linked to depression, addiction and other mental health disorders, the study authors say.

The researchers also found “significant correlations” between the amount of gray matter in these brain regions and the children’s performance on an IQ test.

Several other studies support these findings. A 2010 study published in Pediatrics found that frequent — more than twice in the previous month — spanking when a child was 3 was linked to an increased risk for higher levels of child aggression when the child was 5.

Another, from the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, found that corporal punishment doled out from the mother was independently related to a decrease in cognitive ability relative to other children. Corporal punishment had the largest effect on children 5 to 9.

Behind all this science-speak is the sobering fact that corporal punishment is damaging to children. That gray matter we’ve been spanking out of them? It’s the key to the brain’s ability to learn self-control.

“The more gray matter you have in the decision-making, thought-processing part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex), the better your ability to evaluate rewards and consequences,” write the authors of a 2011 study that appeared in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

The sad irony is that the more you physically punish your kids for their lack of self-control, the less they have. They learn how to be controlled by external forces (parents, teachers, bosses), but when the boss isn’t looking, then what?

Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has been studying corporal punishment for 15 years, and is known as the leading researcher on spanking in the United States today. Over the years, Gershoff has done a systematic review of the hundreds of studies on the effects of corporal punishment.

“There’s no study that I’ve ever done that’s found a positive consequence of spanking,” Gershoff said. “Most of us will stop what we’re doing if somebody hits us, but that doesn’t mean we’ve learned why somebody hit us, or what we should be doing instead, which is the real motive behind discipline.”

Initially it was believed that spanking, at the very least, was associated with immediate compliance in children, and that parental warmth would buffer any harmful effects.

But the finding that spanking produced compliance “was overly influenced by one study,” Gershoff said; it turns out spanking “doesn’t make your kids better behaved. You think it does. … It doesn’t.”

What is spanking associated with? Aggression. Delinquency. Mental health problems. And something called “hostile attribution bias,” which causes children, essentially, to expect people to be mean to them.

This bias makes the world feel especially hostile. In turn, children are on edge and ready to be hostile back. Over time, across cultures and ethnicities, the findings are consistent: Spanking is doing real, measurable damage to the brains of our children.

And yet in 19 states, Gershoff notes, it is still legal for schools to paddle children.

For those thinking, “I was spanked, and I turned out fine,” or, “I spank my kids and they’re great!” consider that you don’t know who you would be or how your children would behave in a world without spanking.

It could be that your children are thriving not because you spank, but in spite of it.


If you have tried everything…IS Spanking the Last Resort?

Most parents that I speak with feel regret, when they spank. They always feel that that there must be another method of discipline. I agree. And here is why:

Spanking doesn’t work. Oh, believe me, it will stop a kid in their tracks to hear the word “Spanking.” But, it is temporary. And it doesn’t teach children to control their behavior, internally (which is every parent’s goal). In fact, spanking may teach your child to fear you! Finally, and this is the worst news: spanking teaches children that it’s all right to hit, and that it’s all right to be hit. Is that what you want to teach your child?

Hitting isn’t a suitable means of solving problems. For children or parents. Here are other solutions.

  • Use a Time In – this is a time when there is little or no interaction from either of you – but the child stays in one spot.
  • Call a ReDo. Let the child do an instant replay – doing the activity the way that he was taught – using his words, for example.
  • Tell the child YOU need a Time Out – and go cool yourself down. Then come in and explain that you were really upset but you don’t want to hit or hurt your child, so you needed to take some deep breaths, count to ten and run some water to get yourself in a place to be able to use your words – remember: children learn what they SEE, not hear.
  • Use tons and tons of Descriptive Praise when your child does bits and pieces of what you want them to do more of. This goes much farther than a spanking. And if you are dealing with a specific misbehavior – make sure you catch them doing less of that (i.e. controlling themselves or being patient or taking turns, etc.).

Yelling, spanking, and time-outs create a child who operates out of fear of being punished, not out of an internal desire to do the right thing.

If you treat your children with love and respect on a regular basis, occasional yelling or a fit of anger will not harm (especially if you appologise, afterwards), but striking them might. If you are having difficulty figuring out how to follow through with Consequences without hitting, it is time to talk.

Book an Online Coaching Session, here.

Book a Family-Counseling Appointment, in Williamsburg, here.