Creating a Homework Haven at Home
August 25, 2016 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Creating a Homework Haven at Home

logoBy Dr. Colleen Carroll

Back-to-school season can be a distressing few weeks leading up to the first day in the classroom for so many kids. While some of the angst around this return to routine makes sense – after all, days get colder and shorter and we need to get back to tighter schedules and earlier bedtimes – there are also a few things we can do to ease this transition and actually make it an empowering time for kids.

Many kids dread, and even fear homework. Even the word can spark anxiety in some children (and parents!). This is understandable; as kids get older the homework gets harder and the time spent on it gets longer. However, you can be prepared in advance and lessen anxiety by creating a homework sanctuary of sorts for your child to feel safe, even empowered, as he gets his work done.

The following are my top 5 ways to empower your child at homework time:

  1. Create a homework haven in the house somewhere that’s bright, cheery, and full of all the items he needs to get his work done efficiently, with minimal distractions. Consider the kitchen to be close to a helpful parent, or a bedroom if noise can be a problem.
  2. Don’t let it be obvious that you dread this time too. Children pick up on your emotional state. Instead, be as positive as you can about this learning experience, even when things get tough.
  3. If your child is having a rough time on homework, let the teacher know. There is no reason to struggle for hours over a few problems when really the child just needs more instruction.
  4. Get the hardest subjects done first when she is less tired; trying to tackle the hardest at the end is never a good idea!
  5. Set up an afternoon routine to get homework done before other evening activities whenever possible so it isn’t hanging over your child’s head.

Kids crave routine; they (and most adults) do best when they know what’s coming next and they can be ready for it. By having a homework routine and a space that is comfortable and efficient, it probably won’t make homework fun but it will make it easier to accomplish and more organized for return to school the next day. This in turn will definitely lessen the anxiety around homework in general and allow your child to focus on some more pleasurable activities each evening, perhaps even a little reading.


Dr. Colleen Carroll works with parents of kids who struggle and hate to read by getting them off the Xbox and TV and onto books, fast. Her international tribe of Innovator parents testify that their kids are now saying, “Mom, I LOVE reading!” after just a few weeks of her techniques. 

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Don’t Overdo the Prep for Going Back To School
August 19, 2016 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments Off on Don’t Overdo the Prep for Going Back To School



Finding balance between acknowledging that a new grade begins in a months’ time and reveling in summer fun is hard to strike. Here are some ideas about how to do it:



  • Don’t talk about school everyday. Let your child be in the present, without the new school year hanging over their head.
  • Do answer any questions that come up, like, “Will so and so be in my class?” or “Will you stay with me at school”, honestly and simply. No long monologues.
  • Do go and walk by school the week before class begins. Point out landmarks, like the pet store, the deli etc. so you can look for them on the walk to school the first day.
  • Do get a little back pack or lunch box to bring on the first day.
  • Do expect stomach aches, difficulty falling asleep or grumpiness around the first days of school.
  • Do tell stories about your first days of school.
  • Don’t talk about the beginning of school with your peers and assume the kids can’t hear.
  • Do remember that a parent taking their child to school is one of the most important jobs. Try to adjust work schedules so one parent can do drop off at least a few days a week.
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Top 5 Ways To Keep Kids Active All Summer Long
July 20, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Top 5 Ways To Keep Kids Active All Summer Long


By Laura Young, Energetic Juniors Youth Fitness Trainer

Did the last day of school spring up on you out of nowhere!? Now the kids are home all day, and all they want to do is park themselves on the couch, watch TV, and play video games. Yet they still need to get the recommended daily exercise and experience those physical benefits. How can you get them excited to get moving without making it feel like gym class or a chore? The trick is to meet them on their level. Each child is unique and has their own interests, so we have to find activities that speak to them. Here are a few ideas for how to tap into their interests and get them moving!


  1. Check Out What’s Happening in Your Neighborhood! 


There are an infinite amount of sources out there on the web, but I highly recommend checking out sources such as and Both of these (and countless other sites) will update their calendars with local events and fitness-focused activities catered to kids. TimeOut will often list the best parks or local festivals taking place in your area. Playgrounds are an imaginative space for kids of all ages (yes, adults can be big kids, too); taking your child to the playground allows you to see their strength grow in the most natural of environments.


  1. Get Sports-Specific Personal Training for Kids and Teens!


Just because sports leagues for the school year have finished doesn’t mean your child should lay off training: pre-season conditioning and tryouts are just around the corner. By training for individual sports, they will come back in the fall stronger and better prepared, which coaches will certainly take notice of. Personal training for kids provides individual attention and can lead to seeing visible improvement faster. Kids’ trainers can give coaching tips and techniques to enhance their athletic performance and target their strengths and weakness. Sports-specific training is the most effective method of training for youth athletes. Companies such as Energetic Juniors match kids with seasoned youth trainers.


  1. Create a personal challenge!


The fitness industry is bursting at the seams with fitness challenges ranging from walking 10,000 steps a day, to drinking a gallon of water, to even yoga pose challenges. Discuss with your child what sort of challenges they would like to complete. It doesn’t have to be one found on Instagram, though that can be a great source of inspiration. Coming up with some on their own will make them feel more committed and likely to follow through with it. A good starting point may be steps challenges accomplished by long walks to a fun destination, basketball shots, making a list of different parks to explore in city, or even star jumps which can be done at home. The options are endless and with a challenge you can always find ways to top them!



  1. Discover Day Camp!


Perhaps because school is out, some of your child’s best friends are away at sleep-away camp or spending the break out of city, and they feel like they can’t have any fun without them. However, unlike adults who may find making new friends more of a challenge, kids more often than not will quickly find common ground with someone. Luckily we live in a vibrant city where there are plenty of day-camp options that have specialty focuses such as: Musical Theatre (, Tennis (, Tech ( and Cooking ( Find a day camp that speaks to their unique interests, and the exercise for your child will follow.


  1. Share Your Workout!


Some of my best memories as a kid were of early morning bike rides in the park with my dad. Not only were he and I getting in some solid exercise early in the day, but it was a chance for us to spend some quality time together. Your child will remember the time spent bonding and the example of a healthy lifestyle being set rather than thinking of the importance of exercise. As an added bonus you can check off your own thirty-minute cardio requirement for the day! The summer opens up numerous activities that might not otherwise be available year round depending upon where you live such as swimming, kayaking, and rowing. Even utilizing many of the current apps such as Map My Run can be a measuring tool that you and your child can use as visual inspiration. It doesn’t really matter what the activity is so long as you are doing it together.


When the summer comes to an end—and it always comes sooner than we imagine it will—, it is important that your kids have some impressionable memories to walk away with. The older kids get, the more distractions they have, and the more likely they are to begin to lose interest in physical activity; but those who’ve enjoyed exercise from a young age are more likely to stay active into adulthood (, 2016). It is recommended that children get at least one hour of physical activity a day. Kids do not need to go to the gym and target different muscle groups throughout the week like adults may do: they are naturally going to use their entire bodies and physical strength; so this is not say at the end of the day they can’t kick back and play some video games on the couch; it is summer vacation after all! So see what’s happening in your city, try new activities, and challenge them to discover what they’re capable of. This will be a summer they won’t forget.


For more fitness games or to learn more about Energetic Juniors, visit their website at:


By Laura Young, a certified ISSA Personal Trainer and ISSA Youth Trainer, and a registered yoga teacher from Atmananda Yoga in Manhattan.


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Understanding the Dangers of Social Media Apps
June 28, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Technology, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on Understanding the Dangers of Social Media Apps

By Hilary Smith

As our young girls and boys enter the tween and teen years, it is essential that we empower them with skills and strategies to safely navigate the digital world. It’s no secret that texting and social media have drastically changed the way our kids and society communicates. We need to try to stay a few steps ahead of our kids as they enter the world of social media.

Our little digital natives adapt to devices with relative ease, often mastering the technology before we can figure out the volume and power buttons. Social media is no exception. Today 71 percent of teens are already using more than one social media site and 70 percent of our children will take measures to hide their online activity.

Given this secrecy and the potential danger online we can help prepare our children for living in a digital environment by familiarizing ourselves with popular apps and the dangers associated with them.

Start with these 4 apps

Line. Line offers a wide range of services including voice chat and the ability to create short videos. Children like this app, because it has a lot of features that works across all types of devices. One area of concern is “Hidden Chats”, that allows users to send disappearing messages that automatically delete after being read. While this fleeting quality can promote authentic communication, it can be a playground for cyberbullying and other undesirable behaviors. This is a popular “anonymous” app that hides users’ identities while allowing them to ask and answer questions. At first glance, this app offers a unique way for people to interact. However, in recent years this site has been associated with multiple cyberbullying cases.

Tinder. This very adult dating app admits that 7 percent of the users on the site are between 13 and 17 years old! In the sites defense, they have created a teen section, using filters to sort users by age groups. Unfortunately, many children use false birthdates to register for social media apps that can inadvertently expose them to much older and experienced individuals who are looking for a good time.

Burn Note. This app strives to maintain a user’s privacy by using self-destructing messages and a spotlight feature that only allows a section of the message to be read at a time. Burn Note was created to protect users from prying eyes, screenshots, and forwarding messages making it difficult for parents to catch cyberbullying or inappropriate conduct if a child utilizes this app.

For a better detailed explanation of Burn Note, please check out this video produced from TeenSafe:


Hilary Smith has parlayed her love of technology and parenting into a freelance writing career. As a journalist, she specializes in covering the challenges of parenting in the digital age. She loves all things tech and hasn’t met a gadget that didn’t peek her interest. The Texas native currently resides in Chicago, IL and braves the winters with her two children, ages 4 and 7. 

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Putting an End to Summer Brain Drain
May 24, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens · Permalink · Comments Off on Putting an End to Summer Brain Drain

PrintBy Rose Howell, Academic Liaison at Thinking Caps

As the school year comes to a close, your child’s attention will turn to playdates, summer camp and the screens of his or her iPad, iPhone and TV. The mental stimulation provided at school inevitably takes a dive, leaving many parents wondering how to react. A study from Bell State University shows that Americans now spend more time on electronic devices than doing anything else, and kids are no exception. Further, we now know that excessive electronic usage causes memory loss and waning communication skills (eye contact, interaction), as well as weaker observational skills, language articulation and vocabulary. Too much screen time indoors also underlies health issues such as inadequate exercise, headaches, eye fatigue and tendonitis. Here are some realistic ways for you to combat “summer brain drain,” expand your child’s education and keep his or her body and mind active.

Harness your child’s natural curiosity:

  • Your child is still absorbing his or her surroundings like a sponge. If you move with the momentum of their natural curiosities, you’ll have more success keeping them engaged.
  • Find a special notebook for your child, and suggest that he or she writes down any questions, hopes or musings about a topic of interest. Then, carve out a day or two each week to go exploring within that theme. Take him or her to the library for books on the topic, a museum, or explore the haunts of that famous individual in the city. If your child often has questions about the world that you can’t answer, encourage him or her to write them down for future investigation.
  • Encourage them to learn more about a topic so they can tell everyone at dinner time what they learned. If your child is competitive, challenge him or her to learn 10 new things that day. Need an incentive? Have something scheduled at the end of the summer which he or she can attend if they promise to stay active.

Stay strong when it comes to screen time:

  • Of course, this is always easier said than done. However, you are the parent, and your children will thank you later if you’re able to nurture their relationship to reality over mind-numbing hours in front of a screen.
  • Treat gadgets like you treat dessert—they are not a given. Set limits for screen time by being honest with your child about the effects that this time is having on him or her. If your child refuses to give up the gadget, that time will come out of his or her allotted time for the next day.
  • Encourage your child to engage in imaginative play, exploration in nature and activities outdoors. There are hundreds of places around the city, as well as summer camps that encourage this kind of stimulation. Teach your child to plant flowers, go on a scavenger hunt or play capture-the-flag. Do not be fazed if your child claims he or she is bored—a healthy dose of boredom triggers new ideas. Electronics can rob children of the natural process of brainstorming, discovery and initiation.

Fight the academic slide:

  • Reading is one of the best ways to keep your child’s brain sharp. Go with your kids to a library or bookstore, and let them pick the books they want. If they don’t like to read, read out loud and leave off at a moment of suspense. Before you know it, they’ll begin picking up the book themselves. Also, try graphic novels—they still require the child to read, but provide accompanying visual stimulation. Books on tape are another good trick; any travel time can be an opportunity for learning.
  • Use a workbook series, like Summer Bridge Activities, created by Michele Van Leeuwen, mother of three. Such workbooks often contain exercises for reading, writing, arithmetic and language arts, which can be done in transition moments like breakfast, snack or winding down before bed.
  • Consider tutoring sessions. If your kid is behind or struggles in a certain area, summer is a great opportunity to seek support. At Thinking Caps, we match students with compatible tutors who provide individualized guidance and learning for school subjects, study skills/executive functioning, and test prep. Even one hour per week of support can make a huge difference come fall.

These strategies can provide your children with a fulfilling and substantive summer that will leave them refreshed and prepared for school. There’s no need to let summer brain drain take its toll—it’s time to fight back!

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Why are our Children Their Worst with Us?
March 24, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments Off on Why are our Children Their Worst with Us?


How many times has your mother-in law said, “She wasn’t like this with me!” Or your nanny comments that your son goes down for a nap like an angel with her. Or you go for a parent teacher conference and the description of the child, “first to clean up, so empathetic to other children, what a helper!” is not the child you know. Parents come in for consultation time and time again embarrassed to report that they are in a deep struggle with their child–but that it doesn’t seem to be going on with caregivers, teachers or with other adults.

This is because our children are at their worst with us! They are supposed to be. Parents are exactly the ones you want your child to be struggling with the most. You mean the most, you are the safest person in their lives, and you are the person that can most teach them lessons about life and relationships.

Why bother struggling with your nanny over nap time? It’s not her that you are fighting sleep to see. Why whine and throw a tantrum with grandma? She is probably giving in to your every whim. Why show your tiredness, worry or frustration in school? Show your mom or dad so they can help without you feeling embarrassed in front of your friends.

The next time the comment tinged with judgement comes, “He was a such doll until you came in!” You can proudly say, “I know, he really knows how to behave out in the world, but with me he can show all his feelings!”

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Your Mother as Grandmother
March 1, 2016 · Posted in Parenting · Permalink · Comments (2)

An excerpt from A Mother’s Circle.

With the birth of your baby there is a great shifting of the generations. Just as your transition to motherhood is a passage into a new life phase, so is your mother’s to grandmotherhood. After decades of being the mother, she must now move over, make room for you and rethink her self-concept.

She will also have to rethink her name. Your mother may choose a name to be called as a grandmother. But just as likely, your baby will one day invent the name that sticks. Part baby talk, part association, your mother’s official appellation may become MiMi, NaNa, GeeGee, Rummy, Nonna, Nonie, Nanny, Nanna, Grummy, Mumsie, Vavoa, Puggy, Grammy, Gramma Dot, or MaMa Ginny. Eventually you may call your own mother by her grandmother name.

Being a grandmother can be one of the most life-affirming and joyous periods in a woman’s life. But in this youth-obsessed culture, it can be a jarring reminder of aging. Your mother may already be having a hard time accepting that she is getting older. She may be in the throes of menopause. Or she may have mixed feelings about her landmark sixty-fifth birthday. She may simply not like the way “Grandma” sounds.

By the time she becomes a grandmother, a woman may feel no desire to undertake the nitty-gritty aspects of baby care again. She may feel liberated from those duties, or she may feel out of practice, unsure of herself. Many women report their mothers saying “I don’t have the patience anymore,” or “This is exhausting. I’ve forgotten how hard it is,” or “I like babies better when they’re older.”

A grandchild can stir up the past for the new grandmother as she relives old joys and feels again old regrets. For some women a grandchild elicits strong feelings of well-being, a sense of rebirth, new energy and a fresh focus for their love and affections. Others experience a preoccupation with mortality, sadness and a longing for a time when they were young mothers themselves. No matter how they present themselves, almost all carry inside of them the full range of these emotions.

As a grandmother, a woman walks something of an emotional tightrope. The new mother wants her own mother to be supportive and helpful but not intrusive or domineering; older and wiser and never dependent or needy herself; doting on and loving toward the baby but respectful of the mother’s primary role and authority; happy to pass on family stories, recipes and traditions, but not overwhelming in the role of family matriarch. A grandmother is supposed to be filled with joy at the sight of her grandchild, ready to sacrifice. But, just as the perfect mother is an impossibly tall order to fill, so is that of the perfect grandmother.

If you are in your twenties of thirties, your baby may have come at a time when your mother needs to care for her own parents. Or, if you came to motherhood in your late thirties or forties, your mother may be becoming dependent or needy herself. If this is the case, two powerful life passages will overlap for you—the aging and eventual loss of your parents and your early parenting years.

If your mother lives close enough to be involved on a regular basis with you and your baby, there will be more opportunities for a tangible sense of sharing as your baby grows. There will also be more chances for you to lock horns. A baby can trigger a grandmother’s maternal instincts and she may be unable to take a backstage role.
Sharing your baby with your mother can bring you closer, but a lot depends on how you feel about sharing with your mother to begin with. Competitive feelings are an ever-present, yet rarely acknowledged dynamic in the relationship between mother and daughter. If your mother has always assumed a certain ownership of your life, you may put up defenses when it comes to sharing your baby. If she was more removed as a mother, however, you may want her involvement now more than ever.

The choices you make about your baby’s care and the course of your family’s life affect your mother. She may marvel at your breastfeeding or try to undermine it. She may disapprove of your working or wish she had been able to do that herself. She may become closely involved with you and the grandchildren or she may not. You may be baffled by your mother’s behavior at times. It may be that your perspective as a daughter obscures the complete and complicated woman your mother is. Simultaneously, your mother may be so accustomed to relating to you in a motherly way, that she is not in the habit of explaining herself to you as a woman.

The way you and your mother relate to one another has been changing and shifting from the moment you were born. There have also been dramatic changes in our society’s expectations of women’s roles over the last thirty years. As such, motherhood may be the first truly common experience you and your mother have shared. Most new mothers gain insight into and empathy for their mothers, which they never had before. Almost all report new ways to relate with their mothers that hadn’t before been possible.

When a woman has a baby, there is often a shift in the balance of power between her and her mother. Many new mothers talk about their relationship with their mother in terms of “Before” and “After” the baby. Motherhood can be an equalizing experience, putting both women on common ground for the first time.
It may be as simple as your mother coming to where you live rather than you always traveling to her. Or, that you finally learn to ask her for help. Or that she finally feels comfortable giving it. Or that you are truly communicating for the first time in years. It may be a significant breakthrough in a long-standing stalemate of emotions.

As you reach out to your mother, or she to you, you may feel that you’ve come full circle. Boundaries created when you were younger, which may have once been vital to your emerging identity, may not seem quite as important anymore. The very fleeting quality of your baby’s infancy may inspire a sense of urgency about making amends. If your mother is still alive, you will have the opportunity for a while to be both child and parent. Like a boat gently dipping and rising, you will rock back and forth between being a mother and being a daughter, moving from the past into the present and imagining into the future.

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Healthy Shame and Toxic Shame
January 19, 2016 · Posted in Mental Health, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Healthy Shame and Toxic Shame

shame2There are two types of shame. Appropriate and toxic.

Shame is defined as:

1.     the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:
2.     susceptibility to this feeling

Healthy shame (or embarrassment) is necessary. It guides us. It corrects our behavior. After yelling at your child–“Wow, I really lost it. I am not the worst parent in the world but I don’t want to do that again!” After over eating–“I totally pigged out tonight, I feel crummy. I need to be more careful to stop eating when I feel full. ” Getting back a paper–“I hate that I got a C on this paper, next time I need to start on it a little earlier.”

Not excusing yourself from accountability but not trashing yourself.

Take toxic or unhealthy shame.  Everyone goes there sometimes. “I am the worst parent!” “I am a loser”, “I am so stupid”. What purpose does this serve? Absolutely none. Toxic shame is an exaggerated, negative and absolute place. It is self-flagellating. It is totally self-involved.  We are lost in an abyss of self loathing and we are not really available to those around us.

Terry Real, an expert on healthy relationships, uses the graphic above to plot toxic shame and grandiosity on a “y” axis.  This visual is a helpful way to conceptualize sinking into toxic shame. Remembering that it’s self-absorbed, or narcissistic, you can more easily yank yourself out and get back to a more grounded place.

When you go to that painful place, remind yourself– “I am in toxic shame, I am being mean to myself and it is also very self-absorbed. I’ve got to get to a more balanced place.” You will get better and better at staying grounded and teaching yourself and your children the difference between learning from mistakes and punishing yourself.

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Holidays: Sights, Smells and Tastes
December 17, 2015 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments Off on Holidays: Sights, Smells and Tastes


What people remember most about their holidays as kids are the lights, whether Christmas or Chanukah, the scents of pine or baking or potatoes frying and the wonderful assortment of tastes. Who really remebers what year you got your bike, or a doll, or board games or gameboy? It is wrapping paper and ribbons and rituals we remember. So, when planning your holidays focus on the senses and not on the gifts. Pass on traditions or invent new ones. Those are the memories in the making.

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Getting Unstuck
October 22, 2015 · Posted in Discipline, Parenting, Toddlerhood, Toilet Training · Permalink · Comments (2)

If you are squeamish about scatological concerns you can stop reading now. If, however, you can take on the tough topics of pee and poop, tushies and penises, read on:

At Soho Parenting our approach to toilet training is gradual, developmentally informed, and child-centered. We encourage parents to start this process somewhere between eighteen and twenty-four months. We suggest they buy a potty, let their toddler be naked and show them by example and clear instructions how this natural process works. Toddlers slowly learn to master this basic body function and have the opportunity to take ownership and pride in this new skill. We teach parents that only a small portion of toilet training is physiological. The lion share of toilet training is the emotional work of growing up and tolerating imperfection. Parents need to introduce the concept, provide the materials, give the support, but accept the inevitable ambivalence that young toddlers have about “letting go” in this way.

For many families, toilet training moves along in fits and starts but without too much difficulty.  Often though we meet parents whose children have come to an impasse in the whole process. Three, four and even five year olds can become embroiled in a long and grueling battle with their parents over using the potty. These children are often using the potty regularly to “pee” but are only “pooping” into a diaper. Having learned to hold their poop for days on end, these children seem to have decided that they just are not going to do it. Whether there has been too much pressure or not enough structure- a “window of readiness” seems to have passed. The child has dug their heels in and the parents have all but given up. They have tried bribes and threats and manipulation and even shame and nothing is working. Parents know that their child “can” do it and just “won’t “ and they often come to us with a mixture of worry and fury.

Catherine Lloyd Burns’ book “It Hit Me Like A Ton of Bricks” a memoir of a mother and daughter poignantly and hilariously  depicts this very struggle and  Burns attributes much of 3 year old Olive’s ultimate success to the advice form Soho Parenting.

“Olive and I are going to a gastroenterologist referred by her pediatrician. She has been taking five tablespoons of mineral oil a day for three months and she’s still constipated.  She can’t make a poopy for days at a time and then when she finally does, it is so enormous, it is no wonder she screams in pain.
 The doctor appears and says, “You must be Olive.”
“I are having trouble making a poopy,” she tells him. He ignores her and interrogates me: her diet, allergies, her delivery, when did the problem start, when was her last bowel movement. Olive wants to talk too, “Well, I drink mineroil,” she interjects, but he is not interested.
 “Is she toilet trained? He asks me instead .
“She uses the potty and she uses diapers.”
“She’s not toilet trained then?”
“She uses the potty and she uses diapers, I repeat. She is a little bit toilet trained.”………..
“There is nothing wrong with her. I want you to give her Senacot for two weeks, and she needs to be toilet trained.” I will never tell Dr Spillman any of this but Olive gets Swedish fish for pooping, period—in her diaper, in her bed, on the potty, anywhere- and she gets a present if she does it on the potty without her diaper. The candy is bad for her teeth and it isn’t really working anyway.

She hasn’t pooped for six days…It is time to pull out the big gun. Lisa Lillienfeld. She costs two hundred dollars but she is always right. (Those of you who know and love our own Lisa will know how happy this last line made her.) She tells me I have to potty train Olive.
“The longer kids go, the harder it is for them to do it. I think Olive needs you to help her get to the next level. Take away her diapers and make a weekend project out of it, stop with the presents, and just do it. Tell her you have complete confidence in her. I really think the whole thing will be resolved when she gets out of diapers.”
“I really do. I think she’s having trouble going there on her own so you have to help  her.”

That night, after her bath, I tell her that tomorrow we’re going to do a project. No diapers all day and we’re going to work on using the potty. She seems excited about the plan and even reports it to Adam like it is wonderful news. We cancel all of our plans for the weekend so we can stay inside and potty train.

In the morning I take off her wet diaper and when I don’t put on another one she freaks out. She starts kicking and screaming and climbs down and gets a diaper from the shelf and tries to put it on herself. She begs for a diaper.
 “Honey remember what we talked about last night? We’re not using a diaper today. You are going to use the potty whenever you need to make a pee or a poopy.”
“Nooooooo! I want my diaper. I want my diaper.”
“Lovey just for today, okay? We’ll see how it goes. We really think you are ready and can I tell you something?  I would never ever ask you to do something if I didn’t think you were ready.”
“No. I want a diaper. I want a diaper! I want a diaper! She is working herself up into a major lather.
“What are you afraid of, honey? You already use the potty sometimes, we’re just trying to get you to use it even more.”
Through her tears she says’ “ I’m not ready. I’m not ready!”
“Olive honey everyone thinks this is going to help with your poopy trouble and we’re going to try it and see how it works. I know you can do it. I promise you can do it.”
“No I can’t!” she cries. Finally she lets go of the diaper and she cries in my arms. After breakfast she announces she needs to pee and she does. She keeps telling us what happened, “I peed in the potty.” She is very proud. Then she needs to poop. So she does. And she poops five more times, in the potty, before the day is done. It’s done and she is cured. All they need is a little help. All I need is to act like I know how to help her. It’s a confidence game, a charade.”

Burns’  depiction of Olive and her mommy’s toilet training travails reminds us all of how hard, and ultimately, important it is to help our children when they get stuck, by firmly, confidently and lovingly and patiently leading the way to the next level. Children respond with relief and pride to having mastered something they had convinced themselves they couldn’t do.  Parents do too.

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