Archive for the ‘Parenting or Step-Parenting’ Category

We are excited to announce the first free workshop for parents in a series we are offering in conjunction with the JCC of Greater New Haven.

Please mark your calendars to join us on

December 14 | 7 p.m. for Picky Eaters & Toilet Training

January 11 | 7 p.m. for Challenging Behaviors

February 8 | 7 p.m. for Structure & Routine at Home

Here is the flyer for more information.


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I would like to share information with readers and followers regarding the availability of two separate research studDocumentsies for children with autism and/or their parents. Participation in on-going research is important to help push the field along in our understanding of autism, behavioral challenges, and ways to support and/or intervene.

The first study is looking at ACT which is a behaviorally-based method of therapy. This study is for a student’s doctoral dissertation. ACT Parenting Workshop Flyer – Summer

The second study is being conducted by Rebecca Landa from Kennedy Kreiger.


Maybe I’ll blog about these studies when they are finally published!

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Will you marry usEarlier this week, when a 3rd grader asked me whose mother I was, I explained that I was actually a step mom. I went on to explain that the child in question was super lucky because she had a mom AND a step mom.

The little boy was so confused. He said, “but you have to marry her dad” and I confirmed. Confused even more, he said, “but you cannot marry her dad until her mommy dies!”

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Last week, I (Missy) shared information about the Congressional Hearings on autism and I questioned why the news media had not picked up on the story. Clearly, they had more important things to talk about:

  • Lindsey Lohan getting arrested again
  • The lucky winners of the Powerball

Clearly, relying on television news media is not the best

Image representing Google Alerts as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

way to keep current on all things autism. For those of you who want to be in the know but who lack endless hours in front of the computer, I will share a few of my tricks with you.

RSS Feeds

One way to keep current, is to find your favorite webpages and set up RSS feeds so that you are alerted each time there is a change. I like to set up my RSS feeds right in my Outlook calendar so they appear like emails. You can also use Google to help you.

Google Alerts

I have several Google alerts set up including alerts for autism and applied behavior analysis. This is super easy! Visit this website and enter the term or terms that you are interested in. You will then receive alerts when those news items appear. Please note that you can set up weekly alerts and daily alerts and so forth.

Twitter Feeds

Several Twitter programs are available to assist you with information on Twitter. I tend to lean towards TweetDeck. I can set up columns on topics such as Step Parenting, Parenting, Autism, and behavior analysis. Within those columns I can read the twitter feed on that topic. You can also set up lists so that you organize your Tweeps by topic or content. I have a list on autism, GFCF, and behavior analysts. I have also written more in depth on Twitter and you can read about that here.

So, don’t feel overwhelmed as you try to keep up with the latest on your favorite topic. Many resources are available at your fingertips!

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Many children in the New England area are happy today because schools are cancelled again. Teachers realize that we will be in school until the end of June. And what are parents left to do?

Here are some tips for entertaining your children so that you can work, clean, cook, do laundry, or any one of the other 99 things on your to-do list.


Anyone who has been following this blog for a while has learned that organization is the key to success.

Get out your whiteboard and markers and make a list of things the children should do before they get to play. Some common chores in our house include:

  • making the bed
  • preparing breakfast
  • cleaning up after breakfast
  • getting dressed

School Work

Yes, school is out but students still need to read every day. If your child is struggling in an area (e.g., math or spelling), then ask your child to complete some extra work in that area. We have written about some great spelling and math games previously. In addition to the chores above, children in our house will find the following:

  • read
  • math
  • spelling
  • clean out your backpack
  • finish your Veteran’s Day Project

Play Time

Once all the chores and school work have been completed, then it’s time for fun. Your children may need some direction or assistance in this area depending on their ages. We prefer to pick games the children can play on their own so that we can get our work done.

  • Wii (we prefer Wii Fit to keep kids moving)
  • Board Games (Yahtzee, Monopoly, Clue)
  • Card Games (Uno, GoldFish)
  • Art (our kids made “fall” cards for their grandmother in Florida including some hurricane thrown leaves)

Play Date

Once your kids have entertained themselves for the morning (and kept themselves out of trouble), then you can arrange for their friends to come over and play. While it may not seem like such a good idea to add more children to the mix, when children have friends around, they are more likely to play and stay out of your hair. If you have a friend for each child, even better.

Hopefully power will be restored soon and all of you can return to your regular routines. In the meantime, try to get as much done as you can while your kids are home.

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Hi! and welcome to What Works Wednesdays where we share a success story from our clinical files. Today’s success story is personal.

If you are a parent, step-parent, nanny, or in-home behavior support person, you know full-well, how difficult the early morning routine can be. I (Missy) have always been an early morning person. Back before I acquired my new status (Bonus Mom), I often arose before 5am to get in my workout before showering and heading to a local coffee shop to write. Oh those were the days……..Oh, sorry! I lost track of my purpose. I started dreaming of Austin and those stress-free mornings.

Now it’s all different. I often wake as early as 5am so that I can write, answer emails, bill for services, grade quizzes for class, and a host of other morning duties. That is all done before the kids get up. We let the kids sleep until they wake up naturally. There are advantages of this (less crabby) and disadvantages (crazy mornings). However, we follow a few simple steps to make sure that our mornings are successful regardless of the waking hour.

Start the Night Before

Yes, I know that after school is just as hectic as before school. However, if you take a few steps the night before, stress the next day is eliminated.

 Lay Out Clothes

Have the kids pick out the clothes for the next day before they go to sleep. This prevents tantrums over what to wear and dilly dallying about finding matching outfits. We require this step to be completed before the kids have night time television. If the clothes are new (or from last year), consider having the child try the clothes on to ensure a proper fit.

Identify breakfast foods

Yes, we plan ahead. We have learned that if we identify the food for breakfast, we have less junk behavior leading up to and during breakfast. And no, we don’t allow changes to the menu (unless we have a serious issue such as the molded cream cheese we had this morning).

Pack lunches

Ok, we totally get that we are over-achievers. But seriously, if the lunch is packed the night before, we have less to do in the morning.  We ask the kids to decide if they are eating school lunch (totally over-fat and over processed) or lunch from home. From there, we ask them to pick their protein, fruit, vegetable, and starch. Our kids get at least one snack in school so we have them pick those as well. If we have time, we have the kids make their own lunch. This is not always feasible given the afternoon and evening schedules.

To bed! ON TIME

We have done this without fail since I moved in to this step-mothering role. In fact, Norm engaged in this practice long before me. But honestly, if I hadn’t read Ado’s blog, I probably would have left this one off the list because it is so engrained in our lives.


The Morning

Wake up naturally

Again, there are advantages and disadvantages to this. If we see that the kids are sleeping too long, we will begin to make natural noise (e.g., walking around, talking more loudly, etc).

Work Before Play

My other half likes to allow the kids to wake up slowly by vegging in front of the television. He keeps a strict rule of TV off at 7:30. This goes against the laws of behavior. You see, children will work faster to earn a reinforcer. So, my rule is TV does not go on until breakfast is eaten, teeth are brushed, beds are made, and children are fully clothed. Then I reward all of that hard work with TV time. The beauty here is that the faster the children get ready, the more TV time they earn.

Backpacks Ready

We like to make the children be responsible. How else will they learn to take care of themselves? So, they have to put their lunches and fluids in to their backpacks. Homework folders, permission forms, and the like must also go in the back pack. Again, we prefer to do this the night before but it is good to walk the kids through the process of remembering everything before they leave.

Bus or Drop Off

Our school requests that children ride the bus. First, this is more green. Second, it cuts down on traffic at the school. Finally, the bus comes about 20 minutes before drop-off time. I need all the time I can get. So, I institute another rule: if you miss the bus, no TV time after homework.

How do you get through the morning routine? Do you start the night before like we do? Do you have anything to add to our strategies?


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In case you don’t know, I (Missy) have started my book. Sadly, I needed almost 2 years after quitting my day job to actually get around to starting the writing process. But, I’m happy to report that my book idea is now my WIP (or Work in Progress for those of you who are non-writers).

As many writers do, I frequently jot down book topics when I am distracted and begin daydreaming about other areas of interest. My WIP is actually one of those random  topics rather than the topic I thought my book would be about (behavioral feeding therapy).

In preparation for this WIP, I have had to do some reading–a lot of reading. The topic (step-parenting) is somewhat completely outside of my area of expertise so I started studying. I went to Amazon and ordered several books that have become favorites for me. Ultimately, those books will be resources that I will reference in my book.

Step-Mothers and Their Step-Monster Behavior

One such resource was Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real StepMothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do. Wednesday Martin authored the book. She also has a blog if you want to check out some of her other writing.

Is Step-Monster Behavior Fueled by Jealousy?

In the introduction section of her book, Wednesday describes some of the horrible emotions that she felt about her new step-daughters in the early stages of her relationship with their father. One point she mentioned included the notion that step-daughters and step-mothers are all fighting for the attention of the same man.

Children Need Boundaries

I recall the first few years months of my relationship with my Bonus Daughters’ Dad. Sure enough, the girls fought for Daddy’s attention and they exhibited numerous jealousy behaviors directed straight at me (e.g., sitting between their father and me during dinner). However, I think that instead of fighting for attention and love, the girls were actually looking for boundaries.

You see the lines between parents and children can become cloudy if we are not careful. Do we let the children sleep with us? shower with us? wear our clothes? drink our beverages? and on and on. If parents fail to establish appropriate boundaries for their children, children will become confused and start to believe that they are adults with adult responsibilities.

Establishing Boundaries

Establishing boundaries with children is not an easy thing to do as it requires parents to say “no” or deny their children something they want. To read more about the importance of saying no, read one of our posts on the topic.

  • Boundaries should be established early in life.
  • Boundaries change based on the child’s age and family culture.
  • Boundaries teach…..boundaries.

Examples of Appropriate Boundaries

I see failed boundary setting on a regular basis in my own life and in those of people around me. However, before you take offense to any of these appropriate boundary suggestions, remember that cultural differences influence boundary appropriateness. Additionally, age really matters. For example, it is perfectly appropriate for an 8 month old to open mommy’s shirt in order to reach her breast and begin feeding. The same behavior would not be appropriate for an 18 year old and his/her mother.

  • Co-sleeping
  • Touching private body parts
  • Children eating parent’s food from parent’s plate
  • Children consuming adult beverages (e.g., coffee, alcohol)
  • Bedtimes (have one and stick to it)
  • Sharing adult gossip and adult conversations
  • Inappropriate friendships between parent and child
  • Family decision-making process (e.g., where to eat, what activities to do)

Readers, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think daughters are jealous of their step-monsters mothers or do you think the children are really asking for boundaries?


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