Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

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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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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Here at Applied Behavioral Strategies, our mission is to improve the quality of life through effective intervention. One way we hope to do that is by reviewing research articles for our readers. Today’s article is titled, “Meta-analysis of Grade Retention Research:Implications for Practice in the 21st Century”. Shane Jimerson authored the article and School Psychology Review published it in 2001 (Volume 30, No. 3 pages 420-437). You may read the entire article yourself here.

Purpose of the Study

Researchers have been studying grade retention for many years. However, recently, the quality of studies has improved (e.g., more rigorous experimental designs, comparison groups). So, the purpose of the study was to review all the studies on grade retention between 1990 and 1999. The author completed a meta-analysis of the studies to better inform educators and parents about the effects of grade retention.

Research Questions

The author asked a number of research questions including:

(a) In what grade were the students retained and at what age/grade were the outcomes examined?

(b) What were the academic achievement outcomes of retained children versus promoted children?

(c) What were the social-emotional and behavioral outcomes of retained students versus promoted children?

Methodology (How the Study was Completed)

The author searched for research studies on the effects and outcomes of grade retention. Over 400 studies were found. The author identified studies that met the following inclusionary criteria:

(a) research must have been presented in a professional publication;

(b) study results must have addressed the efficacy of grade retention (i.e., achievement, social-emotional, or other);

(c) study must have included a comparison group of promoted students;

(d) research must have been published between 1990 and 1999

Twenty studies met the criteria and were analyzed for the meta-analysis.

The author and two research assistants coded the studies. Meta analyses were completed using the effect sizes reported by study authors. For our readers with little experience and training in research, this means that the author and research assistants read the previously published studies and entered information into a spreadsheet. They also took the results from the previous studies and combined them with all the other study results to get an average outcome across studies.


Groups Studied

The retained students and the promoted students were matched on several variables including academic achievement, IQ, gender, SES, and social-emotional adjustment). Essentially, all the studies made sure that both groups were equal except for one variable: retention or promotion.

Grade of Retention and Grade of Outcome

The majority of the studies (N=14 out of 20) included students that were retained in kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade. The remaining six studies included students retained K through 8th grade. Many studies (14 out of 20) reported outcomes over a series of years. Only 6 studies reported outcomes in just one year.

Academic Outcomes

All of the data from the 20 studies resulted in 175 different academic outcomes for students. Of those 175 outcomes, only 9 favored retained students while 82 outcomes favored promoted students. 84 outcomes showed no difference between retained and promoted students.

More specifically, the promoted group of students performed higher than retained students in areas of language arts, reading, math, composite scores, and grade point average.

Social-Emotional Adjustment

All of the data from the 16 studies that examined social-emotional adjustment resulted in 148 outcomes. Of those, 8 favored the retained students and 13 favored the promoted students. 127 of those showed no differences between groups.

Author Recommendations

The authors of the 20 studies favored either retention or promotion and these results were analyzed. Authors from 4 studies recommended grade retention while authors from 16 studies recommended against grade retention.

Authors from the 4 studies recommending retention emphasized that remedial strategies in addition to grade retention is necessary. Grade retention alone is not enough.


The author of the meta analysis concludes with a few recommendations for educators and school psychologists.

  1. First, he stressed the importance of utilizing remedial strategies to support children who are struggling.
  2. Second, he encouraged educators and educational researchers to study the long-term effects of grade retention, particularly in light of other research linking grade retention to higher rates of high school drop out.
  3. Third, he encouraged school psychologists to explore educational alternatives and to disseminate research to parents and teachers to that teams make informed decisions regarding grade retention.
  4. Finally, he recommended that educators consider using interventions that have been proven effective through special education research. These include: mnemonic strategies, enhancing reading comprehension, behavior modification, direct instruction, cognitive behavior modification, formative evaluation, and early intervention.

What are things that you considered when deciding to retain or promote your child? Teachers, behavior analysts, what variables did you consider? What interventions did you try first?

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If you have stopped by because the title sounded enticing and you were really looking forward to some hearty discussion about evidence-based practices, you will have to come back another day. You know as readers that we are die-hard evidence-based girls. None the less, today’s topic is actually about parental responsibility of keeping teachers up to date on family matters.

Besides us, as parents, teachers spend more time with our children than any other person in our children’s life. Wow. That is a lot of time. Because of this, teachers may be the first to notice subtle changes in our children’s behaviors, emotions, learning, and friendships.

We, as parents, need to keep teachers informed about events in our children’s lives that may impact their performance at school. We are not suggesting that you air your dirty laundry with your child’s teacher. Instead, we are suggesting that you keep her apprised of serious events.

As adults, we process information differently than children. We have a series of life events, education, and experiences that have formed the way we process information. What may seem like an everyday activity, may be a source of stress for a young child who is still figuring out the world. Factor in hormonal changes that occur with adolescence and your child could have a serious case of the blues at school.

Serious Illness in the Family or Friendship Circle

Illnesses such as cancer are scary for all of us but it is especially scary for children. If you have a friend or family member who is fighting cancer, your child may fear that he/she will catch it. They may begin thinking about death and have questions about the future. Hopefully, you have held those discussions at home. Either way, your child is probably thinking about it.

Change of Living Conditions

As parents, we are good about telling school staff when we move. However, what if the conditions in the home change? What if a relative is moving in for an extended period of time due to a loss of a job? What if the children changed rooms? What if a parent is out of the home to go care for a sick family member? All of these things sound simple for us as adults, but children may not handle the change so easily.

Loss of a Relative

The loss of a cousin, great-aunt, or other distant relative may not result in a cross-country trip to the funeral. Thus, your child’s teacher is most likely unaware of the incident. However, your child is. With the invention of cell phones, many of us have adult conversations all day long when our children are within an earshot of us. They know when these events happen, even if we don’t directly share the information with them.

Loss of a Pet

You know that goldfish that you have been secretly wishing would die? Well even though your child hasn’t fed it, spoken to it, or even looked at it in months, she will fall apart when it’s gone. Endearment for pets is not just limited to living pets. Some children form close bonds with stuffed animals. If one gets a “boo-boo”, it could cause stress for your little one.

New Pregnancy

We get that you were not planning a pregnancy or that you don’t want the world to know until it is a safer time. However, your little one has probably already picked up on the vibes or even overheard conversations. Nothing is more confusing for children than the age-old question “where do babies come from?” So, while you may want to keep it a secret, it is probably best that your child’s teacher know that you are pregnant. That is far better than her assuming that you are “sick” from too many cocktails the previous night.

Pending Divorce or Separation

No parent wants the neighborhood that things on the home front have fallen apart. However, your child’s teacher needs to know that a separation or divorce is on the horizon. Your child may handle the news when you present it but she may show her feelings differently at school.

These topics are just a few of the things you should share with your child’s teacher. School staff, including your child’s teacher, have received training on how to handle confidential information. Privacy laws prevent your family’s issues from becoming fodder for school gossip. Additionally, schools have a number of different staff available who can assist your child in times of need (e.g., school psychologist, school social worker, and school counselor). However, these trained personnel cannot help if they do not know.

Thus, be sure to keep your child’s teacher in the know so he/she can help your child adjust to life events.

This post will be linked up over at Yeah Write. Go check out all the other posts that have linked up.

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about their child’s behavior.Today’s question comes from Karen who asks,

“My son with autism is in 2nd grade and struggling with academics along with his social challenges. I am wondering if we should hold him back and keep him in 2nd grade next year. What are the things we should consider to help us with this decision?”

All parents ask this question from time to time–regardless of whether their child has a disability. Some parents hold children back so they will be older when they graduate. Others hold their children back so they will have a greater likelihood of excelling in sports. So, the good news is that you are not alone in thinking about this.

I think there are several issues to consider. Personally, I am opposed to holding a child back once they start school. Thus, if you intentionally start them a year later than their similar aged peers, I don’t believe the consequences are as severe as when you hold a child back once they have started school.

Peer Relationships are Formed

Children begin forming their peer groups on the first day of school. Yes, children begin forming relationships as early as preschool. Friendships formed at that age, can potentially last a lifetime. Once your child develops relationships, it will be detrimental to him/her to lose those relationships. Sometimes the mere separation from teacher to teacher can be enough to interfere with friendships. However, if the children remain in the same grade with different teachers, they will continue to share lunch time, recess, and some specials.

Holding your child back to repeat a grade separates him/her from friends. They must learn to fit in with social groups that have already been formed. They must eat lunch and play outside with a whole new crop of friends. If your child has issues socially, this could be an even more difficult time for him/her.

Child’s Self-Esteem

A child’s self-esteem may take a blow when they are asked to repeat a grade. Children know when their friends move on. Children know when they have to say “I’m in first grade again”. Even if you think your child is unaware, chances are he/she is fully aware, she just may lack the verbal skills to tell you.

Fitting In Size Wise

Depending on the month of your child’s birthday, when you first enrolled him/her in school, and general family genetics, your child’s height and weight (and subsequent puberty) may be an issue if you choose to hold them back. For example, if your child holds an August birthday and you choose to start 1st grade at age 7 rather than age 6 but then a couple of years later, your child repeats a grade, your child is now almost 2 years older than her classmates. Your child could be hitting puberty much sooner than her peers and she could be the victim of negative social attention for it. Moreover, the last thing you want is for your daughter to be the tallest girl in the grade (unless of course Basketball is in her future).

Research Shows Retention is Ineffective

A number of studies have been conducted on the long-term effects of grade retention, including social effects as well as academic effects. The research shows that grade retention does not result in the intended outcomes. In fact, some negative long-term effects include a greater risk of high school drop out as well as poor academic achievement.

Children Know and Remember

Finally, your child’s peers will know and remember that your child was held back. They will carry it with them over the years, “Oh yes, that’s Suzie, she was in 2nd grade with me and she had to repeat 2nd grade”. Children have so many other issues to over come, it seems odd that we would purposefully add another source of stress for them.


Here are some other resources you may find helpful:

Center for Development and Learning

National Association for School Psychologists (NASP)

A second post by NASP

Weigh In

I would love to hear from our readers on this one. Have you held your child back? How did it go or how is it going? Did your friends? Teachers and behavior analysts, what have your experiences been?

If you have a behavior question for Missy, email askmissy at applied behavioral strategies dot com.

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about behavior. Today’s question comes from a list serve on which I participate. The list serve is reserved to parents and guardians of individuals on the autism spectrum. The question actually came about because a reader posted a link to a great story about an adult with disabilities and the lack of resources available for adults once they age out of the school system. You can read the article here.

When people read the article, they became alarmed as they thought about “what would happen to their child with disabilities if/when something happened to them”, the parents/guardians. The sad reality is that our systems are not currently set up to properly care for our loved ones. I know this first hand, as my brother has been in the adult system for 13 years now.

  • housing choices are limited
  • 24-hour staffing is expensive
  • community support staff are underpaid
  • community support staff lack training
  • funds do not exist within state budgets to care for all of those individuals who are going to enter the adult services system

So, what will happen to your loved one when you are gone? I will tell you what we have experienced first-hand: Abuse and Neglect. My brother experienced both of these and I am still around to advocate on his behalf. I never go more than 2 weeks without seeing him. Yet, he still suffered from abuse (broken bones) and neglect (malnutrition and dehydration) on more than one occasion. The details of those stories are for another day (and I book that I am working on). So what do I advise you to do? Start. Planning. NOW.


  1. Follow all the steps to make sure that you have appropriate guardianship/conservatorship as soon as your loved one turns 18.
  2. Make sure that you have a guardian lined up who will take over the duties when you are gone. It will be best to have someone who can start sharing some responsibility now so that the change will not be such a shock.
  3. Guardianship, at this time, does not transfer across states. We learned the hard way. If you are planning on relocating to another state, find out what steps are necessary and get it taken care of as soon as you have relocated.


  1. It is not normal for your loved one to live with you beyond age 18. Begin searching for appropriate housing options. It can take years to find the right place.
  2. A variety of housing options exist. Choose one that is right for you and your loved one.
  3. You will find it important for your loved one to live near you. Frequent and unplanned visitations are important

Adult Services

  1. Most states have long waiting lists for adults with disabilities. My brother waited for 9 years in Texas before receiving appropriate services. Get on the list today. If you do nothing else for your loved one, register them with the state today.
  2. Be honest about what your loved one needs. We all want to find the positives in our loved ones. However, your loved one will get more services based on his/her deficits. Do not sing his/her praises during the evaluation. Be honest about all the things and types of supports your loved one needs.

Adaptive and Self-Help Skills

  1. Begin teaching your child how to be as independent as possible.
  2. Make sure that the IEP focuses on functional skills. Remember, functional skills are those skills that if an individual cannot do the skill himself, someone else must do it for him.
  3. Refrain from doing things for your loved one. Instead, help them do things. Just last night my brother helped start the fire. He brought the wood in and he opened the glass doors for the fireplace. Every little step counts.

This is a scary and thought-provoking post. I assure you, it is better to think about it now while you are still healthy and able to plan and prepare. We would love to hear from readers who have already begun the planning process. Share your ideas with us!

If you have questions about behavior, email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.

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I’m not sure if you’ve heard the saying, but rumor on the street is that behavior analysts make the worst parents as well as the worst pet owners.

Lucky for me, I am (Missy) neither. Rebecca, on the other hand, is both! I bring this point up because I am hoping that I will be able to use all of my best behavior analysis skills today. I am packing up my family and dragging them across the country to Austin, Texas to see Rebecca and her family, visit dear friends, and show the girls why I love Austin so much.

My wonderful family in Bar Harbor (with a couple of friends)

Our travel group today will include my other half and his two children ages almost 8 and 10 going on 16. Sadly, my brother is not going with us. He took off a week from his day program in January to go to Florida so he must stay behind. We will miss him. Well, actually, we may not miss him much when we are on the plane. He has autism and an intellectual disability and that makes travel difficult for us all.

Yesterday we wrote about how difficult travel is for families, particularly when traveling with a child with disabilities. I believe strongly that traveling with children is difficult, regardless of their abilities. As such, I know that I will be following our own advice for readers today as we make our trek.

I have a couple of strategies that I use with regularly our girls to help the travel go smoothly. I follow much of the advice from yesterday, minus the visuals. We count down the days, we review the schedule, and we definitely pack snacks. The other strategy that I use has worked well thus far.

We Pack Together

  • I sit down with the girls and we brainstorm all of the things that we think we will need on the trip.
  • I take notes using simple words in handwriting they can read.
  • I break the packing into categories (clothing, toiletries, backpack stuff, and other)
  • I make a copy of the notes so that each child has a list
  • I send the girls off to their rooms to lay it all out

Why This Works

  1. First, the girls now feel that this trip belongs to them (at least in part).
  2. The girls cannot complain about their outfits–they picked them!
  3. The girls cannot complain about being bored on the plane–they picked out their backpack items
  4. It keeps the girls out of our hair while we are packing
  5. All I have to do is check their work and put their items in the bag

See you in Austin!

For our readers in the Austin area, Rebecca and I will be at Central market for coffee and conversation on Wednesday, February 22 at 9am. We are looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

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Our poll last week was such a success that we thought we would continue the fun. Please take a look at our cartoon. Thanks go out to Rick Detorie, creator of One Big Happy for such great humor.

So tell us, why do you think the behavior will continue?

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Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about behavior. Today’s question comes from Dawn who asks:

“I have 3 situations that I need help on. My daughter is 2 and some change.

  1. She insists on turning the lights off and on repeatedly
  2. She throws her toys
  3. She tried to run out in the street

What do you recommend?”

Lights and Toys

Because I see so many children with autism, I always have my “A-dar” on. By that, I mean that I screen every child that I see by running down the red flag checklist in my head. Once I realized that Dawn’s little angel did not have any of the red flags, I recognized that the light switch game had actually become just that–a game. Dawn’s little angel learned that when she flipped the lights off and on, that Mommy instantly gave her attention.

Please know that Dawn provides her little angel with loads of attention. However, for a toddler, being able to control Mommy’s behavior is extremely powerful (and quite fun). The same holds true for toy throwing. When little angel throws toys, she is instantly reminded that only balls can be thrown. Again, instant attention from mommy. Look at my “Toddler Power”! I will also recommend that you check out our cartoon from last week. See PJ? He is up to the same old tricks. He wants his Mommy’s attention!

So, for those two behaviors, do your best to refrain from attending to the behaviors.

A) If you can tolerate the disco effect in your living when the lights are going off and on repeatedly, simply sit on the sofa and continue watching TV or reading or cooking (or whatever you may have been doing). If you have migraines and the disco lights send you over the edge, simply walk over to the light switch (without looking at your child) and cover the light switch with your hand. Do not say anything and do not look. If possible, continue the activity you were doing when the disco started (e.g., keep reading your book). As soon as your child begins an appropriate activity, count to 10 and then join her in the activity. You can tell her how happy you are to see her reading, playing, or whatever she is doing that is appropriate.

B) For the toy throwing, create a box and label it timeout. Sit your daughter down and show her the box. Explain to her that if she chooses to throw her toys, each thrown toy will be placed in timeout for the rest of the day. Every time she throws the toy, simply walk over to the toy, pick it up, and place it in timeout. Do not look at your daughter, do not say anything to her, and then return to your previous activity as if nothing happened. Repeat as often as necessary.When she is playing with toys appropriately, take a couple of minutes to sit down and play with her and tell her how you like the way she is taking care of her toys.

If your child asks to have one of the toys from timeout, simply remind her that it is in timeout for the day because she threw it. Tell her she can have it back tomorrow.

Running in to the Street

While this behavior may also be attention-seeking, a two-year-old lacks the understanding of the dangers associated with street crossing and various forms of vehicles. So, separate from an incident, be sure to begin teaching your child about street-crossing rules (e.g., always hold Mommy’s hand, always cross in a cross walk, look for the walk signal, look both ways). There are some great children’s books that can help you with this. Road Safety, Policeman’s Safety Hints, and Be Careful and Stay Safe.

If your daughter runs in to the street, get her as fast as you can without over-reacting. Bring her back to a safe place and remind her of the rules (e.g., always hold Mommy’s hand, always cross in a cross walk, look for the walk signal, look both ways).

When your daughter follows one of the rules, tell her how happy you are to see her use her rules or how smart she is for remembering her street safety.

Thanks for contacting us Dawn. Please let us know how it goes with these behaviors!

If you have questions about behavior, email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.

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Take a look at our picture below. (Thanks go out to Bil Keane for this wonderful cartoon (c) 1976.) See if you can guess why PJ is tantrumming. When there is a reason for a behavior, behavior analysts called it a function or a purpose. This is the first time we have tried a poll so please participate! We will post the answer tomorrow! Thanks for playing.

Let's BEE Friends

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