Tag Archives: Mainstream Parenting

When A Student Avoids School Work


Recently a client’s father was concerned. His child was avoiding schoolwork and becoming very anxious when it was time to complete school or homework. He was at a loss as to why this was happening.  So we had a chat about the patterns of behavior and ways to help.

When kids refuse to complete a school task there is always a reason. No, it is not because they are “lazy” or “bad”. It may take some digging, but finding out why this is happening can help you set up a plan to help your child.

Is there a trigger in the schoolwork?

Sometimes children are unable to complete a task because it is considered gross, scary, or has a topic/word they feel uncomfortable around. Adjust the assignment when possible. If writing about ducks triggers a child, change the topic to a different animal. If writing by hand is a trigger because it hurts or feels weird due to sensory issues, then allow typing or allow the child to speak the words instead.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Is executive functioning an issue?

Executive functioning skills must be strong in order for children to complete multi-step tasks, especially if they must figure out the steps to complete a task. If a child needs to write an essay, they will need to come up with a topic, outline the main idea and details, create sentences, edit the writing, then turn it in. This can be an overwhelming task if executive functioning skills are not yet strong. Help by sitting together to make a to do list, in order, for the activity. Break the task into different hours or days. Do something fun in between as well to have a break from the difficult task.

Is there anxiety because it is a new task?

Many times people become worried or anxious over a new task. This can occur for clear reasons or simply be a feeling with no clear reason. Either way, it is important to recognize the anxiety and how bad that feels. Ask how you can help. Offer alternatives when possible such as a different topic, different way to show understanding of the material, and offer a longer amount of time in which to complete each stage of the task.

Is there anxiety because someone is demanding the child complete the assignment?

When someone appears oppositional it may be due to anxiety, Pathological Demand Avoidance, or Oppositional Defiance Disorder, as well as other reasons such as feeling ill. Be a teammate rather than someone who demands immediate compliance. What steps can you take together to assist without doing the work for the child? Will taking short breaks in between every 3 sentences written help? Will drawing work more easily than cutting and gluing a project? Think outside of the box if possible. Give time between a task and the completion time for a task. Consider writing it down or using graphics and pictures to show what to do in steps, then give time to complete the task. Pressing the issue and repeating oneself to a child can build pressure in the child and trigger a feeling of unworthiness, anxiety, or even opposition in some kids.

Does the child not see the value in the activity?

Sometimes people need to see the link to everyday life or their goals before a task seems worthwhile. Consider using hands-on activities, creative presentation options, mentorships, real life experience through field trips, etc. These activities can help students see why topics such as division are necessary to their every day lives and motivate them to tolerate or willingly ask to practice life skills and academic activities. Sometimes a new perspective or having someone who is not mom or dad say that a topic is important can help as well. AN internship may be an additional step if a mentorship is working well for your child.

Is distraction happening even when the child is interested?

Distractions can cause a  lot of stress for teacher and student, parent and child, leaving everyone stressed and tired. Consider adding in a favorite type of music at a low volume if our child works better with background noise, but consider taking away sounds like tv or music if they distract. You may want to try using a white noise machine or headphones to block sounds, depending on if your child does better with or without background noise. Remember that becoming distracted easily is not usually something a child can control so punishment and anger will not solve this issue. Take a breath, or 10, then come back to the issue and help your child get back on task. If a task is taking a long time, consider completing the task in short bursts of time. Break down the task. You can also talk to your health care provider if you are concerned about a special need being present and request a referral for testing. If there is a special need, there may be medical and therapy alternatives available to assist your child. This is your choice and I cannot recommend that you do or do not. However, if concerned, consider this option.

Helping our children become life-long learners can be a challenge. Sometimes things do not go as planned, Instead of becoming agitated because our children are seemingly not listening, let’s consider why their tasks are not being completed and work with them to solve these issues. Alfie Kohn and Dr. Ross Green have fantastic books which address some of these issues.


For evaluations and consultations, contact Melissa, The Reading Coach!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas


I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

Mainstream Versus Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Practices

Mainstream parenting and developmentally appropriate parenting tend to be at odds with each other. Parents often take advice from friends, family, and medical professionals. Sadly, not all of these sources give developmentally sound information. It seems the more technologically advanced we become, the less in tune with ourselves and our children we become. Why is this?

Peace, Love, and Developmentally Appropriate Parenting

Peace, Love, and Developmentally Appropriate Parenting

But This Study Says…
Let me tell you a secret that most companies do not want you to know. Statistics can be, and often are, skewed toward a particular bias or result. Many statisticians will tell you that their jobs can be morally difficult because companies may hire them to find a particular result rather than find an accurate result. Does a toothpaste company need a result of 4 out of 5 dentists preferring the product? No problem! Choose a testing sample that is most likely to lend toward the result wanted, then ask as many dentist as it takes to get to a 4/5 agreement on the matter. The sample may be ten dentists or it may be 2,000 dentists. Some sampling surveys may even be thrown out as if they were never received. This is the both beauty and beast of statistics, studies, and marketing.
There are great people who do studies which still have bias without a company pre-determining the result. The truth is that we all have bias and we may miss variables or bias if completing a study because our beliefs are so ingrained in our thought processes. Do you recall science class and the scientific method? It is important to have only one variable being tested at a time. This can be a challenge in the real world, outside of the laboratory. Even above the board studies must be evaluated for bias and multiple variables. The best, most thoughtful scientist can still be biased. After all, they are all human and humans are not perfect.


My Doctor, Teacher, Parent, Friend Would Never Steer Me Wrong.
First let me state that most people mean well when they give advice. However, some people profit off of poor advice. Did you know that crib manufacturers are part of JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) which has donated money to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) in the past? Did you know that the AAP used studies that did not specify which type of co-sleeping was used when children became injured, then told parents to never co-sleep? The AAP also did not look into other factors like recent vaccines, which sometimes cause brain swelling, or formula feeding which can cause deeper sleep rhythms. The AAP did not define safe versus unsafe co-sleeping. Then again, the AAP is a trade organization meant to benefit the physicians who are part of the group. It is not a child safety group, though many believe it is. A well-meaning doctor may not have read through all the research. He or she may repeat what the AAP says which, unfortunately, is highly influenced by biased studies which have many variables and also by donations from lobbyists such as those from JPMA.
Keep in mind that many people have higher degrees or practical experience. These people can be correct. They can also be incorrect. It does not take a higher degree to know that biology and instinct should guide our parenting practices. If someone has experience and urges peaceful, instinctual parenting then that is fabulous. However, do not discredit someone because he or she has no higher degree or a lack of experience with children en masse. Anyone regardless of education level can be correct or incorrect about developmentally appropriate practices with regard to parenting. The key is to look at frame of reference, find out who is sponsoring the information and if they have money at stake in the situation, then listen to your instincts.


I Heard That You Create Your Own Monster.
Very good point! You can create a monster by ignoring a child’s physical or emotional needs. It is not always easy or mainstream, but meeting your child’s needs will help to cultivate a strong, calm, wise person. This is not the same as being permissive. Being permissive is not the answer. It is okay to ask a child to wait a moment while you go to the bathroom or because another child has a need to which you are tending. That being said, ignoring needs, punishing because a child has a need, shaming, and other mainstream practices can damage a child’s bonds with the caregiver. We do not want our children to grow up and have difficulty with relationships because we routinely ignored their needs or punished because of the needs.


But I Need A Break!
Amen! Don’t we all need breaks from time to time? Surround yourself with a village of support. Take small breaks when you can as well. Make sure you take time with friends, to work on hobbies, etc. You can excel if you have a village of support. You can read more about creating a village of support here.


What Will People Say If I Go Against Mainstream Parenting?
Well, my first reaction to this question is “who cares?”, but I realize that the topic is more complex than my response. You may have a significant other who helps support the family and you may take that person’s opinion to heart as well. You may have a co-worker who will bother you endlessly if you voice opposition to a practice that is not developmentally appropriate. I do understand. I have been there. Your doctor may look down on you, which is unprofessional by the way, if you do not wean at exactly one year of age or if you safely bed share. The truth is, though, that you can choose a “don’t ask and don’t tell” policy if that helps in some situations. You can also choose to ignore the naysayers.
I highly recommend creating a village of support around yourself either way. This village can include online resources, friends, etc. It can also mean in person helpers who will give you a break if life is stressful or who will listen when you need to chat. The truth is that we are accountable for the future. We are accountable to our children. What we do to and for them will directly influence who they become and how they will affect the world when we are old and gray. We are not accountable to Aunt Jo or Grandma Julie. They are adults and can do for themselves. We are accountable to the little ones who cannot yet protect themselves from harm and who still need us to model safe, helpful, wise choices. The children must be our priority. Raising them in a developmentally appropriate manner must be more important than our egos and what society thinks.


What Is Your Point, Here? Are You Accusing Me Of Something?
We all do our very best given the information, upbringing, and open mindedness from which we currently draw information. No one is perfect, nor should we try to be. I urge each parent to stop and assess their frame of reference before acting. It is time to set aside the idea that independence as early as possible is the goal. We need to stop choosing ego and society’s approval over instinct. We need to educate ourselves to tell the difference between advice mired in myths and developmentally appropriate truths. We must set aside our, often emotional, first response to information that contradicts the way we currently do things. Then, we can use instinct and logic to change as well as strengthen our ways when necessary.


Resources for Further Study

Castelloe, Molly “How Spanking Harms the Brain” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-me-in-we/201202/how-spanking-harms-the-brain

Dettwyler, Kathy “A Natural Age of Weaning” http://www.kathydettwyler.org/commentaries/weaning.html
McBride, Karyl “Shaming Children Is Emotionally Abusive” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201209/shaming-children-is-emotionally-abusive
McKenna, James “Safe Cosleeping Guidelines” http://cosleeping.nd.edu/safe-co-sleeping-guidelines/
McKenna, James “Sleep Research Lab” http://cosleeping.nd.edu/articles-and-presentations/
Newman, Jack “Breastfeed a Toddler – Why on Earth? http://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/content.php?pagename=doc-BT
Packwood, Melissa “Peaceful Does Not Mean Permissive” http://educational-strategies.com/peaceful-mean-permissive/
Sears, Bill “Dr. Sears Addresses Recent Co-Sleeping Concerns” http://www.askdrsears.com/news/latest-news/dr-sears-addresses-recent-co-sleeping-concerns
Solter, Aletha “Twenty Alternatives to Punishment” http://www.awareparenting.com/twenty.htm