It happened! I had been expecting it. I’m actually surprised it didn’t happen before now! I get it…it’s darker in the morning…it’s a Monday…it’s raining…the planets aren’t properly aligned to make for optimal waking up conditions!

My kids slept through their alarms today and were “alarmed” by me saying, “Hey, it’s 8:00 AM! You’re going to miss the bus!” But did they hit snooze too many times because they are tired from a weekend of texting their friends and doing craft projects? Or might we be running headlong into the early signs of ‘Unmotivated Mondays’?

If you are noticing days when your child doesn’t seem bright-eyed and bushy tailed at the breakfast table, maybe motivation is waning in your household as well.

As a parent, how you react and deal with the issue can either help or hurt the situation. There are three very common mistakes that parents make when they are in this predicament:

1) Chalking it up to laziness: Many parents struggle to understand why their child isn’t doing well in school and some of the behavior that goes along with it might look a lot like laziness, but it’s probably due to something else.

78369430a) Kids that struggle to pay attention at school may also struggle when it comes to homework and organization. Get involved and help your child get organized. Plan ahead, schedule time for studying and for play, or consider hiring a tutor. The #1 tool for organization – a dry-erase board!

b) The problems they’re having in school might be an indication of an underlying learning problem. If they’ve struggled with reading and writing and seem to have issues with procrastination and work avoidance, it may be a sign that they have a learning issue.

c) Be cautious about the pressure that you put on your child to be successful in school. That’s not to say that school success is not important, but putting a lot of pressure on them will not help them succeed. Let them know that you support them in doing their personal best, and that can be defined differently for every kid.

2) Paying them off: Giving monetary rewards for good grades may be a tempting way to get them motivated, but by doing this, you’re putting more value on the final product (the grade) than you are in the process (learning the material). You are in essence sending the message that the grades matter, but the learning doesn’t. Instead, reward effort by noticing times when your child is working hard and shutterstock_154262117demonstrating persistence on a task.

3) Punishing: Punishing bad grades is also a tempting option – taking away the cell phone or removing screen time privileges. Although technology can get in the way of learning, encourage your child to use their devices to put in some study time. Positive consequences for good study behavior will keep your child motivated at school and prevent creating a world full of restrictions at home.

Want to know more about strategies for kid success at school and at home? Subscribe to our monthly blog and look for upcoming opportunities to get some live – and personal – consulting as you work to grow a WISE family!

School is back in session for kids all over the land and that means it’s time to get out of slow-paced summertime schedules and back into the hustle and bustle of the school year. shutterstock_152714603

Are you dreading the early morning struggles with your kids? Anticipating the fight to get them out of bed and out the door?  Oh, and they have to eat breakfast…brush their teeth, if you’re lucky…and get into a yes-I-am-ready-to-learn frame of mind?

The way you start the day with your kids can make the difference for them between a chaotic, stress-filled day and an open, relaxed, learning-filled experience.  A smiling start might perk your mood up too!

Consider the following tips to help make your morning madness a bit closer to sane –

  • What you do the night before is almost more important than the morning routine. The next morning’s outfit can be chosen and laid out. Lunches can be made and packed. Backpacks should be packed up and left by the door. Bath/shower time can also be done at night. On your end, breakfast can be prepared and ready to go.  Or consider creating a breakfast shelf in the pantry and fridge that is easy to reach and has lots of healthy choices for junior to pick from for a make-it-yourself morning meal!
  • Make sure that your child is not only getting to bed on time, but is sleeping enough hours. Kids need much more sleep than adults do, and lack of sleep has a number of negative effects beyond having a sleepy kid in the morning. Young kids between 3 and 12 should be sleeping between 10 and 12 hours a night and adolescents should be sleeping 8-9 hours a night.  If your ‘mini-me’ seems out of sorts, do a bit of investigating and make whatever changes, routine or environmental, might be necessary to ensure solid shut eye.
  • Your sleep is important as well. Yes, I know…who has time…blah, blah, blah…I have 4 kids – I get it!  But as the say in the Federal Aviation Administration – “In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.”  Try to go to bed a little earlier, get a good night’s sleep and wake up earlier than your kids. Once they’re waking up and ready to go, you can be there to make sure their morning goes smoothly.
  • Create a routine. Children respond well to set schedules.  Also, think about building routines that encourage increasing levels of independence and self-sufficiency.  Competence builds confidence – you can Tweet that!  From the moment their alarm goes off, help them set a routine that will keep them on schedule throughout the morning until they enter those hallowed halls of learning.  They’ll thank you one-day…maybe.

Be wise.


My newly-minted High School Senior son announced this morning that there was very little chance he would get into the college of MY choice. I am so disappointed. Although the dire prediction is merely a speculation, I had already imagined the move-in day, the fall football tailgates, the University of bumper sticker and the bragging rights among the moms group! I secretly already bought myself a University Mom mug!

It is hard to reconcile the dream and the reality. Even before our children are born we visualize their interests, their favorite hobbies and their future professional baseball careers. Or aren’t those our visions? Haven’t you ever wished your daughter would become the first doctor in the family or your son a Hollywood movie producer? The first time my kids made scrambled eggs I felt feverish with the idea that they might become the next Food Network stars! But, it isn’t my life – or my dream – that will become their reality. Their reality, and their success in this challenging world, is up to them – with lots of our support, of course.

Even when we have a dream, though, there are a lot of factors that can get in the way of realizing them – time constraints, financial concerns, course corrections along the way. I think that my kids are great and I know, deep in my heart, that they will be amazingly successful contributors to society. But I want everyone to see that! And no one more than their teachers – those fearless leaders who shape their learning, along with their hopes and dreams.


As we approach a new school year, take a few moments to share the special gifts that your child has to share with her class. Tell your son’s teacher what really turns him on and tunes him in at school. Help your children to craft their own hopes into reality. We can certainly dream with them, but not for them! I’m prepared to return the mug…or not!

Click on the link below to print out a template that you can complete about your child to make introductions to the teacher easy.

shutterstock_82057315The tradition of story telling is a time-honored way of sharing experiences.  Story telling through journaling is a terrific way for children to document their summer activities and develop their  ideas and opinions in the process.

As the summer draws to a close, now is the perfect opportunity to write about and reflect on memories and experiences.  No fancy equipment internet controller and no headphones necessary for this task!  After your child finishes a writing prompt, encourage them to present a “reading” to the family – costumes and props are welcome!  You will not only be making writing fun but you will be growing WISE family memories at the same time! 

 The journal prompts below are a great way to get started.

1. What was your favorite summer day? Write about what happened.

2. What is your favorite summer tradition? How did you experience that tradition this year?

3. How will you celebrate the end of summer?

4. What ten words express how you feel about this summer? Why did you pick each word?

5. With whom did you spend most of your time this summer? What was your favorite memory with that person?


6. Did you make any new friends this summer? Who are they and what did you do with them this summer?

7. What would you do if you had one more month of summer?

8. What did you do for the first week of summer?

9. How was your summer different than you expected at the beginning?

10. How was your summer similar to what you expected at the beginning?

11. Did you go on a vacation? If so, where did you go and what did you do?

12. How do you feel about school starting? What are you looking forward to? What are you not looking forward to?

13. Did you feel bored this summer? What did you do to cure your boredom?

14. What is your favorite month of summer? Why?

15. Make a plan for the last week of summer. Give yourself an activity for each day and then write about it at the end of each day.

Summer is a time for kids to take a break from the demands of school, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t grow and learn during the summer months. Summer is the perfect time for kids to get involved in different kinds of activities where they will develop new skills and have new, fun experiences.  A little planning can get them out of the house more, too, so you don’t have hermits hiding out in the basement playing Mindcraft all afternoon!shutterstock_78120964

Arts & Crafts Projects – Arts and crafts projects are a great way for kids to spend the summer months. Through arts and crafts they will learn self-expression and have the opportunity to share their ideas and creativity. These kinds of projects can be done at home or in the community through art classes, community murals, and day camps.  Check out BabbaBox – which offers a cool monthly art project in a box!  Handy!

Volunteer Work – This is a wonderful way for children to learn more about the world around them and begin to understand the different issues facing their community. Parents should get involved by helping to process the feelings, questions, and reflections that the kids experienced as a result of their volunteer work.  Contact your local American Red Cross, the hospital, animal shelter or local churches for programs and projects.

Team Building Activities – Many team building activities and exercises can be found at day camps or summer programs. Kids will learn to work together toward a shared goal and therefore develop their communication and compromising skills. These experiences will help your child increase confidence, understanding and self-esteem.  Camps, schools and recreation centers offer gobs of opportunity to build teamwork and leadership skills!shutterstock_76099252

Reading Together – Reading has so many wonderful benefits fro kids and reading TOGETHER is a great way to spend quality time together!  Take a look at some of the great reading lists put together by parents online or start a book club with neighbors!  Also, join the campaign to read just 15 minutes per day with your child!  WISE is an affiliate and we want to get you involved too – go to and sign up.  You’ll get a free Jumpstart reading kit!

Journaling – Journaling is another creative way that kids can document their experiences over the summer months. It’s a great way for kids to reflect and share about their lives, experiences and opinions. Each of the above summer activities can be enriched by including journaling throughout the activity.  Watch for GREAT journaling ideas in our August blog!

And if you don’t feel like doing anything but sitting in the backyard and eating a grape-flavored popsicle, DO IT!  Summertime with kids is precious…and fleeting!  Enjoy it while it is here!

I had a very bad parenting moment last night. Actually, make it several moments.
My oldest son decided that the washer was too full, halfway into the cycle, so he pulled all the laundry out and left it in a soaking wet pile on the floor, then headed out to the Nationals game.

My middle son was too busy playing video games while I was at work to bother to do his math test corrections or to feed the dogs.

I found $30 worth of junk food and trash underneath one of the kids’ beds…thanks to the hungry dogs!

My daughter forgot to text me when she got home from softball practice, but managed to text the majority of the 7th grade about the drama of the day.

I was tired, hungry, and—frankly—just hoping for some semblance of organization when I got home. No such luck—and I lost it!

I slammed doors, stomped around, yelled a lot, and said, “Whatever,” at least ten times! Real mature, huh?

I thought about avoiding everyone this morning before they went off to school. Let them skulk out the door and feel guilty all day for wrecking my night! Yeah! Power to the Parent!

No. Not the right choice. So I got up, made a cup of tea, and sat in the kitchen while everyone came downstairs, conveniently pretending like nothing happened. “Guys,” I said, “I’m sorry that I blew up last night. It was wrong. I don’t like the irresponsible behavior you chose to show me last night, and I want you to take your chores and responsibilities to this family more seriously.”

Guess what?

Blank stares…crickets chirping in the background…they had no clue what they had done wrong and no idea why I was so freaked out last night. They just knew last night that they needed to get out of the way before I starting throwing things or burning my own hair!

Great parenting work, Mom! Last night, when I encountered the laundry pile, the starving dog pack, and the 13-year-old texting aficionado, if I had taken some deep breaths, tackled each issue individually with each kid, and clearly defined my expectations, it would have turned out so, so differently.

But we can’t always be Super-Mom, ready with a calm but firm directive, dressed in heels and white designer slacks while skillfully serving homemade cookies and fresh milk purchased only hours earlier from the local organic grass-fed cow farmer!

We need to change our expectations—not of our kids, but of ourselves. That’s what I did.

Wanna learn how? Wanna really learn how to get your Parent Power back? Join our monthly parent consulting group. Bring the kids; share terrors, triumphs, and tears.

And don’t wear white designer slacks!

Parent Consulting – 3 Group Sessions, 3 30-minute private sessions, WISE Parent Coaching Guide and Childcare included – Sunday, April 14th, Sunday, May 5th and Sunday, June 9th 6 – 7:15 PM amy@wise-edservices, 703-919-2021 – JOIN US!

Kids worry…and we parents worry about our kids worrying.   It’s normal for a preschooler to fear separation from his/her mother or to worry that monsters are under the bed.  A school-age child might be nervous starting a new school or before a test.  But when a child of eight or nine is afraid to sleep alone or if test anxiety becomes a panic attack, this could signal a problem.

The difference between normal worry and an anxiety disorder is the severity and duration of the anxiety.  While feeling nervous is a natural and, even healthy, reaction to stressful situations, these nerves grow into a disorder when they interfere with a child’s ability to handle everyday situations, or prompt the child to avoid things that most children his/her age enjoy.   Nearly 15 percent of children ages 7 to 18 meet the criteria for some form of anxiety disorder.  Anxiety tends to go unrecognized longer in children than in adults because children are unlikely to understand the problem and ask for help.   Anxious children are often quiet, compliant and eager to please – flying under the radar of caring family and school personnel.
Heredity plays a role.  A child with an anxious parent is seven times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, though the type may differ.  While adults with anxiety typically experience feelings of restlessness, irritability and trouble concentrating, anxiety in children tends to show up in avoidance behaviors or in somatic complaints.  Refusal to go to school or the homes of family or friends, chronic headaches, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, stomach problems and unusual tantrums and clinginess may all be symptoms of anxiety in the child lacking in the language skills necessary to express their feelings.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication are typical treatments. CBT is a skill-based approach that teaches new ways to think and act. CBT can help children examine how their thoughts, feelings and actions are interwoven and how shifting thoughts can help to balance feelings and actions. Parents should stay abreast of the strategies used in therapy so that the child can be encouraged and supported in practicing new skills. Medication options should be explored with an experienced child Psychiatrist. Children with untreated anxiety are prone to depression, substance abuse, and other mental-health problems.
Here are some ways to distinguish every day worries from several types of anxiety:

·   Severe anxiety is out of proportion. A second grader might be nervous about taking a spelling test. A boy with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) might be so worried that he starts studying for the test a week early and loses sleep for days.

·   Severe anxiety is being overly self-conscious. A girl might be nervous before performing in her first recital. Someone with social anxiety disorder might have a panic attack prior to ordering in a restaurant.
·   Severe anxiety is often unwanted and uncontrollable. A typical kindergartner might cry at school because he misses his mother. An older boy with separation anxiety disorder might cry at school because he can’t stop thinking that his mother will die if he is away from her.
·   Severe anxiety is unrealistic. A girl might be afraid of burglars robbing the house. Someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might think burglars will come unless she touches everything in her room twice.
·   Severe anxiety doesn’t go away. While anxiety symptoms are common and even expected after a disturbing experience such as a car accident or a flood, over time most children bounce back. Six months later a boy with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will still be having nightmares.
·   Severe anxiety leads to avoidance. A girl might be nervous about going to a birthday party. A girl with a specific phobia of clowns might refuse to go to birthday parties at all because she’s afraid that a clown may be there.
Examples courtesy of Child-Mind Institute, Jerome Bubrick, PhD
If you suspect that anxiety is interfering with your child’s ability to function, talk to someone – Pediatrician, Psychologist, School Personnel – and get a referral for help. Contact WISE Mind Solutions and we will brainstorm with you next steps for your family!   Be WISE!


Little boy image used with permission:  By Tina Phillips, published on 18 May 2010 Stock photo – image ID: 10016803
Little girl image used with permission:  By marin, published on 12 November 2012Stock photo – image ID: 100112499

With the holidays almost here, I wanted to share a few WISE words with you about being a parent. Once upon a time in a place not too far away, we parented in communities with the accumulated wisdom of generations of family members available to us. Today we parents are more isolated, often relying on the wisdom of a blog like this, a quick coffee with a neighbor or, if we’re lucky, a PTA program that doesn’t interfere with soccer practice. The fact remains, however, that parenting is a job that comes without an employee handbook, health benefits or a cubicle – unless you count being stuck in a tiny gas station bathroom with a car sick-3-year old – so, for many of us, parenting books have helped to fill the gap.

In 2013, give yourself the gift of wisdom and use those bookstore gift cards to get something that your whole family will benefit from – and remember, as you stock your library, that parenting is not a science – it’s an art. – Happy Holidays from WISE Mind Solutions

Here are my three (current) favorite:

Raising Children Who Think for ThemselvesRaising Children Who Think for Themselves by Elisa Medhus, M.D.
This book by Elisa Medhus, parent of five and eternal optimist, focuses on the impact of raising children to be realistic problem solvers, internally-directed by their own reasoning and moral compass.  It offers lots of examples and practical strategies to apply right now to change the course of your family!  This is super important in our world where external directions, such as tv, the internet, Facebook and YouTube present an all-you-can eat buffet of messages!

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Seigel, M.D.
This book, by fellow “brain geek” Dan Siegel, offers a reader-friendly guide to fostering your child’s emotional intelligence.  The examples and strategies offer tips you can use right away in everyday situations to help your child understand their brain and to learn the power of integration.  You will love this book if you are trying to figure out some of the “whys” behind your child’s behaviors.

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child The Heart of ParentingRaising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, Ph. D.
This book by John Gottman, a family-dynamic expert, equips parents with a five-step emotion process that teaches kids to understand and regulate their emotional world.  This process allows for both teaching and modeling so that your child is getting positive coaching from all sides!  This book is especially powerful if your child has encountered bullying or demonstrates a desire to be a “peace maker” among their peer group.

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My 12-year-old daughter has a friend who is what some parents might call a Drama Queen. Whenever something happens, her reaction is always over-the-top. Her reactions are so dramatic that sometimes her parents feel the need to calm their daughter down by saying, “Come on, it’s not that bad,” or “Seriously, don’t get so upset!” Having endured their fair share of stomping and door-slams, they have concluded that often the best approach is to not pay attention at all. None of these responses really “work.” In fact, she seems to escalate no matter what her parents do…or don’t do. So her family has simply concluded this is just her personality and they just try to deal with it.

If you have a son or a daughter that sounds a bit like this, it can be frustrating to be dealing with emotional outbursts and handling temper tantrums on a daily basis.  Consider what you want when you have a problem: Do you want a quick solution?  Do you like to be left alone to figure it out for yourself? Do you like to talk it over with someone? Do you want advice? Lectures? Probing questions?

When youngsters have emotional outbursts, in nearly every way, they are just like adults in terms of what they want and need. They come to the problem, however, with less cognitive maturity as well as less experience at putting their feelings into perspective and expressing them appropriately. Here are some suggestions for helping youngsters at all developmental stages learn to process emotions and feelings in a way that will teach them how to resolve these feelings for themselves:


  • Give full attention with direct eye contact and a smile or nod. No one likes someone to listen to them halfway.
  •  Acknowledge what you hear with “Um-hmm?, Oh!” When people don’t want to talk, just simply let them know that you care and if they change their mind, you are there for them. Never push!
  • Give wishes in fantasy, such as “I bet you wish we could stay here all day!” Most of the time, the youngster just wants to know that you understand how they feel. This helps them accept unpleasant limits.
  • Name the feeling and then put that feeling word in a sentence that connects with what happened. “It’s annoying when Johnny bothers you while you do your puzzle.” Youngster need to learn feeling words as much as they need to learn any other kind of word. To a child, if a feeling has a name it must mean it’s okay to feel it. This is reassuring, because negative emotions can be scary!
  • Avoid journalistic questions like “Who?” “Where?” “When?” and especially “Why?” “Why” tends to put people on the defensive. Instead ask questions that focus on feelings rather than events.
Image creator’s user name:
“David Castillo Dominici”

Remember that accepting feelings is different from allowing hurtful behavior or acting out those emotions. Tell your youngster, “It is okay to feel (feeling name), but it is not okay to (unacceptable behavior).” Then brainstorm options for what the child can do if the situation happens again.

It is not the parent’s job to figure the problem out and solve it for youngsters. A parent’s job is to help their child sort through their thoughts, feelings and emotions so they can figure out a solution to their own problem! One of the most valuable gifts you can give your child is the ability to critically think through a problem and solve it! High Five!

If you want more insights, information and practical tools and tips for parenting, then “LIKE” WISE Mind Solutions on Facebook and subscribe to

The Importance of WHAT and HOW
By Amy Fortney Parks, PhD-R

With the start of a new school year, it is a good time to think about WHAT we say to our youngsters and HOW it impacts their day-to-day experience, as well as their long-term success at school. Here are 10 tips for building self-esteem in children as they set off to a new year of learning and fun!

1. Encourage Patience and persistence – “You seem discouraged. Everyone makes mistakes! Let’s go over your mistakes together so that you’ll be able to avoid them next time.”

2. Emphasize what your child does right – “You’ve been doing great so far! Let’s see if we can work together to get you back on track.”

3. Promote planning – “Let’s break this project down into smaller, more manageable parts so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.”

4. Create conversations – “What was one of the things you learned today?” “What songs did you sing about in music class?” “What vegetables and fruit were in your lunch today?” “What equipment did you play with on the playground?”

5. Support self-expression and creativity – “You must have really worked hard to come up with such an original idea! The colors in that picture look so realistic!”

6. Craft constructive criticism – “Great! This report has many good ideas. You might consider arranging your thoughts to help the reader better understand your points.”

7. Compare your youngster’s progress to his/her own record – “Let’s not worry about your friend’s test grade. What’s important is your own efforts and achievements.”

photo credit: Vince Alongi via photo pin cc

8. Avoid labels – Off-handed comments are easily internalized by youngsters. DON’T say, “Joey never takes time to read directions.” “Sarah is a really shy girl.”

9. Focus on the here and now – “I’m pleased to see that you’ll be turning your project in on time.”

10. Continue to have high expectations – “It looks like a tough assignment, but with all that you have accomplished so far, I know you can do it!”