Friday, August 30, 2013


So, your child has got to boiling point and is now melting down...

General deescalation parenting moves:

a) Keep your voice down even when your child is screaming. Your yelling will
    only make the situation more volatile! When you talk, speak quietly and only
    when they stop to draw breath.

b) Do not make angry moves like grabbing at the child. That only makes them
     either fearful or more defiant.

c) If possible direct them to a quiet place to calm down. If you are at home walk
    away from them until they blow themselves out. A meltdown needs an audience,
    so don't supply it.

What if you think your child is going to hurt themselves - or you?

In only the worst situations restraint may be necessary. It is effective, but should only be
used if there are no other options.

To do this...

1. Sit on a chair and place the child on your knee facing away from you. From
    behind him/her, reach around to your front and grab his/her left hand with your right  

2. Grab his/her right hand with your left hand. You are holding their arms criss-crossed
    across their front.

3. Draw his/her arms towards you and hold tight.

4. Keep your head to one side to avoid being head-butted.

5. Watch out for backwards kicks. You need to reposition your legs slightly to one side
    if necessary.

6. He/she may try to bite you. If it looks like you may be bitten raise his/her arms a bit
    so that all he could bite is himself, and that's unlikely.

7. You must be prepared to sit there until your child has gained composure. This hold
    will wear them out and you, too, especially if it goes on for up to one hour.

Not all meltdowns are of the same intensity and may require different treatments. Judge
what is happening and calmly make a choice as to the method you will use from your
bag of tricks.

The best plan is to look for the anxiety levels that trigger a meltdown and act before it manifests.

Following the event, it is imperative to talk with your child about what happened and why.
If you know that you may have inflamed the situation in the first place, then decide how you
will change. Talk to your child about how to better manage their anger so the same situation does not repeat itself.

Written by Sally and Brian Burgess

Tuesday, August 27, 2013



 It doesn’t take long to realize that the world is full of angry people. Why are they angry?

I think much of the anger we see today stems from the feeling of injustice. Wars are fought and lives
lost because people are trying to protect what they feel is theirs or if they consider they are being unfairly treated.

Why do kids get angry?

Because they -
  • Feel they are being unfairly treated.
  • Want something that someone else has.
  • Don’t feel valued.
  • Are hurt by cruel words said to them or about them.
  • Feel tension in the home and they become frightened or insecure.
  • Don’t know how to express pent-up emotions.
  • Receive inconsistent parenting.
  • Don’t think you listen to them.
  • Are being bullied or harassed and haven’t told you about it.
  • Experience a sudden change in family dynamics.
  • Have been spoiled and, when asked to do something, they don’t like it.

How do we find the source of kids’ anger?

1. Stop.  Take a good look at what is going on in the home.

    Where is it primarily coming from? – (See list above)
  •      Is the atmosphere charged with tension? 
  •      Is there shouting and disharmony? 
  •      Is one child causing the issues?

2. Tackle the issues. Discuss your observations with your spouse/partner and make a plan of action.

    a) If the tension is derived from parental disharmony, shouting etc, then stop it.
        Keep your disagreements away from kids’ ears.
        Get professional counseling for your marriage and/or help for a more effective
        parenting style.

     b) If one child is angry then encourage them to talk about what is worrying them.
         Discuss your concerns with the teacher. Perhaps your child is getting bullied or cannot
         keep up with their work, so they feel useless. Make sure you give your kids
         one-on-one time so they can just talk to you and ask for help. They want to know you
         care and that you will listen. It makes them feel loved, valued and secure.

3. Anticipate behavioral change when your family’s dynamic changes e.g. remarriage,
    adoption of a new child into the family, change in address, school or financial state, or
    death of a family member. If you are not sure how best to prepare your kids for change,
    ask a professional.

In the next blog we will discuss how to literally manage a child in an angry rage.

Written by Sally Burgess

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Parents can get very upset when they see their child’s Report Card that shows no A or B grades. The expectation is that 'their' child IS capable and therefore SHOULD be getting high grades. When they don't meet parents' expectations the children are often brow-beaten and/or thought of as lazy. Sometimes parents blame the teachers.

So, why not As and Bs?

1. Intelligence is distributed over a range of scores that educationists call ‘The Bell-shaped Curve’. While some students excel intellectually, others struggle. Most people fall in the average range. That would be a C intellectual grade

2. It is near impossible for a child with an IQ below 100 to get an academic score of A. However, it is very possible for a student with an IQ over 130 to get an F.

3. What schools have been doing for too long is mixing grades for academic attainment with grades for effort and attitude. A student who hands in their work on time, who acts appropriately, receives a reasonable score for tests, and the teacher likes is often awarded an A or B which doesn't equate with the standardized nationally derived tests. (See point 6 below)

4. By combining attitude, effort and an academic score it leads to mediocrity. The student and their parents believe that the child has worked really hard and has achieved a high academic grade. But this is not necessarily so. The child then believes that all they have to do is maintain that level of performance. The parents are also happy with their child’s efforts.

5. When your child takes a standardized test (based on nationally-derived norms and set by a nationally-approved company) the test is purely academic and no credence is given to attitude, effort, completing homework or handing in work on time. The score is also completely objective and does not account for teacher preferences. Parents, the school and the Board of Education may wonder why the subsequent scores are so low on the State Testing program.

The answer to the problem:

Two scores should be given on each Report Card, one for purely academic achievement and the other for attitude, effort, good citizenship etc. (This may be how things are done in some education districts throughout the USA or in other countries where readers of this article may be.) It would give more credence to the Attitude/Effort score while maintaining the integrity of the academic score.

What can parents do about it?

a) Speak to your local Board of Education. If they adopt this method of reporting, scores and expectations will 
b) Understand that your child may not be intellectually capable of getting As and Bs.
c) EXPECT 'As' for attitude and effort.

Truth in reporting is paramount. I certainly would feel more assured as a parent if I could see the truth about my child’s performance and not have it intertwined with other ‘masking’ factors!

Written by Brian Burgess

Monday, August 19, 2013


I've been asked this twice this week by desperate parents. We think we know our kids really well, but then things can go awry and we begin to wonder where we went wrong. We also think we're probably the only parents going through this distress.

The case I want to share is one of teasing. A teacher, alarmed at one of her female student's emotional state, asked me for help. Another girl had been teasing Caroline relentlessly without the teacher's knowledge. It had reached the point where Caroline would go to the school office and complain about having a sore stomach. She probably had that problem because she was stressed out and was showing signs of anxiety. Caroline told her mother and her teacher she was being teased. I began to receive emails from both of them concerned about this situation. Her mother said that Caroline was coming home crying and not feeling like going to school the next day. Here was a case of bullying, not merely teasing. I asked Caroline to come to my office for a chat.

What a delightful young girl she was! She spilled out everything with great articulation. I gave her some skills for coping with people who, throughout her life, would try the same tactics.

Just in case your children, or even you, get treated badly by others I want to give you the simple steps that I taught Caroline.

  • "Please stop teasing me. It hurts my feelings." If this works that is great. At least you have been able to express your feelings and ask the perpetrator to desist.
  • If the person decides to ignore your request, find an adult to tell whats going on. 
  • If it still continues and you get angry with the person, remember the following simple plan:
1) STOP! By this stage you are angry and need time out to let the anger dissipate. I told Caroline to count to 25. Some research shows that it takes about 19 seconds for a person to reach the peak of their anger. Reacting before 25 seconds will more than likely yield a different result than patiently waiting before taking the next step.

2) THINK! At this point you need to think about the situation, look at the facts, examine your emotions, look at alternatives, then look at the consequences of following each of those alternatives. You cannot do this before the wave of anger passes.

3) ACT! Make a choice about which alternative you will use, fully understanding the related consequences.

I then asked Caroline to go to the light switch and turn the light off. "What happened when you pushed the switch?" There was a reaction. I had her flick the switch again. "See, there was another reaction. The light came on again."

"You see, Caroline, there are people out there who, for whatever reason, want to push your buttons! You go "WHAAAA! So, they push your button again because you reacted." I had fun going "Push. WHAAAA! several times complete with funny gestures. She laughed. "Just remember to let the comments just wash over you. They must have been making those comments to someone behind you."

The session finished and after a little revision I sent a happy girl back to class. It worked, and is still working. Try it and teach it to your children.


Written by Brian Burgess

Friday, August 16, 2013


Originally published by Regina Brett, in The Plain Dealer on Sunday, May 28, 2006

45 lessons life taught me. (Great pearls of wisdom to teach your children)

 1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short – enjoy it.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don't worry, God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a
      special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative of dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you need

42. The best is yet to come...

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Originally published by Regina Brett, in The Plain Dealer on Sunday, May 28, 2006

Monday, August 12, 2013


 I don't know how many times I have heard this:

A teen actually asks Mom/Dad advice about when it is OK to have sex.  Parent says, "Don't worry about it son/daughter, you'll know when it is the right time!"

What is wrong with this statement?  Just about everything! 

Teens are looking for guidance from parents.  If they don't get it from them they will just go to their friends for answers or do whatever feels good, without understanding the consequences of their actions.  NONE of those consequences are good! 

Why do parents hesitate to take a hard line on teen responsibility on sex?
Often it is because they were sexually active as teens and feel they can't tell their kids not to do something that they did as teens.  Parents' sexual experience as teens should never stop them protecting their children from making the same mistakes.

So, what should parents do?
  • Tell your kids all about sex when they are in their tween' years.
  • Make your kids aware of the disadvantages for children being born to unmarried young people.
  • Make it clear that sex is reserved for married couples - and why...whatever society says.
  • Create clear rules of responsibility for your children's behavior while around the opposite sex.
  • Teach your kids to develop self-control so they can use it when they are confronted by a sexual dilemma.

Suggested Family Rules for teens:

In this family -
  • It is inappropriate to wear clothing that is in any way likely to excite the opposite sex.
  • You are not allowed to take kids of the opposite sex into your bedrooms, behind any closed doors or be together at home alone.
  • It is disrespectful to touch a girl/boyfriend beneath their clothing and, in particular, beneath the area covered by a bikini or swim shorts.
  • You are required to follow exactly the same house rules wherever you may be.

Is it too late to help your child if they are already sexually active?
It is never too late!  It may be very difficult and it has to be handled delicately so you don't drive them further into their sexual behavior.  What is needed is really good, frank and open communication. 


Written by Sally Burgess

Saturday, August 10, 2013


There are times when words don't 'say' it all.

How amazing it is to be able to just:

a) Look into the eyes of a loving father

                 b) Touch his smiling face

                               c) Hold on to his loving hand

It is the greatest reassurance in the world!

Written by Sally Burgess.
Picture taken by Kristee Mays

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I realize this is a provocative statement, but hear me out:

I believe the education system in the USA has become more orientated towards girls! Boys and girls are wired differently and use different parts of their brain for learning. Having been a school administrator at all school levels in two countries, I am making an educated statement.

Here are the reasons for my observations:
  1. There is a general lack of opportunity for boys in particular to let off steam. In many Education Districts in the USA, recess has been removed from our schools. Boys, especially, need recess to blow out some of their pent-up energy. Physical Education is usually available only a part of the week, semester or year. So, apart from the lack of recess, there are further restrictions to boys being able to get physical.
  2. Students sit still at desks nearly all day long. My experience is that girls are more able to do this for longer periods of time than boys.
  3. Most children learn better when they can use their hands as part of the learning process, especially when they manipulate items to reinforce their understanding. The more senses involved the better the mind has of retaining the information learned. High Schools have removed most technical courses from their curriculum. For example boys miss the hands-on experience of woodwork, engineering and motor mechanics which also begs the question, "Will there be enough able tradesmen around for the future?" There used to be practical courses for girls, too, and those skill-builders have been relegated to the schools' dumpster!
  4. Most teachers in Elementary and Middle School are female. When a child comes from a single parent family where mom is the provider, it might be High School before the child has a significant male in their lives. Because education, in my opinion, is geared towards females, most of the training of children is coming from a female perspective.
Please don't drop the guillotine on my head! This is not anti-female diatribe. It's what's happening out there in our public school system. I am so mindful how male-oriented education was for centuries, but I think the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

What can we do to try to counteract what our education system, and therefore society, has become?
  • Discuss the above with other parents.
  • Talk to education officials about making public education more boy-friendly.
  • Talk to your local politicians.
  • Ensure that your children get plenty of vigorous daily exercise and encourage play where they have to use their initiative. 
  • Limit children's daily exposure to TV and other technology devices and get them outside as much as possible.
  • If you are a single female parent, try to find a man amongst your relatives or friends who would be prepared to act in a modeling role for your son(s).
Does this imply that I'm not concerned about the education or welfare of girls? Not at all! They are being well catered for and my concern is that we work towards a balance, realizing that male and female needs and learning styles are different.

Written by Brian Burgess

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I know that all of you could finish this statement: 

           "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words (names) can never hurt me."

"Sticks and Stones" is an English language children's rhyme.   It is reported to have appeared in 'The Christian Recorder' of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  It encourages kids not to be hurt by others calling them names.

Of course, we know this statement's sentiment is not true.  Sticks and stones can break our bones and names definitely do hurt us. You may recall the effects of the deeply cutting words spoken to the school girl in a previous blog titled, "The miracle of forgiveness."

Cruel words are never acceptable.  They come from many different sources.  It might be from thoughtless, critical words from a school teacher or parent, or the taunts of other children.

We can be pretty confident in knowing that at some time in our lives we are going be exposed to cruel words.


I don't think we can totally protect our children against the cruel jibes of others, but perhaps we can prepare them for the inevitable.

As parents we need to:
1. Refrain from speaking hurtful words to one another AND to our children.
2. Talk to our kids about respecting each other and what that looks and sounds like.
3. Explain that critical words hurt, and that the effect crushing words have on us may last many
4. Explain that almost everyone gets teased in their lives and that it often comes from those who
    wish they were like us, or from those who lack sensitivity.
5. Encourage our kids to tell us if they have been hurt by others so we can help them process it.
6. Teach them to walk away from someone who is calling them names, if asking them to stop doesn't
7. Fill our kids' 'mind banks' with positive words so that they are assured of their own value, rather 
    than automatically believing whatever others say.

Written by Sally Burgess