By Maggie McMahon

Join the Up Parenting Creek Team!

Join the Up Parenting Creek Team!


We are adding to our team! Are you a mom, dad, grandmother or grandfather who might be interested in joining our team? Keep reading for details…

Join the Up Parenting Creek Team!

You might be the next Up Parenting Creek contributor if you:

  • enjoy writing and sharing stories about parenthood,
  • believe that all parents need support,
  • appreciate the silly and ridiculous parenting moments,
  • have compassion for difficult parenting challenges/moments, and
  • value diverse experiences and perspectives.

Contributor Expectations:

  • Write 1 original essay each month.
  • Participate in our online contributor forum.
  • Share and comment on other UPC contributor’s blog posts.

What You Get From UPC:

  • Photo and bio on the UPC website. This can include links to your other writing or your small business.
  • Social medial promotion of your writing, to include non-UPC writings.
  • Membership in our supportive contributor team.
  • Professional development on the topics of writing, blogging and social promotion.

Application Process

By Dec 31st, 2015, e-mail the following information to

  • First & Last Name
  • A brief bio
  • If you currently blog, please include a link
  • 2 blog posts demonstrating the kind of work you would contribute to UPC. (Previously published work is acceptable.)
  • A list of topics about which you would like to write for UPC
  • A brief description of why you would like to join the UPC Contributor Team

New team members will be notified of their selection by Jan 30, 2016.


Struggling with family rules for media and social media? Check out these ideas!

Parenting Perspectives: Family Media Rules


This month in our Parenting Perspectives series, we are tackling family media rules. Hopefully, you’ll find a variety of perspectives. Everyone has wisdom to share with other parents and each family’s situation is different, so please join in the conversation in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Struggling with family rules for media and social media? Check out these ideas!

Screen Time

When our kids were younger, we were very strict about screen time, but in recent history we have loosened up a bit. Our limits are based on a few things. Did you do anything else today? Especially now that summer is here. Is it changing your behavior? If our kids are asked to turn off electronics and that results in meltdowns etc. then we modify usage. Or are certain show contributing to poor choices in other aspects of their lives. If so then we help our kids pick different things to watch. Our kids rarely watch tv, they use Netflix, because of the steady stream of commercials we can then avoid. – E.M. (children’s ages – 5 & 6)

We have a Friday Night Family movie night. No more than 30 minutes screen time – this may include a family video game, or a show (like Daniel Tiger). We have not always been disciplined with this, when our oldest was an only child, Dora ran rampant – we can’t even believe that now. We have seen the negative effect too much TV time has, so we are much better about that this summer, and we have noticed the difference in their patience, and overall satisfaction with their day. – E.S. (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

We let them watch about 1-2 hrs of TV a day – usually in the evening after pick up when I need to get stuff done (ie dinner etc). This includes all screen time. If we think they’ve watched too much then we’ll have a no screen time day. – C.H. (children’s ages – 2.5 & 4)

With my oldest child, we really didn’t let him have hardly any screen time until he was 3 years old. I started letting him watch an hour of tv a day while my younger son was taking his afternoon nap. It was the easiest way to keep him quiet. Now, both our kids can have an hour of screen time a day. – A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

We mainly let our kids manage their own media consumption. They know our rules about violence and our expectations about maintaining balance in their activities and taking care of their responsibilities (like homework and chores). Sometimes they need gentle reminders about balance or encouragement to try something else if a video game gets a little heated. We also have a no media policy on family vacations – it’s good for everyone to take a break and spend time together. – M.M. (children’s ages – 10 & 11)

Our limit is 40 min/day – basically 2 shows without commercials. This gives the kids time to decompress after a long day at school/daycare & me time to make dinner. Our rules tend to vary when we’re on vacation or some weekends based on what else we’re doing. – E.W. (children’s ages – 5 & 2.5)

During the school year, our kids get screen time during breakfast and one hour of screen time after school. We occasionally allow additional screen time if they complete homework quickly. As a family, we watch a few sitcoms weekly and do not count this against screen time. We don’t have set limits for weekends but do try to keep the kids off their devices/away from the TV as much as seems reasonable for the mood of that particular day. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

Movie Ratings

As they are young we rarely watch anything that is not G rated. – E.M. (children’s ages – 5 & 6)

We typically screen the movie first. But we have seen some at the theater for the first time together. I recently took them to A Night At The Museum (the first one on a re-screen), and though there were parts they really enjoyed, it was too much for them. At one point, my daughter put her head inside her camera bag and hid, and my son held up his hand and yelled “stop”, as if there was oncoming traffic. It was a learning experience for me, and I liked how sensitive and empathetic they were to what was going on. – E.S. (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

As for movies, I check common sense media to judge whether or not the kids can watch the movie. We try to stay away from violent television or cartoons. However, when my oldest child turned 6, we let him watch Star Wars. He had been obsessed with Star Wars ever since he was 4. Someone was having a Star Wars birthday party at the park. – A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

We’ve always used Common Sense Media to get good information about a movie’s content. At this age, we care less about the rating and more about the presence of violence or misogyny. – M.M. (children’s ages – 10 & 11)

The subject matter of PG movies is usually just a bit over our oldest’s head. The biggest thing I look for in a movie is emotional intensity – we’re very much into silly movies right now. Too much “real” emotion can be difficult for our oldest. – E.W. (children’s ages – 5 & 2.5)

For movies, I find ratings not that helpful at this point. He self selects somewhat with movies. For instance, finding nemo was too much. He really loves the cars movies. I refuse to let him watch bambi, fox and the hound, dumbo, etc because I can’t handle them. One of the movies I really regret letting him see is the lego movie. One of the things he struggles with is inappropriate modeling of fighting behavior in places where it’s discouraged (school), so we try to minimize that content as much as possible. – V. J. (child’s age – 6)

We do not allow the kids to watch an R rated movies. We watch PG-13 movies with them and will stop the movie if it becomes too violent or too sexually explicit. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

I periodically check his Netflix. When it comes to movies, we are more flexible with language and sexual content, but inflexible with violent treatment of women, etc. He really has little desire to push the envelope and see movies that are R rated. – D.M. (children’s ages – 14 & adults)


Research. We want them to understand that the internet can be used to gather information. An example would be finding a butterfly or bug outside and then trying to match in online with google images. We’ve done some nonfiction books on Bookflix through the library. –  E.S. (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

We haven’t established any online rules yet. – A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

Our son is 11, so our rules on this will soon have to evolve. But, for now, the kids are not allowed to participate in social media or join any site where they can communicate with other users. We do allow YouTube, as the site’s standards are decently strict. Nevertheless, we do spot-check monitoring of what they are watching. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

Video Games

Our kids play some educational games and have since preschool. We will use TV or iPad when our child’s anxiety is amped.- E.M. (children’s ages – 5 & 6)

I guess both kids first played a game at 2. This is partly because I enjoy games, and I sold my wife on the idea that there’s more strategizing, more communication in games than in TV.  The games we have tried so far were: The Beatles Rock Band and The Lego Movie video game. We’ve also tried Wii Sports. The best games allow opportunities for strategy. – E.S.  (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

We have a few apps for kids on my ipad, but my kids haven’t started playing video games yet. I actually used an app to potty train my kids. The other apps we have are lego apps and learn to read apps. As for more typical video games, I figure once we let the genie out of the bottle, it will be hard to get it back inside.  -A.J. (children’s ages – 4 & 6)

We don’t have strict regulations – but definitely check out any games before buying and after buying – with adults we trust who are gamers. We live on almost 5 acres – he is kicked outside periodically. I don’t have strict times because he has friends who homeschool, public school, etc and they all have different schedules. I’m more flexible when he’s playing online with kids I know. – D.M. (children’s ages – 14 & adults)

We’ll use the ipad for car/ travel over about 45 minutes. Sometimes we’ll take it in with us, but not often. When sitting still at a restaurant seems like it will be a challenge, we will use the ipad. We’re really interested in building basic coding literacy, so we are encouraging apps and board games (robot turtle, etc) that teach him how to build sequences of steps to accomplish an entire task. – V. J. (child’s age – 6)

Social Media

We have not crossed that bridge yet. Maybe at 15, with friends approved by us- mostly consisting of family that lives out of town? I would prefer a program like Ello, which is ad free and focuses more on creativity. We’ll probably make our kids “friend” us until they are 17. – E.S.  (children’s ages – 5, 3, & newborn)

Our boys are going into 6th grade and are itching for social media accounts. We decided to start with Instagram. Before they got their accounts, we asked them to spend a month curating the pictures (and captions) they would use on an Instagram account. It was like a trial run, where we could give them feedback before they actually got their accounts. They have to let us follow them and can’t block us, plus we know all their passwords. – M.M. (children’s ages – 10 & 11)

No social media at this point. I’m hoping I have at least another 6 years before I need to think about it. And who knows what options we’ll have, then! – E.W. (children’s ages – 5 & 2.5)

Our kids only have email at the moment and we know their user names and passwords. We haven’t determined [social media rules] yet. Our generation of parents are on the vanguard in terms of allowing/monitoring social media use and, as such, there are no proven standards to follow. We’ll have to make it up as we go along. – A.C. (children’s ages – 8 & 11)

7 Tips to Help You Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

7 Tips to Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships


I consider myself very lucky. I had two best friends growing up, both of whom are still in my life. I no longer live in the town where I grew up, which seems to be more the norm these days than in the past. Neither of these friends live in our hometown either – we all scattered for college, got married and are now raising kids and pursuing our careers. I’m grateful that technology has allowed me to maintain connections with both of these bright, thoughtful, supportive women.

7 Tips to Help You Help Your Kids Build Healthy Friendships

As a parent, I want to help my kids build these kind of healthy friendships. Despite what my husband says, building healthy friendships doesn’t always come naturally to everyone.

Our kids sometimes need support and coaching, because let’s face it – friendships can be hard. You are opening yourself up to someone else, becoming vulnerable in a way you haven’t with anyone other than family before and it is quite likely that your best friends will hurt your feelings sometimes. Managing through the ups and downs of early friendships sets the stage for building healthy friendships throughout your child’s life.

All kids are different and need their own guidance and support – especially kids who are outliers due to various asynchronicities, cognitive ability or emotional regulation. As parents there are some specific skills we can encourage as our kids journey into healthy, life-long friendships.

Build Negotiation Skills

At the heart of all healthy friendships is the give-and-take that is rooted in a deep and genuine concern for the other person. That give-and-take rarely comes naturally to kids (at least it hasn’t to my kids).  As adults we have likely learned complex negotiation strategies – either through formal education and training or just through years of experience. Breaking those strategies down for kids can be daunting, so I suggest starting with the idea of teaching our kids to focus on a shared interest or outcome.

I’m going to pick on my own kids for a moment. They both really enjoying playing together – they like spending time together – but they don’t share a ton of common interests. Given their druthers, Davis would play basketball and Patrick would play Minecraft. This used to result in lots of fights and hurt feelings. We have worked hard to teach them to focus on a mutual goal – spending time together. When that is the goal, then they can both step back a bit and make a compromise – maybe it is a game of Around the World first and then a cool down with a collaborative session of Minecraft or a competitive game of Plants v Zombies. Whatever the plan, when the focus is on the goal of spending time together (and not what they are doing), the squabbles abate and they enjoy themselves immeasurably more.

Foster Empathy

Healthy friendships require that both friends are able to put their own emotions aside and respond appropriately to the other person’s emotional needs; healthy friendships require both people to practice empathy.

Empathy isn’t simple. In fact, it requires some fairly sophisticated skills like distinguishing your feelings from someone else’s, understanding another person’s perspective and regulating your own emotional response. Some kids are naturally better at these skills and other kids need lots of practice.

In our house, we focus on:

  • Naming our own feelings
  • Identifying other people’s feelings
  • Role-playing facial cues and body language that frequently accompanies specific feelings
  • Exploring how people can have different perspectives
  • Developing an internal moral compass

Teach How to Say, “I’m Sorry” (and Mean It!)

Learning how to apologize is really an art form. Many parents want to rush the process by insisting that their kids say, “I’m sorry” for transgressions. However, if your kids aren’t cognitively and emotionally ready to apologize, then the obligatory apology doesn’t do any good. It becomes a hollow way to brush past hurt feelings. The simple recitation of, “I’m sorry” doesn’t teach our kids what an apology means.

True apologies require that our kids have 1) the cognitive ability to understand that they did something wrong, 2) the emotional skills to empathize with another person, and 3) the moral compass to want to make things better. This isn’t the apology of a toddler – it is the sophisticated and meaningful apology of someone capable of and interested in developing healthy friendships.

So next time your kid makes a misstep and really should apologize to someone, stop focusing on the outcome (the apology) and focus on the process.

Role Play Through Tricky Situations

Almost all friendships hit a rocky patch every now and then. What defines healthy friendships is the ability to manage through the hurt feelings and get back on track. This takes negotiation skills, empathy, and the ability to say, “I’m sorry.” Even with all these skills, sometimes it helps to practice in a non-threatening environment – that’s where role-playing comes in handy.

When your kids hit a rough patch with their friends, there will be hurt feelings on both sides. Helping your child break-down what has happened, how (s)he is feeling and how to make amends will make the actual friendship mending process go much more smoothly.

Our kids don’t always have the right words or the emotional regulation to do this naturally, so let them practice with you. Be the coach. Provide encouragement, a safe place to process, help deciphering the situation and gentle guidance.

Encourage Hobbies (Find a Tribe)

Making friends comes naturally to some kids, but not all kids. Kids who are outliers for whatever reason (IQ, the alphabet soup of diagnoses, innate nerdiness, etc…), sometimes struggle to find their tribe. The best way to find a friend is to do things that interest you and do it with other people!

Take inventory of your kid’s favorite activities and then seek out groups who enjoy those things. Martial arts, sports teams, chess clubs, naturalist groups, church groups, etc…It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it is important to your child.

When you find these groups, help your child understand that the friends may not share ALL the same interests as them and help him/her focus on their commonalities. It is unlikely that any one friend will meet all of your kid’s needs – encourage your child to appreciate the difference between friends and how they complement each other.

Make Your Home Welcoming

Yes. You want your house to be the “It House” – the house where all the kids come, where they feel welcomed and know they will have fun and be safe. It may be an inconvenience at times. It may go against your introverted nature. It may be noisy and raucous at times. You still want to do it.

When your kids friends come to your house, they will have lots of fun, but they will also have squabbles. If they are at your house, you can help model the steps of maintaining healthy friendships. You can teach kids to negotiate, model empathy and make amends.

This is hard work and takes a BIG commitment from you (and your spouse), but teaching your kids these skills is worth more than any formal education they will ever get. A PhD in microbiology won’t get you very far if you don’t know how to get along with other people.

Model Healthy Friendships

More than anything else you can do, you can model healthy friendships. Show your kids what it means to have a best friend – how you support each other and have fun together, how you work through disagreements, what it means to make room for another person in your life.

We travel with our best friends frequently (like 3 or 4 times a year). These are family affairs – two couples, each with two kids. The kids are also best friends, which makes it great for everyone. Part of why we can travel together is that we know each other so well and make allowances for each other’s quirks and needs – we accommodate each other.

I guarantee that if we are together for more than 3 days, the kids will hurt each other’s feelings. Every time it happens, we huddle with our own kids and help them process and then teach them how to make it better. It’s a hands on learning process in a very safe environment. I couldn’t ask for more.


Can Children Learn to Negotiate?

Teaching Empathy: Evidence Based Tips for Fostering Empathy in Children

Coaching Children in Handling Everyday Conflict

How to Help Kids Make Friends: 10 Evidence Based Tips

Hoagies Blog Hop - Gifted RelationshipsThis post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education Page.

Check out other people’s thoughts on Gifted Relationships.

Great ideas for letters to send your kids at summer camp!

Summer Camp: 5 Letters to Write to Your Kids


Summer Camp. Descriptions from summer camp brochures and promotional videos extol the almost mythical place where summer days are filled with crazy adventures and new friends. The nights around the campfire are filled with songs and cool breezes. It’s a place to try new things, meet new people, and experience new traditions.

Great ideas for letters to send your kids at summer camp!

I’ve written before about why I send my kids to summer camp:

  • Develop Independence
  • Practice Interdependence
  • Improve Frustration Tolerance and Resilience
  • Disconnect and Decompress
  • Connect with Nature

There is no doubt that I believe sleep-away summer camp to be a formative experience in my life and my kids’ lives. Each summer when our kids return home, I marvel at how much more self-confident and self-sufficient they are. They are more flexible and creative. They occupy themselves without electronics and are more tolerant of other people.

During the month that the boys are at summer camp, I spend a lot of time thinking about my kids. I miss them. Honestly, by the end of the month, I even miss their bickering. So I do what any parent does when their kid is at summer camp – I spend a lot of time with my husband; I catch up on chores I’ve been neglecting, and I write them letters.

Over the years, my letters can be lumped into 5 main themes:

  1. The “I’m Proud of You” Letter
  2. The “Goals for Camp” Letter
  3. The “Nothing’s New at Home” Letter
  4. The “Update on the News” Letter
  5. The Coded Message Letter

The “I’m Proud of You” Letter

This is always the first letter I write my kids at camp. It’s the ego boost and connection back to home that is supposed to help my kids get through the first days of homesickness and their adjustment to the new routine.

Topics in the past have included: improved negotiation skills and teamwork, learning how to set and attain goals, prioritizing including others (especially when a friend is feeling left out), figuring out how to cool-off and take a break when needed, and successfully navigating a new school.

My kids have a good bull-shit meter and don’t pay attention to fluff, so this requires that I think critically and really get specific about each child’s accomplishments for the year.

The “Goals for Camp” Letter

Before my kids leave for summer camp, we spend a fair amount of time making goals for camp. In mid-Spring, the camp they attend asks for goals from both the camper and the parents. So everyone normally has a good idea of what they are hoping to get out of camp. the boys’ goals tend to be focused on doing stuff – more horseback riding or more hiking. Rob’s and my goal’s tend to be more focused on personal growth.

My second letter is normally about being intentional at camp.

Topics in the past have included entreaties to: have fun, unwind, support your friends, give people second chances, try something new, include kids who aren’t always included, encourage other people, give people the benefit of the doubt, say you’re sorry when you mess up, and try again if you don’t get it right the first time.

The “Nothing’s New at Home” Letter

This may be the most important letter that a homesick child receives. Now, not all kids are homesick, but no kid wants to get a letter from home detailing all the exciting things they are missing out on at home.

Most of my letters to camp consist of a lot of monotony. I tell the boys about just how normal my day is – work, dinner with their dad, grocery shopping, walking the dog.

It’s just a simple letter to let them know I am thinking about them, that I love them and that the world at home is still stable and predictable.

The “Update on the News” Letter

This is the easiest letter to write!

Think about what your kids love and send them updates about it. I have one kid who loves sports and national news and another kid who loves computer programming and dystopian fiction. I can easily check out the websites they frequent and print a few articles each week with updates and news. I slip these into an envelope, slap on a stamp and an address and the letter is on it’s way.

These letters do a whole lot more than connect my kids back to the things they find important – I’m showing my kids just how well I know them. I’m showing my kids that I pay attention to them, value what they value and want to encourage their interests. It is a powerful way to connect with them from a very long distance.

The Coded Message Letter

This is the letter that my kids beg me to write. They love getting a puzzle or coded message to solve. It gives them something fun to do during rest time or down time.

Our favorite coded messages are: The Pig Pen Cipher, The Block Cipher, and The Cut-Up Letter Puzzle.

You can mix it up – send the key-code before you send the coded message letter or send it after and see if you child can figure out the message without the key-code. If you have a hard time getting your child to write you back, send the key-code first and have them compose a coded message to you, before you send them your coded message! A little incentive never hurts.


Great tips for sending letters to your kids at summer camp!Remember – it never hurts to spice up any of these letters with glitter or confetti!

Also – If you have a kid who doesn’t like to write letters, try sending them with some fill-in-the-blank, Mad Libs style letters to complete and mail home. It has definitely increased the number of letters we get when our boys are at summer camp!

Experienced parents talk about their family rules for guns (real and play) and gun safety

Parenting Perspectives: Kids, Guns & Family Rules


We’re starting a new series at Up Parenting Creek: Parenting Perspectives. We’ll pick a new topic each month and solicit opinions and advice from parents with differing takes and perspectives. Everyone has wisdom to share with other parents and each family’s situation is different, so please join in the conversation in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Experienced parents talk about their family rules for guns (real and play) and gun safety

What’s your take on kids playing with fake/toy/finger/stick guns?

I’ve never liked it, but I came to understand it may symbolize power more than an actual gun, death and all that entails. – D. M.

We have no problem allowing our kids to have toy guns, even cap guns. I was not allowed toy guns as a child and so I used sticks/ Legos/friends’ toy guns/anything-you-can-point as a gun. My wife and I see only an aesthetic difference between those stand-ins for guns and an actual toy gun. The main difference is: toy guns are more fun. We don’t believe their presence in our home will in any way lead our children down a path of violence or desensitize them to violence. Those behaviors and attitudes don’t come from toys. – A.C.

My husband and I are pacifists. We are firm anti-gun proponents. However, we let our kids play pretend gun fights with their fingers, sticks, chewed up pieces of bread, etc. We talk to our kids about our feelings about real guns, and the difference between real guns and pretend play. – A.J.

Our girls aren’t super interested in playing gun related things, but we allow it. They prefer bows and arrows ala Katniss. – J.E.

We’ve discouraged playing with guns for our boys. It’s not something we could outright ban, because really – how would we enforce that?  – M.M

As a mom and a teacher, my personal toy gun rule is that guns are never pointed at people or animals you don’t intend to eat. Ever. If/when guns are imagined or played with, they may be pointed at targets that aren’t people or animals. – A.G.

What are the rules about shoot-em-up video games in your house?

No games that allow players to shoot humans, or animals in a non hunting environment, will be/are allowed in our home. – A.G.

My kids are only 4 and 6 years old. At this point, we really don’t allow them to play a lot of video games. I would like to limit their exposure to the violent video games. However, if they go to a birthday party at an arcade, I’m not going to forbid my sons to play the Star Wars video games. I’ll probably also not worry about them playing video games at other people’s houses. However, in our home, I’m planning on restricting their access to violent video games. – A.J.

We don’t do video games or own a gaming system. They do play games on the iPad from time to time, but haven’t played anything gun related on it. – J.E.

We allow first-person shooters as long as “humans” aren’t being killed. We also restrict based on how graphic the violence is, how bad the language is and whether there are negative representations of women. We don’t allow the shooting of humans because we know video games can be immersive. Shooting a weird looking alien is more akin to playing with a toy gun. We acknowledge that the we’ve drawn may be arbitrary, so we monitor first-person shooter game play. – A.C.

We didn’t allow any first person shooter games until the boys were 10. Now they can have them, as long as there is no realism to them – like Plants v Zombies. – M.M.

We have them now, just within the past year or so. My boy is almost 13. I’m not fond of them and limit his time with them. Honestly, he plays more basketball games right now. I try playing his shooting games and have more fun stopping in the kitchens and blowing up watermelons – is that so different than watching blood splatter from a CGI? I don’t know. – D.M.

How would you want your child’s school to handle stick/finger guns on the playground?

I am totally against kids getting suspended for playing pretend guns with their fingers at school. In my son’s old school, he got into trouble for playing attack of the Zombies with pretend blasters on the playground. I think this is ridiculous. – A.J.

As a former teacher, it was really easier to prohibit all “guns” because I didn’t feel like it was my job to say if they were ok or not. However, I totally disagree with a black and white ‘no tolerance’ pretend-gun-rule in schools. Redirection and conversation about why it might be ok at home but it’s not ok at school is just so much more beneficial. – A.G.

I’d be upset if the school made a big deal about kids using finger guns. I think bullying is a much more harmful issue on elementary school playgrounds. – M.M.

Let me say that I am a teacher, and I am constantly hearing “no guns at school.” What you’re doing is limiting the kid’s imagination, and making something very innocent into something fear-based. – E.S.

Hunting: Is this part of your family culture? If so, when do your kids get started?

My husband grew up on a ranch and his family hunted frequently. You don’t want to know the ritual when they killed their first buck. But, he hasn’t been interested in hunting as an adult. Neither of the girls have expressed an interest. – J.E.

My father hunts. I’m not sure if I’ll let my boys hunt….maybe when they’re teenagers.  – A.J.

Hunting is a big part of our family culture. We start young, with discussions about WHY we hunt, the differences between hunting for food and hunting for sport (and the overlap that can occur). We include game/herd/species management in the basic hunting curriculum. Kids in our family are introduced to hunting at a very early age because they’re not excluded from the activities. – A.G.

I’ve hunted once in my life. My Dad used to but hasn’t in decades. My in-laws do not hunt. So, no. We don’t hunt. But we have no problem with hunting. – A.C.

It is part of my extended family’s culture. My 13 year old niece in PA shot her first buck last fall – clean kill with a bow and arrow – she also cleaned it and ate it. It’s not my cup of tea, or my kids’ cup of tea. My dad and brother hunted. I got my hunting license at 16 because i wanted to go with my dad, he never allowed me. (I think he knew the actual killing would leave me in pieces). – D.M.

Guns in the home: Yes, No, Maybe so?

One shotgun and two BB guns that grandpa gave the boys. The gun is in a combination lock case in the attic and the BB guns are up high in the garage gathering dust. – S.B.

No guns in the home. We’re not against gun ownership, we simply don’t see the need to have one ourselves. – A.C.

We do not allow any guns in our house. I actually ask people if they have guns in their house before we allow our kids to go over to someone else’s house on a play date. If the person has a gun, I ask if the gun is in a safe. – A.J.

We have guns in our home. They are locked in a gun safe and the ammunition is secured separately. – A.G.

My husband’s rifle is in my parent’s safe, 9 hours away. – J.E.

How have you approached gun safety with your kids? At what age did you start?

We started gun safety conversations as soon as the kids started being interested in playing with toy guns. The early talks were about staying away from guns or letting and adult know immediately if they encountered a gun. When they were 9, they learned how to handle a rifle at camp (target practice). Now we talk more about the social justice issues with gun violence and about the differences between hunting guns and guns that are more likely to be used against people. We also talk about the role that hunting plays in wildlife management. – M.M.

We’ve talked very little about it, mainly just that real guns are different from fake ones and that you should never point one at yourself or others. – J.E.

Gun safety is non-negotiable. I knew at a really young age that guns are not pointed at people, how to check to see if a gun was loaded or not, how to check if the safety was on and put it on, and how to pick up and put a gun down safely. When those skills are ingrained, it becomes easier to teach gun handling. Just to be clear, in our house we’re only have hunting shotguns and rifles. We do not own or have hand guns but are all familiar with them and the same rules apply. Unknown guns and guns that are’t ours/yours are not to be touched without permission. Black and white rule.- A.G.

I don’t plan on teaching my kids to use a gun. However, as of this time, I told my older son that if he ever sees a gun, he should move away from it and get an adult. – A.J.

We’ve shown the kids the real guns at Academy and pointed out how similar they are to toys. We have also told them a thousand times to run to a grownup if a friend ever pulls out a gun that’s not obviously a Nerf gun. But we worry. Culturally, we should become more comfortable with disclosing to visitors whether or not we own guns. It should be like dogs. “We have two dogs, do you mind them in the house?” – A.C.

We’ve talked about general gun safety, no specifics. -D.M.

Do you ask about guns in the houses of friends, before your kids go over?

No. It seems accusatory and so I’m not comfortable asking. No one has ever asked us either. – A.C.

Before a first sleepover, we have had folks ask about guns in our home and we have asked others about guns in their home. The couple times we’ve been in that conversation it was quite casual and low stress. We have limited our kids’ ability to go to a particular friend’s home because the hunting guns were taken out of the safe by the kids when my kids were at the house. I wasn’t comfortable with that family’s gun safety plan. – M.M.

Yes! I do/will/would! And I am not offended when people ask me! I’m not asking to be judgy – I want to know if they are secured, I want to talk to my child about our rules for gun engagement and what to do if those rules can’t/aren’t being followed. I want my child’s friends to know what our rules are and I want their parent’s to know that we take their child’s safety as seriously as out’s. – A.G.


Gun Safety with Kids in the House

How to Teach Your Child Gun Safety

Gun Safety: Keeping Children Safe

Project Child Safe

Handguns in the Home

In Defense of Perfectionism

In Defense of Perfectionism


In Defense of PerfectionismYes, you read the title right. I’m defending perfectionism. To be clear – I don’t expect perfection from my kids, myself, my husband or anyone. After all, that is a crazy standard to achieve – being 100% correct, accurate, right, 100% of the time? Nope.

Not even close. Probably not even possible.

So why would I defend perfectionism, because clearly it is indefensible? Perfection in all things is a goal that is absolutely unattainable.

The truth is, I can’t defend perfectionism, but I can defend and advocate for the kid who is labeled as a perfectionist. You know that kid:

  • the one who is frustrated by a 95 test grade
  • the one who will work on an essay until well after a normal bedtime, just to get it right
  • the one who can’t stop working on a puzzle, until it is complete
  • the one who won’t take direction/correction about schoolwork
  • the one who frequently corrects your word choice, in honor of a more fitting word
  • the one who takes jokes so literally, that the meaning is lost.

It’s easy to call these kids perfectionists. They are seeking a high standard. A goal that well surpasses the average. They like to get things right. Right doesn’t always mean perfect. Sometimes right is more closely aligned with a desire for precision than for perfection.

Perfectionism vs Precision

What’s the difference?


Sets extremely high goals.

May have difficulty prioritizing tasks.

Very sensitive to criticism.

Frequently self-critical when goals are missed

May experience unproductive anxiety about reaching goals.

May experience physical discomfort if expectations are not met.


Highly values being correct.

Makes decisions quickly.

Open to reevaluating with more information.

Parses information quickly.

Details matter – sometimes to the extreme.

Large vocabulary; may frequently use secondary definitions.

At this point, you may think that I am parsing words. That’s probably because I am. It is easy to lump both categories of kids into the same bucket – the high achievement bucket. But the crucial difference between kids who are perfectionists and the kids who are precise is in their emotional attachment to the outcome. Perfectionists feel a sense of profound loss (and sometimes worthlessness) when they don’t live up to their enormous standards. Precise kids are likely to get annoyed when someone else doesn’t understand or appreciate their exacting language, but they are unlikely to feel unworthy or defeated.

So why does all this matter?

It matters, because if we see perfectionism and precision as bad or inherently defective thought processes, then we’ll work hard to help our children rid themselves of these traits. Perfectionism gets a bad rap. But let’s face it; there are lots of professions out there, where we expect precision, if not perfection.

If your child is naturally precise, learn to embrace and encourage it, while balancing against the fear of failure and unreasonable expectations.

If we parent all the precision and perfectionism out of kids when they are young, then we are precluding them from joining countless professions that require it: law, science, engineering, programming, and more. I’m not interested in limiting my child’s horizons before he even has a chance to explore them – I’m betting you aren’t interested in this, either.

I’m a huge proponent of parenting to my kids strengths. Sometimes that means embracing the precision, even if it goes well beyond my own need for accuracy. Embracing doesn’t mean that there is no teaching/parenting/coaching left to be done. Rather it means I must respect the way my kids are wired, how their brains process information. Once I can respect the precision and only after I see it’s value, then I can help my kids understand how to use it effectively – when it matters and helps versus when it interferes and hinders.

Helping our kids ignite their passions, find balance in their lives, and navigate social norms will always be part of the work of parenthood. This doesn’t change if our kids seek perfection or precision. We must respect these natural tendencies, while helping them guard against the negative self-apprasial that can accompany perfectionism.

GHF Graphic Perfectionism


This post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.

Check out other folk’s take on Perfectionism and Other Gifted/2E Quirks.



Parenting a Child with Anxiety: Experienced Parents Speak Up

Parenting a Child with Anxiety: Experienced Parents Speak Up


Parenting a Child with Anxiety: Experienced Parents Speak UpParenting a child with a mental health disorder can be scary, frustrating and tiring. Parents often navigate multiple mental health and educational systems and they frequently do it alone.

Scared to discuss what’s happening with their child, ashamed that they did something wrong, worried that disclosing mental health issues will negatively impact their child – whatever the reason, parents remain silent (except in small, trusted circles). The silence makes it easier to misunderstand the realities of childhood mental health issues.

In honor of Childhood Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re taking a peak into the lives of 11 parents who live with childhood anxiety daily. Knowledge can lead to understanding. Understanding can lead to empathy.

Let’s take the stigma out of childhood mental health disorders – after all, 13 – 20% of kids in the US will experience one in any given year (Centers for Disease Control).

What does anxiety look like for your child?

My son will wear a heavy hooded sweatshirt to school, even when it is 100 degrees outside, because he needs to put his hood up to feel safe. His worry is so encompassing that he turns in an incomplete test, simply because someone else finished before him. His panic attacks are an all-encompassing – they grip his mind and his body. During a panic attack, he can’t adequately process the threats in his environment. – M.M.

Anxiety is woefully misunderstood. It can present itself in so many ways, sometimes within the same person, that it takes real courage to try to wrap one’s head around it. – P.P.

My son’s explosive temper is usually triggered by anxiety. – J.Z.

Anxiety comes in sheer waves of panic that can envelope my sweet boy. The biggest anxiety attack he had, he did not remember having. He truly did not recall the complete and utter meltdown/devastation he experienced. I could do nothing but breathe with him until he could sit down. Then I spoke softly and repetitively to him until he could get under the covers. Then I read Winnie the Pooh to a shaking, sobbing 10 year old boy. I used the most unaccented, monotone voice I could muster. His cries finally became sobs, became intermittent chuffles became heavy sleep. It was heart wrenching and very, VERY real. – D. M.

My daughter’s anxiety brings out all sorts of “annoying” behaviors. 
She’s not singing in a really high-pitched voice or whistling or flipping her body around because she’s trying to annoy you. 

She’s not trying to be the center of attention. 
She’s not doing it because she doesn’t care about what you’re saying. 
She’s probably not even aware she’s doing it and she might not be able to stop it right away even if you ask her to.
These are things I have to remind myself on a daily basis. – M.P.

What has been the most difficult part of parenting a child with anxiety?

The most difficult part is that I just want to take it away. I wish I could magically erase it all from his mind. He houses worries in his mind that are too big for his little body to carry. – C.C.

Seeing my child suffer. – H.C.

Being patient — everything takes a long time. Educating family and friends and teachers, finding the right therapist and psychiatrist, treatment and helping him build skills to keep it from taking over. – G.G.

The most difficult part for me is that it triggers my own anxieties. I don’t like to let anything get in the way of offering my children my best. – H.M.

Listening a 7-year old tell me that she wished she were dead and watching her claw her arms because she doesn’t have the words to express what she is feeling is heart-breaking. -K.X.

Accepting that it’s real and then helping others to understand it. – C.G.

It is so hard to know what is anxious behavior and what is just plain kid misbehavior. Establishing boundaries that shape positive behavior and don’t penalize anxious behavior is tough! Our basic rules are that you have to be safe and kind, even in the midst of a panic attack. – M.M.

What advice do you have for a parent who suspects their child has anxiety?

Get professional help. Anxiety can mimic all sorts of other things. Let a professional help you figure out what is really going on. Then you can develop a plan together to help your child. Don’t be scared of medication, if used well it can bring your child back to you and might even save his life. – M.M.

Fight to get them tested. We were told “he’ll grow out of it, aka mature” nope. – H.C.

Don’t be dismissive – be a safe place your child can talk about his anxiety and worries. Even if it seems silly to us, it’s not for them. – G.G.

Lorazepam for the win. – C.G.

Relax. This may take a lot of work — do whatever it takes. – H.M.

Look for the anxiety behind any behavior, from anger to depression to inattention. – J.Z.

Be patient! It does get better. Find something that helps calm your child. For my daughter, art has been a life-saver. She doesn’t leave the house without her sketch pad, but she pulls it out less and less these days. – K.X.

What do you wish your child’s school/teacher understood about your child’s anxiety?

I wish they realized that the child can’t help it – that they think in a totally different way than the teacher might be teaching and that the advice/comments that the parents give them is more true than they think. – H.C.

Anxiety may not always look reasonable to them, and it may not always look like anxiety. My son makes excellent grades, but his worst anxieties are surrounding tests and major projects. He often responds by shutting down and procrastinating. Harping on him to hurry up is therefore counterproductive. – H.M.

You can’t talk someone out of it. Sometimes trying to talk them down to calm them just drags it out and makes it worse. – C.G.

That many of the behavior systems and “motivation” systems they have in place to help kids make kids with anxiety feel worse. – G.G.

We’ve worked hard to help his teachers learn how his anxiety manifests in the classroom and then what does and doesn’t help. Some teachers get it – they know that my son is more than his anxiety. Those teachers are golden! – M.M.

What do you wish your friends and family understood about your child’s anxiety?

That they should include us in parties and activities — for better or worse — and not pity us. I have some great friends who know we may not stay for the full party, or that our son may need to step away from an outing to regroup. But they are gracious and don’t make a big deal so our son can save face and still participate to whatever degree he’s able that day. This has been so helpful, as having an anxious child can be very isolating. – G.G.

We’ve been lucky. Our friends and family have educated themselves about childhood anxiety disorders. They consistently show our son that they want to understand and help – they give him space when needed, provide calm stability during panic attacks and they treat him like any other kid when he’s feeling good. I couldn’t ask for much more. – M.M.

Too much praise or emphasis on an area of anxiety can make it worse — if a child makes good grades or devotes a lot of time to charitable efforts, for example, bragging on them too much actually puts a lot of pressure on them. Sometimes it is most helpful to be low-key and spend quality time. – H.M.

I wish that they [family] would stop minimizing it. It’s a big deal to HIM. Maybe they don’t think x, y, z is scary but it is to him. Don’t discount his emotional experience. – C.C.

I wish other adults could see through surface behaviors and read what is going on beneath the surface. I recognize so many kids struggling with anxiety that manifests as aggression or defiance. Adults need to slow down and take time to really listen beyond the words and actions. They need to understand that most kids don’t know what “anxiety” is, so they say things like “my stomach hurts” or “I have a headache” and hope that someone will figure out what that means. – K.X.


Parenting a Child with AnxietyIf you are a parent of a child with anxiety, what do you wish other parents, family, teachers, etc…knew about your child or about anxiety disorders in general?



When Worry is Too Much: Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety and Giftedness: What is the Reality?

5 Tips to Conquering Homework with a 2E Kid

Parent and Teacher Resources for Childhood Mental Health

Childhood Mental Health Awareness

Parent & Teacher Resources for Childhood Mental Health


Childhood Mental Health AwarenessSomewhere between 13 and 20% of kids in the US experience a mental health disorder each year (CDC). That’s 1 in 5 kids – each year.

If you are looking for help understanding common childhood mental health disorders, check out these resources that we’ve put together for you in honor of Childhood Mental Health Awareness Week.

What are Childhood Mental Health Disorders?

An Overview of Childhood Mental Health Disorders

What is ADHD? 

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

What is Depression? 

What are Eating Disorders?

Resources for Parents and Teachers - Childhood Mental IllnessResources for Parents

Treatment for Children with Mental Health Disorders

The 10 Big Questions for Parents

Signs of Mental Health Issues in Teens

Executive Function & ADHD

9 Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try

Antidepressant Medications for Children and Teens

Suicide Prevention

School Accommodations: IEPs v 504 Plans

Resources for Teachers

How Anxiety Leads to Disruptive Behavior

Tips for Teachers of Anxious Children

Classroom Management Strategies for Kids with Anxiety

School Tips – Helping Kids Who Struggle with Executive Function

Classroom Management Tips for Students with ADHD

Five Common Distractions for Kids with Focus Issues

Common Classroom Manifestations of ADHD

Depression. Helping Students in the Classroom

School and Classroom Strategies: Depression

Responding to a Student’s Depression

Statistics, Data & Policy

Stats from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

A Bill of Rights for Children with Mental Health Disorders and Their Families



5 Tips to Conquer Homework with a 2E Kid

5 Tips to Conquer Homework with a 2E Kid


Project Hell. This weekend our family sunk into the abyss otherwise known as 5th grade final projects, a.k.a. Project Hell.

The projects are just the kind of homework I’d want for my kids – they are open ended and allow for creativity. Patrick is currently producing a book on the flora and fauna of the Amazon and developing a board game about stopping deforestation. Davis has been conducting an experiment on the effects of video games on heart rate and also working on a presentation about tribal life in the Amazon.

Like I said, these are cool projects. Cool does not mean easy, however. Managing projects like these requires advanced planning, time management & organizational skills, verbal/written sequencing skills, good research skills, decent computer skills (like Word, Excel and PowerPoint), and more. These are exactly the executive functioning skills that lag in kids with ADHD.

5 Tips to Conquer Homework with a 2E KidSo for my 2E kid, the one with gifted verbal abilities, ADHD and generalized anxiety – this weekend has been project hell.

Fortunately, we’ve made it through with minimal arguments, stress and meltdowns. All kids are different, but between helping my own 2E child and working with many, many 2E kids at the tutoring company I own, here are the tips that I’ve gleaned for taming the homework beast for 2E kids.

Identify your 2E child’s passions

We all prefer to do things that we like, things we find interesting and rewarding. It is no different for our kids. In fact, for 2E kids, you’ve probably found that there is a HUGE difference in attention and perseverance when the topic is one of their passions.

Davis is a huge sports statistics and history fan – as in fanatic. He can hold his own with the most avid fans and his color commentary during sports games is chocked full of relevant facts and related stories.

He develops his own pre-season rankings for college and pro football, college and pro basketball and pro baseball. He has hosted his own sports TV show, writing the scripts and serving as the on-air talent.

Why is this important? It shows me that he has the organizational and research skills to complete his work. It shows me that he can sustain attention and sequence his ideas. It shows me a path forward when the project isn’t as thrilling as sports.

Pinpoint issues making homework difficult

So if you’ve seen your 2E kid’s considerable skills at work on a project of passion, but you don’t see those same skills displayed when doing homework, how do you make the connection? It helps to understand the obstacles. Here are four common stumbling blocks for 2E kids:

Physical Organizational Difficulties

Does your child know what has been assigned, when it is due and what is expected of them? If not, there is no way they can successfully complete their homework. There are lots of options here – use a day planner designed for school kids (like these or these). Skip the pen and paper (especially if handwriting and fine motor skills are a source of trouble). Use an iPod or smart phone to snap a picture of the assignment. Use the phone’s calendar program or a homework-planning app like The Homework App or My Homework.

If keeping up with assignments (turning them in on time and having materials to study for exams) causes trouble, then develop a new paper management system. I prefer ones that use a single binder, with pocketed divider tabs for each subject. Homework to complete can go in the back pocket of the divider tab and homework to turn in can go in the front pocket of the divider tab. Check out the SOAR Study Skills system.

Mental Organizational Issues

Sometimes the organizational issues are not about the physical things, but more about appropriately grouping like content together to develop a coherent story or plan. Davis has a phenomenal memory, as evidenced by his stellar sports knowledge. Ask him a question about something he has learned in school and he can talk about it in detail. Ask him to put pen to paper and his mind goes blank. He’s having recall organizational issues.

He needs help developing memory cues and chunking material into appropriate groupings to aid his recall when fine motor skills are involved.

Attention Issues

Addressing attention issues is easier in the abstract. Minimize distractions and maximize focus. Easy right? Not so much in common practice. There are lots of tricks to try and hopefully one or two work for your child.

5 Tips to Conquer HomeworkTeach positive self-talk. One of the most insidious enemies of attention is negative self-talk. 2E kids have lots of practice at telling themselves just how bad they are at school stuff. That running, negative commentary about how they can’t do their homework or they never get it right or they can’t show how much they really know is incredibly distracting. Teach your kids how to encourage themselves. Model appropriate praise. Help you kids practice combatting the negative thoughts that occupy their minds.

Set the stage for success. Make sure your child has an organized workspace. Gather everything they’ll need in one place: a good writing surface, pens and pencils, and a calculator or computer. Get rid of the phone – turn it off and/or remove it from the work area. Make use of the Do Not Disturb setting. If working on the computer, close extra browser windows – especially those with notifications that can be distracting, like Instagram, Twitter and FaceBook. Finally, use music to your advantage. Grab the headphones and create a playlist of soothing music. Over time, using the same music will help put your child in the right mood for studying.

Use a timer. Work for 30 minutes and then take a 15-minute break. Over time, the length of the working session can expand up to an hour.

Content Mastery

If your child really doesn’t understand what he is learning in class, get him help – and fast! Don’t let a momentary difficulty with math result in your child feeling beaten down and her ultimately thinking she is bad at math.

There are lots of resources for help with content mastery. Talk with your child’s teacher. Take advantage of before or after school support from the teacher. Hire a tutor. Check out Hippocampus or Khan Academy. Have your child form a study group with his friends. Choose the modality that best fits your child’s temperament and strengths. 2E kids may need to use multiple learning modalities to really get the topic.

Motivation Troubles

Does your child not understand assignments or expectations? Is your child simply wiped out after school? Does your son really just need some downtime before getting started? Is your daughter distracted by other activities that are more exciting?

Capitalize on your 2E child’s strengths

You know your child. What makes them tick, why they feel pride and how they shine. You know what they look forward to each day and how they feel and express love. Use this information.

Look at your 2E child’s academic strengths. What kind of learner are they? Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc…? Does your son excel at problem solving and logical thinking? Does your daughter love making connections between abstract concepts? Does your son have a phenomenal memory?

Understanding what your child’s relative strengths and weaknesses makes it easier to develop a path forward.

Develop & implement a joint plan

Make a Plan

Develop a plan with your child. Use your child’s strengths to mitigate the weaknesses you’ve identified together. Set a schedule and stick to it. Include milestones.  Overtime, these milestones can be less discreet.

Include Consequences and Rewards

Make them meaningful, but scaled appropriately for the task. An extra 30 minutes of media for completely homework that doesn’t include any grumping and grousing during the evening. Maybe it’s a longer term reward – a trip to the movies or a special dinner if your child manages a longer term project with minimal parental prodding.

Build in Choices

Letting your child exercise some control over the schedule will reduce the grumpiness that can accompany homework.

Revisit Your Agreement

Be willing to adjust your agreement if it isn’t working. Especially in the early stages of trying this approach, you’ll want to be flexible to see what works and what doesn’t.

Let your child fail

I’m serious – let your child fail. (Sometimes.) Stop rescuing them from their own missteps.

The consequences of screwing up these 5th grade projects are magnitudes smaller than having my boys whiff it on their college capstone project. Early failures when the stakes are relatively low create opportunities for self-reflection, change and triumph.  The discomfort and worry that accompanies failure are helpful in developing coping skills and frustration tolerance. 

I’m not suggesting that you set your kids adrift without any parental guidance, but the biggest gift we can give our kids is the chance to learn for themselves and that includes learning from their own mistakes.

2e Hoagies GraphicThis post was written as part of a blog hop hosted by Hoagies Gifted Education.

Check out other folk’s take on 2E Kids and Adults.

Maggie’s other writings on giftedness:

Anxiety and Giftedness: What is the Reality?

Right Fit Shoes: Why Gifted Identification Matters

Building Community

Gifted. Do You Watch What You Say?

Other resources from Maggie:

Get Help! Stop Struggling with Homework Headaches

Get Better Grades: 10 Tips for Test Prep

Strengths Based Parenting. How to Build on the Positive.


Characteristics of 2E Students

National Association of School Psychologists

SOAR Study Skills

22 Science Backed Study Tips to Ace a Test

20 Study Hacks to Improve Your Memory

Music for Studying: 10 Tips to Pick the Best Study Music