Reluctantly Related + Secret Lives of Men + Parenting ADD

[amazon asin=098881000X&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Deanna Brann, author of Reluctantly Related
Secrets to getting along with your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law
Issues: Understanding why your relationship with your in-law is so hard; powerful tools and techniques to bring peace and lasting change to your relationship; how to change your relationship without having to confront your in-law; what husbands and sons can do to stay out of the middle.

[amazon asin=0757306608&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Christopher Blazina, author of The Secret Lives of Men
What men want you to know about love, sex, and relationships
Issues: The differences between the way men and women think; understanding that different is different—it doesn’t mean better or worse.

[amazon asin=0345497775&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Edward Hallowell, coauthor of Superparenting for ADD.
An innovative approach to raising your distracted child.
Issues: How to tune out the diagnosticians and labelers and simply notice and nurture the spirit of your child; learning to recognize the strengths and positive traits of ADD; helping children develop self- and social awareness.

This week on Talking About Men’s Health

Lots of informative, educational, and all-around excellent articles on men’s health this week

I wrote articles on birth control for men, the increased stroke risk in men whose parents divorced, and how antioxidants can improve men’s fertility .

We’ve also got posts by a lot of great contributors on the importance of wearing sunglasses, deciding on whether HGH is right for you, the body’s role in addiction, making informed decisions about surgery vs radiation for prostate cancer, and what insisting that boys sit quietly at their desks is a terrible idea.

Check out all these and more at Talking About Men’s Health.

And if you’re interested in contributing to the blog, let me know!

Snoring kids have more behavior problems

Does your child snore, breathe through her mouth, or seem to step breathing for a few seconds at a time? If so, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to be seeing some behavioral or emotional problems (like ADD, ADHD, and anxiety) pretty soon.

In the largest study of its kind, doctors tracked 13,000 kids from infancy through age seven. 45 percent of the kids had no breathing problems. The other 55 percent did, including 8 percent who were in the “worst case” group (meaning their breathing issues peaked between ages 2 and 3 and then persisted.

Of the kids who had some kind of breathing problems, about 8 percent developed behavioral problems. But for the ones who did have some breathing issues, 13.5 percent had behavior problems. The “worst case” kids had a whopping 72 percent chance of developing behavioral and/or emotional symptoms by age seven.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics. An article about the study is here:


Rethinking Thinking

Dear Mr. Dad: There’s something going on with our nine-year old son, but it’s hard to describe. We know that he’s very smart—he reads at a high-school level, does the most amazing math calculations in his head, and is a wonderful artist. But only at home. At school, his grades are horrible, he gets in trouble a lot, is often called an underachiever, and has been diagnosed with ADHD and other learning disabilities. I always thought that being gifted and having learning disabilities were mutually exclusive. Is it possible for someone to have both?

A: The quick answer is an enthusiastic Yes! In fact, your son sounds like what some people are now calling “twice-exceptional.” And one of the biggest risks he faces is that he won’t get the attention he needs for either of his exceptional sides. Twice exceptional (2e) kids often fall through the cracks, say Diane Kennedy and Rebecca Banks, authors of Bright Not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD, and Autism.

According to Banks and Kennedy, a 2e kid’s disabilities may make people overlook his giftedness by getting the adults in his life to focus more on his shortcomings than his talents—in other words, to see him as a problem that needs to be fixed. At the same time, his intellectual gifts can mask his disabilities, meaning that he won’t get the help he needs to fully achieve his potential.

At the root of the problem are the words we use to describe children like your son: deficit, disorder, disability. But nearly 20 years ago, educational psychologist Bonnie Cramond did a comparison of the ways people describe the behavior of children who might be labeled as having a disability with those who might be labeled as highly creative. Aside from the words, there wasn’t much difference. For example, the ADD child is “impulsive,” while a creative child is “spontaneous.” An ADD child would be “hyperactive,” but the creative one would be “high energy.” One child is “inattentive,” while the other is “a creative thinker.” One is “oppositional,” the other is “questioning authority.” One is “unable to finish projects,” the other is “able to switch gears quickly” or “always looking for new challenges.” One “daydreams,” the other “is lost in thought.”

So what can you do? To start with, remember the old expression: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” People in special education tend to focus on disabilities. People who work with gifted kids, focus on gifts. You need to find someone who will look at your son from all angles, someone who can encourage him to develop his talents, while helping him work on minimizing the negative effects—if any—of his “disabilities” on his life.

I’m saying “minimize the effects” because your son doesn’t necessarily need to be “cured”—he may just need to find activities (and later, a career) that make use of his gifts. Kids with Asperger’s, for example, often excel in math and science and might be happy as adults in engineering, physics, and accounting. Kids with ADD often do well in music, art, and sports and can be quite successful as emergency-room doctors, inventors, salespeople, or air traffic controllers.

It’s also very important that you and your spouse educate yourselves about different ways of thinking about learning disabilities and gifts. In addition to Kennedy’s and Banks’ book, I recommend The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain, by Thomas Armstrong. I’ve interviewed all of these authors on my radio show, “Positive Parenting.” You can listen to podcasts at

Hey, I Want to Do That. No, This. No, That.

Dear Mr. Dad: My four-year-old daughter gets bored incredibly quickly. She’ll do something for five or ten minutes and then she’s up and on to something else. I’m having trouble keeping her occupied, since we run out of activities in less than an hour. We had her screened for ADD and other conditions, but the tests all came back fine. Is there some way to keep her focused for more than just a few minutes?

A: Did you know that a normal attention span for a child is 2-5 minutes for each year of age? For your daughter, that’s 8-20 (a big range, but not far from the “five or ten minutes” you mentioned).

There may be a number of issues at play here.

  • Your child’s temperament. Some children tend to be low energy, others bounce off the walls. Some are boisterous, others quiet. Some can pay attention for an hour, others have the attention span of a gnat.
  • All preschoolers are easily distracted—even the ones with long attention spans. The difference is that some children can get back to what they were originally doing, while others—like your daughter—can’t (or don’t).
  • Curiosity and excitement. There are so many things for your daughter to discover and explore in her world. She may think that if she finishes her puzzle, she won’t have time to start drawing. So, in an attempt to fit everything in, she ends up beginning a lot of activities but not finishing any.

That said, your daughter needs to develop the ability to concentrate on one task at a time and finish each activity before moving on to the next. When she starts school, she’ll be expected to complete assignments and projects in a timely and efficient manner. The sooner you help her develop those skills, the better. Here are some activities that should help.

  • Read. Hopefully you’re already doing this. But if not, it’s never too late to start. Begin with five to ten minutes and gradually increase. If your daughter won’t sit still, read anyway, but ask her to retell the story to you. If she will sit in your lap, extend story time by talking about the illustrations or asking questions (Why do you think that bunny bit the wolf?)
  • Matching games. Use pairs of identical cards—buy some or make your own. Start off with eight cards (four pairs) face down on the table. Alternate turning over one card and trying to find the match.
  • Get outside. Researchers have found that a 20-minute walk in the park greatly increases children’s attention span. Set up a scavenger hunt, pretend to be earthworms, or get a magnifying glass and identify bugs.
  • Do things she likes to do. All of us—adults or kids—will spend more time doing things we want to do than things someone else tells us to do.
  • Lifestyle check. How’s your daughter’s diet? Is she getting enough physical activity (60 minutes/day is about right)? How about sleep? (11-12 hours/day total, including naps)?
  • Use a timer. Set it for 15 minutes and explain that she (or the two of you) will paint or play or whatever until the buzzer sounds. Only then will you allow her to move on to the next activity.
  • Praise her every time she continues an activity for the full time. As her attention span gets longer, gradually increase the number of minutes on the timer. But make sure you keep your expectations reasonable by remembering the 2-5-minutes-per-year rule.