Cheating Childhood

ask mr - cheating kid mug shotDear Mr. Dad: My six-year-old daughter has suddenly begun telling lies—right to my face—and she’s started cheating at games too. My wife and I can’t figure out where this is coming from. We’re a very religious family and we see lying and cheating as serious moral flaws. What can we do to stop our daughter’s behavior?

A: Unfortunately, at age six, your child may have a theoretical grasp of the concepts of honesty and integrity, but right now, she’s too busy conducting an important—and completely normal—social experiment to care.

Until now, she’s looked at the world in a rather naïve, black-and-white way, believing that everyone sees and experiences things in the same way and that everyone knows the same things. But in a great developmental leap forward, she’s now discovering what psychologists call the Theory of Mind. That’s when kids (usually around six) figure out that different people can see the same situation in very different ways, that they don’t always know what’s going on inside other people’s head, and that no one will know what’s truly going on in hers unless she tells them.

This is a perfect good-news-bad-news development. On the good-news side, there’s empathy—the understanding that someone else might feel something different than she does. Being able to put herself into another person’s metaphorical shoes will help her better understand diversity and start developing rudimentary conflict-resolution skills.

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Starting Middle School: Time for the Kids to Be Responsible

middle school desksDear Mr. Dad: I enjoy reading your columns every week. You recently wrote about kids making the transition from elementary to middle school. Your suggestion of keeping the communication lines open with teens is excellent.  More listening than talking is very good indeed. But I think you focused too much on the parents and how they should stay in touch with the teachers. What about the kids themselves? Don’t you think they should be taking more responsibility for their own education?

A: You’re absolutely right (and so are the other readers who wrote in with similar comments). Middle school isn’t just about the parents; kids should definitely be learning how to be more responsible and self-sufficient. However, early on, they may need a little help. Here’s are a few suggestions (including some from readers)

  • Be Interested: Ask what she’s learning or doing in the classroom, with friends, or on the sports field. Insist on answers that are longer than one word. When I pick my 7th grader up after school, she’s not allowed to fire up her phone until she’s talked to me for five minutes about her day. Knowing you’re interested in her education will help your child stay (or get) motivated to stay on top of things on her own. Other ways to do this include volunteering at the school and attending as many school events (including teacher conferences) as you can.
  • Organization: Many—but not all—schools require kids to have a calendar or planner for keeping track of their homework, projects, and due dates. But having a planner doesn’t mean your child will actually use it, or that completed assignment will make the arduous trip from his desk, into his backpack, and into the classroom. Keeping a checklist by your front door can help eliminate a lot of problems. (Lunch? Check. Soccer cleats? Check. Homework? Check. Are you sure? Yes. Really? Oh, wait, it’s on my desk….) Help your child find a system that works for him, whether it’s lists, separate binders, directories on the computer, or whatever.
  • Prioritizing: Talk with your child about how to identify tasks that need to be done right now vs. those that are due tomorrow or next week. If your middle-schooler tends to get frustrated or overwhelmed, help her break larger projects down into smaller, less-daunting chunks. Instead of doing 100 math problems in one sitting, divide them up and intersperse them with other assignments. Help her come up with a system that works for her and her individual learning style.
  • Routines: Having a set schedule for homework can keep your child on track. A short decompression period before diving in is good, as are regular breaks. If possible, stay nearby. That’s so you can help your child stay focused and be there in case she needs help with an assignment.
  • Praise: Grades offer pretty good feedback on how a child is doing in school, but not everyone gets good ones. It’s especially important that you acknowledge the time and effort your child put into a particular project or homework assignment even if the grades were less than ideal.
  • Trust but Verify: For the first part of the year, it’s okay to make frequent reminders and require your child to show you her progress every day. But don’t turn into a crutch—or a helicopter. Over time, make fewer and fewer reminders.
  • Consequences: As your active involvement and reminders decrease, your child’s freedom to make decisions will increase. Gradually, he’ll also learn to deal with consequences, which could range from winning an award to failing a class. It’s up to him.

The Consequences of “Text Neck”

A guest post written by Drs. Matt & Jessica Thompson

text neckWith the proliferation of smartphones, Text Neck is quickly becoming an epidemic in modern society. Text Neck refers to the neck pain one experiences after prolonged use of a smartphone, tablet, or other device. While this pain might appear to be just a minor nuisance, over time it can lead to serious consequences.

The body enjoys having a natural spinal curve, which is achieved when the head is in the neutral position. The average human head weighs about 12 pounds; when looking down 15 degrees the weight carried by the neck increases to 20 pounds. Looking down 30 degrees translates to 40 pounds, and at 45 degrees (the most common texting position) the head weighs around 50-60 pounds. Imagine spending all day with five or six ten-pound weights around your neck and all that texting suddenly doesn’t sound so appealing. Recent research suggests that the average smartphone user spends between 2 and 4 hours looking down each day — that’s an average of 700-1400 hours of excess stress on the spine, which reduces, and in extreme cases, reverses the spinal curves!

Don’t be fooled by the cutesy name either; Text Neck can have dire consequences if people aren’t careful. Repeated stress on the neck can actually start to change one’s body for the worse. These changes include pressure on the brainstem, spinal cord and nerve system, organ dysfunction, degenerative disks, reduced lung capacity, chronic joint pain, increased aging, and bone spur formations to name a few. These effects might not come out in younger users until a couple decades from now, assuming they don’t change their habits. Younger users sometimes express the damage done by Text Neck through a weakened immune system, attention problems, hyperactivity, irritability, excessive crying, and changes in sleep.

A recent news report provided a case study of a 13 year-old softball player who has already begun to experience the negative effects of Text Neck. She acknowledges that sometimes her lower back is not as flexible or arches. It’s worth it to note that she says she never thought it would happen to her since she is active, but let this be a warning: enough spinal stress can have negative effects on anyone!

However, despite these nasty effects, there are 5 very simple things everyone can do to save a life time of injury and dysfunction. First, take frequent breaks from looking at your device; every fifteen minutes is best. Second, take this time to balance your posture with exercises such as the Hummingbird. Standing, put your arms above your head, like you’re signaling a field goal. Lower your elbows to your side, level with your shoulders. Make circles forward or backward, of varying sizes, squeezing your shoulder blades together to engage the postural muscles for 30 seconds. Third, take a natural anti-inflammatory, such as a clean quality omega-3 fish oil. The constant strain caused by text neck on the ligaments, muscles, tendons, spinal nerves, brainstem and spinal cord creates chronic inflammation in those tissues. Omega-3 fish oil will reduce swelling and kickstart the healing process. Fourth, see a Chiropractor who is trained to address the natural spinal curves. Text neck, and other poor postures, reduce the natural spinal curves, stretching and putting pressure on the brainstem, spinal cord and nerve system. Specific & scientific chiropractic adjustment protocols can restore the natural curves, taking pressure off these vital structures. Fifth, use a cervical traction kit daily for your “homework”. These portable, at-home devices are used in conjunction with corrective chiropractic care to retrain the curve in the neck that has been damaged by Text Neck.

While these measures may seem bothersome and unnecessary, they will be saving you from potential disaster in the future! The biggest spinal curve improvement we’ve seen in our office is from a (-) 23 degree curve to an ideal (+) 43 degrees in a 27 year old female. Along the way, she was able to stop taking 7 medications for chronic pain and fibromyalgia, ski and hike again, and start her own business.

Although Dr. Matt & Dr. Jessica Thompson, of 100% Chiropractic in Highlands Ranch, CO, come from a line of Chiropractors, boasting 60 total, their true passion for health comes from the life-changes experiences they’ve witnessed with their patients. After meeting, getting married, and having their first of two sons at Life University, they practiced in MI with family for five years before moving to Colorado in 2012 to start the practice of their dreams. Dr. Matt & Dr. Jessica specialize in pediatric and family wellness. Visit them at:

Did You Say Something, Mom?

Dear Mr. Dad: I hate to admit it, but my children won’t listen to me—especially when I ask them to help around the house. As a result I end up doing everything myself. The other day, I asked them to help me wash the car, which was filthy. I waited, asked again, and nothing. So I went outside and did it myself. A few weeks before, I told them to take the dog for a walk, they ignored me and the dog ended up pooping on the carpet (you gave this as an example a few months ago—I can’t believe it actually happened), so I had to clean it up. I’ve tried giving them more warnings and have even threated to take away some of their privileges, but they just say things like, “Why should we wash the car? It’s not ours” or “He’s your dog—you’re the one who adopted him.” I’m getting angrier and angrier at them. Something has to change, but what?

A: You have every right to be angry, but you should direct that anger toward yourself. In a word, what needs to change is you. Or, more accurately, the way you allow your kids to treat you. By giving them endless warnings, making empty threats, and then doing yourself what you asked them to do, you’ve taught them several important lessons: (a) They don’t need to respect you, (b) If they ignore you long enough, you’ll eventually give up, (c) it’s okay to not be a team player.
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Ask More from Your Kids and Do Less for Them

Emma Jenner, author of Keep Calm and Parent On.
Topic: Raising children by asking more from then and doing less for them.
Manners and respect; boundaries and consequences; scheduling and routines; communication; self-esteem; trusting your instincts; quality time.

Conquer Your Stress + Keep Calm and Parent On

Doni Wilson, author of The Stress Remedy.
Topic: Master your body’s synergy and optimize your health.
How to analyze the sources of your stress and determine how your body has been affected; understanding synergy; how imbalances create weight gain, cholesterol problems, and more; leaky gut and how it could be compromising your entire system.

Emma Jenner, author of Keep Calm and Parent On.
Topic: Raising children by asking more from then and doing less for them.
Manners and respect; boundaries and consequences; scheduling and routines; communication; self-esteem; trusting your instincts; quality time.