Another reminder it’s OK to follow your gut and fire your day care

The story this week of the 5-month-old baby that died in a Georgetown day care after choking on a glove is heartbreaking. I’m sure for many parents it brings home thoughts of how well do you know your day care and your day care workers?

Sometimes we, as parents, want to believe that everything is fine and we ignore the little signs that something might be amiss.

About two years ago, I wrote a story about when it is OK to fire your day care — something I also wrestled with when my daughter was 5.

Some of the best advice for that story came from Andrea Breen, who at the time was director of quality assurance for Stepping Stone Schools and an evaluator for National Association for the Education of Young Children.

If you think your child is in danger, don’t wait to give your two-weeks notice or try to follow the center’s policies on giving notice. Pull her out. “If you look at hierarchy — health, safety and security — nothing else matters above that,” Breen says. “If you feel there is a danger for your child to return to that school … you can’t return to that school for two weeks.”

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has a guide of things to look for.

Look at things like cleanliness, attitude of the caregiver and staff to child ratio in day cares. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Look at things like cleanliness, attitude of the caregiver and staff to child ratio in day cares. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Those things include:

Feel secure when you see that:

  • the facility welcomes you to visit any time, and you are invited to observe the class or participate in activities.
  • staff are alert and involved with the children.
  • staff seem warm and interested in the children. There is spontaneous laughter, hugging and eye-to-eye contact.
  • staff are gentle, but firm when necessary.
  • the facility is clean and attractive.
  • your child is relaxed and happy after the initial adjustment period.
  • your child seems physically well cared for. Staff inform you of minor accidents and tell you when your child doesn’t feel well.
  • children seem involved with constructive activities, and they get individual attention.

Be seriously concerned when you see that:

  • parents are not encouraged to visit the facility.
  • children are left without direct adult supervision.
  • adults spend much time scolding, ordering and yelling at children.
  • adults are physically rough with children or allow rough play.
  • the building is dirty, or you see unsafe conditions.
  • your child is unhappy about being left at the facility, and this doesn’t improve with time.
  • a child comes home bruised or injured, and the center can’t explain what happened. (The child may not remember minor bruises and scrapes received when playing, however.)
  • children seem aimless, bored, angry, or frustrated, or there are too many children to supervise

If you haven’t looked up your day care lately on the DFPS’ childcare search database, do it and do it regularly. There you can see when the last time your center or in-home day care provider was inspected and what the violations were.


Do you look like the new Barbie – curvy, tall or petite?

Barbie comes in four different body types.
Barbie comes in four different body types.

When Mattel announced today that it would start offering Barbies with four different body types, mothers and fathers around the world had their fingers crossed that they would finally have a Barbie they could buy their daughters (and their sons) that looked like real women.

The Barbie Fashionistas line come in four body types — original, curvy, petite and tall — and in seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hairstyles.

Do they look like real women? Of course, not. Curvy, tall and petite, are, of course, much closer to real women than the original ever could be. estimated if the original was a real woman, she would have something like 29-inch hips, 16-inch waist and 32-inch bust, that’s compared to a U.S. average of women ages 18-25 of 40-inch hips, 35-inch waist and 35-inch bust. At 110 pounds, and 5-foot-9 inches, Barbie also would be considered more than underweight. She’s even unrealistic when compared with the bodies of women with anorexia.

The new Barbies, which Mattel spent two years developing, give girls something that looks a little more realistic. Curvy Barbie gets a bigger waist, thicker hips and thighs, actual calf muscles and meatier arms, but she’s still modelesque and not what girls are seeing in real life. If original Barbie was an extreme anorexic, tall Barbie has even more of a problem. There’s very little fat on her or muscle. And petite Barbie just looks like the old Skipper dolls. She’s shorter than the original Barbie and has a rounder face, but she’s still too thin.

The new dolls are available for preorder at and will ship this month.

The past year has been a year during which more people are paying attention to toys for girls and for boys. After Rey, the main character from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” was not part of the box set of Hasbro “Star Wars” figures and after she was left out of “Star Wars Monopoly,” people took to social media with the hashtag #WheresRey. Some Hasbro officials tried to explain that it didn’t want to give away key plot points of the new movie. Hasbro’s “Star Wars” website now features Rey action figures front and center and she’s part of a new box set released last month.

Last year was also the year that Target finally gave up its gender-based signs of “boy’s toys” and “girl’s toys” and “boy’s bedding” and “girl’s bedding.” All are steps in the right direction.

A curvy Barbie will now be available.
Barbie comes in curvy.
Barbie comes in tall .
She comes in tall
And she comes in petite size.
And she comes in petite size.

Can we moms start “Breaking Busy” in our lives? Author Alli Worthington shows us how

A few years ago, Alli Worthington says she found herself “at wit’s end.” The blogger and founder of BlissDom Events was working all the time and raising five boys, who are now ages 7 to 17.

“I’m just done,” she told her husband, expecting that she’d have to convince him that it would be OK for her to quit the company she built. Surprisingly, he was feeling done, too.

Alli Worthington Headshot.jpgHe retired from his hospital management job and became a stay-at-home dad. She quit her job and became a consultant to help new businesses get off the ground.

In her book “Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy,” Worthington writes about the process she went through and continues to go through to prioritize what she spends her time on and get rid of what isn’t worth her energy.

The book is written from a Christian perspective — faith is a huge part of who Worthington is — but much of the advice crosses religious boundaries. Each chapter ends with a box of action steps to help give readers specific starting points.

Now, as the executive director of Propel Women, a Christian women’s empowerment organization, Worthington she says she can tell when her life is getting too busy. She can no longer control her emotions. She snaps at a co-worker or she’s constantly rushing her kids to the next thing.

Alli Worthington wrote "Breaking Busy" to help empower women to find what's important, not just urgent in their lives.
Alli Worthington wrote “Breaking Busy” to help empower women to find what’s important, not just urgent in their lives.

That’s when she knows she needs to create a stop-doing list instead of a to-do list.

“It’s a battle to fight busyness,” she says. “It’s something I need to constantly fight.”

Sometimes she realizes that she’s busy for the wrong reasons. She regularly tracks how she’s spending her time. One day she discovered she wasted a total of two hours watching random stuff like cute animal videos on YouTube.

Another way she decides what she needs to stop doing is to think about what Future Alli would say about a certain activity. “Am I going to be happy about it?” she wonders.

And if the answer is no, she drops it. She’s open with friends and co-workers about what her capacity is at that moment and that there is no more room for that activity. She says she doesn’t ever get backlash from people once she explains that she needs to stop.

“I feel that I need to give myself permission and give women permission to live life on our terms,” she says.

That means not trying to keep up with the Joneses. Some moms in her sons’ classes are great at throwing big parties and her family loves to enjoy them, but she knows that throwing a big party for her boys wouldn’t be her. Instead, she keeps it simple for birthday parties and focuses on what’s important, not how it looks.

She also recognizes that all of us are putting on a charade that makes it look like we have it together, when really our life is nothing like our Facebook posts or our outward appearance. That helps her not worry what other people think when she chooses not to do something.

Even when life is really busy, it’s important to realize the difference between things that are urgent and things that are important. Often, she says, we get trapped in the urgent and forget about the important. Those “urgent” things might be some of the things to put on the stop-doing list. The important things are not.

“We stay so stuck in the cycle of busyness that we don’t have time to discover our destiny,” she says.

For Worthington, the important things are about family and about self care. She has two things she won’t drop no matter how busy she is. The first is spending 10 minutes with each child each night going over the three things they are grateful for that day. It’s about teaching them gratitude, but also about connecting with each one separately.

The other thing she won’t give up is her quiet time in the morning. It sets the tone for the day. She listens to music, has time for prayer and drinks her coffee slowly. She remembers the years of waking up and going, going, going all day. It didn’t work for her.

One of her most important reason to fight the busyness: “Kids notice if their parents are happy or if they are feeling stressed all the time,” she says.

About every six weeks, Worthington find herself going back into the cycle of being too busy. Then she makes her stop-doing list again and thinks about what Future Alli would say. And she tries really hard to focus on doing the great things.

“We do so many good good things all day, but we’re not doing the great things,” she says.

“Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace & Purpose In a World of Crazy”

by Alli Worthington

$15.99, Zondervan

Online: Worthington invites readers to share how they are breaking busy on Twitter #BreakingBusy.

Austin’s Hand to Hold’s Kelli Kelley takes new role consulting Huggies

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. David'’s Medical Center was where Kelli Kelley’s journey began. Now she’s executive director of Hand to Hold, an organization to help parents of children born prematurely or with other complications. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. David’’s Medical Center was where Kelli Kelley’s journey began. Now she’’s executive director of Hand to Hold, an organization to help parents of children born prematurely or with other complications.

I wrote about Kelli Kelley, the founder of Hand to Hold, in one of my first Giving Ways stories. Austin-based Hand to Hold helps parents of premature and medically fragile babies with educational resources and emotional support.

Now Kelley will serve as a member of the Huggies Nursing Advisory Council. This means that she’ll help educate the diaper company about premature babies skin and development concerns.


Kelley said in a press release: “I am honored to serve on the Huggies Nursing Advisory Council. I was unable to hold and touch my one pound, eight ounce micro-preemie son for more than six weeks after he was born. Changing his diaper for the first time was a powerful, emotionally charged event.  I was terrified I might hurt him, but his nurse lovingly and professionally coached me as we had to carefully maneuver multiple pieces of medical equipment and use extreme care with his delicate skin. I look forward my service on the council and working to help ensure medical professionals are well prepared to support and educate NICU parents to help them meet the needs of their medically fragile child.”

Kelley will be the only non-medical professional to serve on the council, which includes registered nurses and nurse practitioners and neonatal occupational therapists.


Kids in New Groove gets Hotel Van Zandt support

Kids in a New Groove, a local nonprofit that gives music lessons to kids in foster care, has received a $5,000 grant from the new Hotel Van Zandt.

Westlake charities participate in online fundraiser
Kids In a New Groove music teacher Missy Hance coaches a student during a recital. KIDS IN A NEW GROOVE

“Hotel Van Zandt is centered on supporting the Austin music community with nightly shows in Geraldine’s and curated playlists throughout the hotel, but this helps bring the music story full circle,” said Joe Pagone, general manager of Hotel Van Zandt in a press release. “This partnership with KING really highlights our commitment to becoming an invested part of our community and as a father, I really identify with the impact a cause like this has on future generations of Austinites.”

Kids in a New Groove founder Karyn Scott said: “It’s so exciting for us to partner with Austin’s newest hotel property, Hotel Van Zandt. Through music, we’re able to have one unified vision on how to bring more awareness and support to Austin’s foster care community.”

I wrote about Kids in a New Groove in 2012. I was reminded of all the things I have been able to give my kids — saxophone lessons, guitar lessons, martial arts lessons, a brief turn at soccer — that kids in foster care don’t get. Read that story here.

What are you doing in February? Austin family events happening next month


 Benjamin Bazan (Tomás) and Claire Stephen as The Library Lady. in Zach Theatre's bilingual Tomás and the Library Lady. Credit: Kirk Tuck
Benjamin Bazan (Tomás) and Claire Stephen as the Library Lady in Zach Theatre’s bilingual Tomás and the Library Lady.
Credit: Kirk Tuck

“Tomás and the Library Lady.” Pat Mora’s story about the son of a young migrant farm worker comes to the Zach Theatre stage in partnership with the University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance. For ages 5 and up. 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 14. Mora offers a post-show discussion Feb. 13. $12 children, $16 adults. Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey Road.

“Pippi Longstocking.” 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27; 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28. $12 adults, $8 children 12 and younger. Scottish Rite Theatre, 207 W. 18th St.

“James & the Giant Peach.” The Roald Dahl book comes to life in musical form. 6:30 p.m. Feb. 19; 11 a.m. Feb. 20, 27, March 5, 12, 19, 26; April 2, 9. 2 p.m. Feb. 21, 26, March 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, April 2, 3, 9; and 4:30 p.m. April 10. 11 a.m. Feb. 27 is the Autism, sensory-friendly show. $29 adults, $26 children. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Stage, 202 S. Lamar Blvd.

“Peppa Pig Live!” The beloved pig of children’s literature fame comes to ACL Live. 6 p.m. Feb. 10. $39-$49. ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 310 W. Second St.

“Pocoyo Live Show.” The TV show comes to life. 4 p.m. Feb. 28. $25-$49. ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 310 W. Second St.


Kite-Making workshop. 1-3 p.m. Feb. 6. Cantu/Pan American Recreation Center, 2100 E. Third St.

Chinese New Year Festival. Hear and see Chinese music and dance. 2 p.m. Feb. 7, Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.

Youth Valentine’s Dance. 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11. Metz Recreation Center, 2406 Canterbury St.

Black History Month Kids Day. Enjoy family crafts and history. Noon-4 p.m. Feb. 13. Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.

Valentine’s Day Faerie Tea Party. 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14. $16 per child. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. Register online at

TEDXYouth@Austin Full Circle. An interactive forum for middle- and high-schoolers to share ideas and explore big ideas. Free, but apply at 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Feb. 13. Westlake High School, 4100 Westbank Drive.


Thinkery Workshops: Cow Eye Dissection for ages 8 and up. 10:30 a.m. Feb. 6, 2:30 p.m. Feb. 7. $39 for one child and adult. Build a Hovercraft for ages 8 and up. 10:30 a.m. Feb. 13 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 14. $34 for one child and adult. Cooking with Dr. Seuss for ages 4 to 7. 10:30 a.m. Feb. 20 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21. $29 one child and adult. Printmaking for ages 4-7. 10:30 a.m. Feb. 27 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 28. $29 one child and adult. The Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Girlstart will be offering interactive science at Weatherfest.
Girlstart will be offering interactive science at Weatherfest.

Bullock Museum. Free First Sunday Weather Fest. The Bullock Museum in partnership with Girlstart and Time Warner Cable offers weather-related science experiments and family-friendly activities. Noon-3 p.m. Feb. 7.  Living Histories. The staff at the museum come dresed as historical characters. 10 a.m.-noon. Feb. 4. Science Thursday. Find science experiments from Central Texas Discover Engineering. 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 11. Home School Day. Enjoy STEM activities for homeschoolers. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 18. Bullock Texas State History Museum. 1800 Congress Ave.

Myopiafest. Learn about Mark Mothersbaugh’s art as Contemporary Austin opens the exhibit “Myopia!” Play games, watch vintage children’s shows and make art to take home. Free. 11 a.m.-3p.m. Feb. 13. Jones Center, 700 Congress Ave.


PBS Kids at the Alamo: “Ready Jet Go!” See this kids astronomy show and enjoy activities with a real life astronomer.  10 a.m. Feb. 13. Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane.

The Minions are back in the summer family film "Minions." Universal Pictures
The Minions are back in the summer family film “Minions.” Universal Pictures

Family movie matinee: “Minions.” 2 p.m. Feb. 6, Windsor Park library branch.

Family movie night: “Shaun the Sheep.” 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9, Twin Oaks library branch; 4 p.m. Feb. 16, Cepeda Branch.


Book People events: Cory Putman Oakes, Jo Whittemore, Mari Mancusi read their books: “Dinosaur Boy Saves Mars,” “Confidentially Yours,” and “Golden Girl.” noon Feb. 13. Kate Wetherhead reads “Jack & Louisa: Act 2” 7 p.m. Feb. 22. Lincoln Peirce reads “Big Nate Blasts Off,” 6 p.m. Feb. 23. Book People, 603 N. Lamar

This is an undated copy of one of the original illustrations from "The Tale of Peter Rabbit." Frederick Warne & Co.
This is an undated copy of one of the original illustrations from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” Frederick Warne & Co.

Barnes & Noble events. Weekly 11 a.m. Saturday story times at all stores: “Silly Wonderful You,” Feb. 6; “Love Monster and the Last Chocolate,” Feb. 13; Peter Rabbit, Feb. 20; Dr. Seuss’s birthday celebration, Feb. 27. Lego event with expert builder. 6:30 p.m. Feb. 9, Sunset Valley. Dumbledore’s Army. This month a love potion will be made. 7 p.m. Feb. 18, Arboretum.  “The Three-Wheeled Wagon,” reading and signing by author Laura McGinnity. 1 p.m. Feb. 20, Round Rock.

At the library: 

Sew Happy. Learn to sew for ages 10 and up. 5 p.m. Feb. 2, Manchaca Road Branch.

Lego Lab. 5 p.m. Feb. 3,  Willie Mae Kirk Branch; 4 p.m. Feb. 5, North Village Branch; 3:30 p.m. Twin Oaks and Windsor Park branches, 3:30 p.m. Feb. 10, Carver Branch; 3:30 p.m. Feb. 11 Yarborough Branch; 4 p.m. Feb. 11 Cepeda Branch; 3:30 p.m. Feb. 12 Hampton and Terrazas branches; 4:30 p.m. Feb. 16, Manchaca Road Branch.

Felt Friends World Tour  — Robot. Sew a felt robot.4:30 p.m. Feb. 4. Twin Oaks Branch.

Book Circle: Lunar New Year Celebration. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 4, Yarborough Branch.

Crafternoon. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 9, Terrazas Branch; 4 p.m. Feb. 11, Twin Oaks Branch; 3:30 p.m. Feb. 22, Manchaca Road Branch; 3:30 p.m. Feb. 23, Terrazas and Howson branches; 4 p.m. Feb. 25, Cepeda Branch.

Maker Mania. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 11. Faulk Central Library.

Book Circle: Legos and Duplos. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 11, Yarborough Branch.

Literature Live Presents: “The Selfesh Giant” puppet theater for ages 4 and up. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 17, North Village Branch.

Art Lab for the Littles. Make art for ages 3 to 6. 11 a.m. Feb. 18. Terrazas Branch.

Family Craft Night. 7 p.m. Feb. 25. Hampton Branch at Oak Hill.

Book Circle: Shrinky Dinks. 3:30 p.m. Feb. 25, Yarborough Branch.

Is there an ADHD epidemic or are we just quick to label kids with symptoms?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and its cousin attention-deficit disorder seem to be everywhere, right? If you have a kid in early elementary school, you probably are experiencing fellow parents sharing that their kids were diagnosed or you might be looking at your own kid and wonder, is that what this is or is it just Johnny being an active boy or Suzie being a daydreamer?

A January story published in the Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics cited research that the diagnosis has increased 30 percent in the past 20 years. Is that because we are quicker to identify kids with attention deficits? Or could there be more going on?

All of these kids in a classroom can't have ADHD, right? How can you tell what's normal and what's really ADHD?
All of these kids in a classroom can’t have ADHD, right? How can you tell what’s normal and what’s really ADHD?

The article suggested that perhaps instead of one (or two) disorders, ADD and ADHD should be considered more of a spectrum, like autism. Many kids might fall on that spectrum and benefit from some tailored learning situations, some therapies to help them with organization or accommodations to help improve their abilities to concentrate. The article also points out that the executive function of the brain — that frontal lobe that helps you make good decisions, not be impulsive, have self control, etc. — doesn’t fully develop in girls until age 22 and in boys until age 25.

Are we now asking for kids to do more tasks that are just not physiologically possible for many kids their age? When we ask kids to sit at a desk for many hours a day at school or do more fill-in-the-bubble testing, is it realistic that they could do that without losing focus?

The JAMA Pediatrics story also called for more research in the way the use of smartphones, tablets and computers and the increase in television viewing might be altering the way our kids’ brains work.

Dr. Leonard Sax, who wrote the book  “The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt our Kids when We Treat them Like Grown-Ups,” also wonders with a diagnosis like ADHD and other mental illnesses, if what we might be seeing is actually kids who are sleep-deprived. He also believes that the increased use of electronics is rewiring kids’ brains and not for the better. The result might be something that looks like ADHD.

Dr. Sonia Krishna is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Seton Mind Institute.
Dr. Sonia Krishna is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Seton Mind Institute.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Sonia Krishna of the Seton Mind Institute agrees that not enough sleep or another psychiatric disorder might cause kids to be labeled with ADHD, when really something else is going on.

A learning disability also can look as if a kid isn’t paying attention, when really, it’s that he just doesn’t understand or cannot process the information.

An ADHD diagnosis might be masking a physical problem such as  the lingering effects of a concussion.

ADHD or ADD also isn’t something that comes on suddenly. If the symptoms do, then Krishna will look at what else is going on: bullying? stress? change in family dynamic?

It might be the go-to diagnosis, but there might be more to it.

Typically, ADHD gets diagnosed by having parents fill out a survey and teachers fill out a survey. Doctors are looking for a child to demonstrate 6 out of 9 specific behaviors and demonstrate those both at home and at another setting like at school before the diagnosis is made. Those can be subjective, although teachers usually can pick out the kids who seem to be stand out for a lack of attention from the rest of the class.

To rule out everything else and to get a clearer picture, Krishna likes to do a full range of neurological tests that take about six hours and cost hundreds of dollars. Often insurance doesn’t cover those tests. Other newer testing such as an ADHD test that tracks eye movement or brain imaging also might not be covered by insurance.

Krishna also looks at family history. ADHD and ADD have a strong genetic link, stronger than hair and eye color, she says. “Usually there is someone in the family,” she says. “What used to happen is they would be pulled out of school and have to go to work. Now we don’t just send kids to work or pull them out to be on the ranch. Now that the policy is to stay in school, we’re seeing a lot more of it.”

It’s still only about 5 percent of kids.

Often, though Krishna says, that by the time patients gets to her from the pediatrician, the diagnosis is pretty clear. They’ve had multiple problems in school and at home.

Sometimes parents are afraid to medicate, though, or afraid of the diagnosis. The good thing about the ADHD medication, Krishna says, is that it becomes obvious if a child has ADHD. The medication is a stimulant, which has the reverse effect on a child with ADHD. That child will be calmer and more focused. The child who doesn’t have ADHD or ADD and gets the medication, will be revved up and will be able to concentrate less than before the medication. The medication also works quickly and is out of a child’s system quickly, too. “That’s why I feel like a trial of medication is not as daunting as it may seem,” Krishna says. “We don’t have to try it for very long to know if it is working.”

Medication is not the only recommendation. Last year a study recommended that kids, especially younger kids, try ADHD therapy first before medications. Some of the therapy is just different ways of making schedules, organizing their stuff, making charts to stay on top of things. Krishna recommends kids with ADHD get assignments written out, be able to use computers instead of hand writing assignments, sit at the front of the classroom, limit the repetition in homework and receive one-on-one tutoring.

“A lot of children don’t need anything if a teacher is mindful and a parent is really involved,” Krishna says.

But for kids who do need medication, you don’t want to ignore it. Kids with ADHD who aren’t treated, might have difficulty making friends, have trouble becoming employed or holding a job as an adult, or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. ADHD might not be forever. About half of kids diagnosed are able to develop strategies or benefit from the developed frontal lobe to not need medication as adults.

For more information, read our overall guide to ADHD.


Parents: You’re not doing your job. Sincerely, expert and author Leonard Sax

Dr. Leonard Sax wrote "Girls on the Edge" and "Boys Adrift."
Dr. Leonard Sax wrote “Girls on the Edge” and “Boys Adrift.”

Family physician, psychologist and author Leondard Sax wants parents to know that they are “raising kids wrong.” The author of “Boys Adrift” and “Girls on the Edge” is back with “The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt our Kids when We Treat them Like Grown-Ups.” (Basic Books, $26.99)

“Most American parents are completely confused and going utterly in the wrong direction,” he says. “There’s a collapse of understanding what parenting involves.”

In his book he talks about a scenario in which parents and a 6-year-old child, who had a sore throat, came into his office. When he said, “Next I’m going to take a look at your throat.” The mom turned it into asking for permission by saying, “Do you mind if the doctor looks in your throat for just a second, honey? Afterward we can go and get some ice cream.”

That led to the child refusing to have the doctor look in her throat to do the strep test and the child having to be restrained to get the test accomplished.

“It’s not a question,” Sax says. “It’s a sentence: ‘Open up and say, “Ahh.”‘ “Parents are incapable of speaking to their children in a sentence that ends in a period,” he says. “Every sentence ends in a question mark.”

Some parenting expert told them they should always offer their children choices instead of telling them what to do and parents believed them, he says.

"The Collapse of Parenting," by Leonard Sax. Basic Books, $26.99, available at
“The Collapse of Parenting,” by Leonard Sax.
Basic Books, $26.99, available at


The hierarchy of parent over child isn’t there, he continues. Instead of parents exercising their authority because they know what’s best, they are focusing on making kids happy and boosting self-esteem.

“They now see their job as facilitating whatever a kids wants to do,” he says.

Instead, Sax says, their job is to teach kids right from wrong, teach kids the meaning of life and keep their children safe.

“In doing that job, you’re going to do a lot of things a child won’t approve of and not understand,” he says. You have to be the bad guy.

Parents should be focusing on helping kids develop skills such as self-control, humility and conscientiousness, meaning they think of people other than themselves.

Those are things that are the biggest predictors of future success in adulthood, he says, not education or affluence.

One point of irony: this is a generation of parents that is spending more time with children than any previous generation. But instead of spending time with family meals, this generation is spending time shuttling kids from one extracurricular activity to the next or spending time doing the work for them.

“It doesn’t help to spend more time with kids if they are spending it in the wrong ways,” he says.

Sax makes the case through citing numerous research studies that our lack of parental authority is the reason why obesity is on the rise, why more kids are on anti-anxiety and attention deficit disorder medication, why kids are have a culture of disrespect, seem fragile, and why American kids no longer lead the world in education.

Some solutions he’d like you to do right now:

Have family meals at home and make that a top priority. “You have to communicate that our time together as a parent and child is more important than anything else,” he says. One study found that for each additional meal a family had together the less likely kids had internalizing problems such as anxiety or externalizing problems such as skipping school. It also helped kids develop good nutrition habits, lessening the obesity problem.

Take screens out of the bedroom. This includes cellphones, computers, TVs, video games. Kids are chronically sleep deprived, which leads to poor behavior and can even be the reason why kids are getting mental health diagnosis.

Put screens in public places and limit how they are used. This generation is living life in a virtual world. Their online friends can quickly become more important than the friends they see in person. They don’t know how to communicate with someone face to face or have outside interests and hobbies. Video games also rewire the way their brains work. And remember, what they post online never goes away. Install software like My Mobile Watchdog, which will share every photo they take or post with you.

Teach humility. Give lessons that show kids that they are not the most important person in the world. They need to be able to see the world through another lens and be able to handle rejection or failure. It really cannot be “everybody gets a trophy.”

Have an alliance between school and you. If your kid did something, don’t come at teachers or administrator with suspicion and distrust. “Parents swoop in like attorneys demanding evidence,” he says. Instead lessons of honesty and integrity should be enforced. That means your brilliant kid who cheated takes the 0.

Parent what they do. No, your 14-year-old cannot go to a party with college kids or to the beach for spring break. No, they will not be at parties where alcohol is served, and you will not be the one serving it. You have to think of worse-case scenarios like drinking and driving, alcohol poisoning, and sexual assault, and know that these are not decisions that they are ready to make because they are not adults. They need an adult, and that’s you. And even if their peers’ parents are fine with something, you don’t have to be. “Other parents don’t have a clue at what they are doing,” he says. “That’s why what they are doing doesn’t have good outcomes.”

Know that some of these things, especially if they are new for your family, will be difficult and might be hard to enforce at first. You just have to keep at it. Your kids will thank you, not today or maybe not tomorrow, but some day, perhaps.

What do Austin parents and grandparents think about Dr. Sax’s ideas and the state of modern parenting?