Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sue Scheff: Outrageous School Policies: What Parents Can Do

Has “zero tolerance” gone too far? I hear from parents regularly and I must admit, although I completely understand safety of our children is always a priority, some of the suspensions or incidents that land immature young students in alternative school situations, can be troubling – debatable at least. I believe each incident should be reviewed individually, however at the same time we do need policies in effect. This is another time parents need to be involved. Be an educated parent, you could save your child from being placed in a not so good situation.


By Bob Ross

There was a lesson to be learned recently in the case of Zachary Christie, a 6-year-old first-grader in Delaware who earlier this month brought a camping utensil along with his lunch. The tool included a folding fork and knife—the reason Zachary took it out during lunch time at Downes Elementary School in Newark last month.

Unfortunately for Zachary, that favorite camping utensil also included a folded knife. That automatically made it a “dangerous instrument” under his school district’s rule, which in this case had zero tolerance for any dangerous instruments brought into school.

So Zachary was sentenced to 45 days in the district’s alternative school, a punishment that drew outrage from parents and lawmakers alike. A few days later, the school board allowed Zachary to return to school and amended the policy to include only a 3- to 5-day suspension for kids caught with dangerous instruments, if they are in kindergarten or first grade.

The incident raises questions about what parents should do if they encounter a school rule that they think is unfair and should be changed. While some observers lashed out against so-called zero tolerance policies—rules that require a certain punishment often without allowing the school principal or administrators any discretion—Diane Cargile, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, had a different view.

Cargile pointed out that many schools have zero tolerance rules covering a variety of different behaviors. At her school in Terre Haute, Ind., for example, an incident like the one with Zachary would go to a committee with the discretion to determine the intent of the child.

The main point that Cargile made is that parents should, and can be, vital partners with schools in setting up important rules and policies. Principals and administrators want input from parents when rules are being discussed. It’s important for parents to know the policies and rules at school and become active and involved. Don’t wait until there’s a problem to show up at school, Cargile said. “We want parent involvement and that’s how schools are made,” Cargile said. “And then when you are surprised (about a rule), you know what to do to rectify the situation. You aren’t a stranger.”

But Kathy Cowan, director of marketing and communications for the National Association of School Psychologists and a parent of four, said the plain truth is that parents often don’t know the rules and policies at their school. “Parents these days are so busy and may be working two jobs,” she said. “I don’t think it’s because they don’t care, it’s because they are busy.”

Both Cowan and Cargile agreed, however, that parents probably have more power to affect rules and policies at their children’s schools than they realize.

Here’s how parents can flex their muscle at schools around the country, according to the pair:

•Know the rules at school. It takes some work, Cowan said, but that handbook that goes home at the beginning of the school year is worth reading and understanding.
•Make sure your child knows the rules. Once you’ve gone through the handbook, it’s time to sit down with your child and emphasize the rules you think are most important for him or her to keep in mind.
•If a rule seems unfair, contact your school. Whether the issue comes up after reading the school rules or after an incident like the one with Zachary and his camping tool, don’t hesitate to make your opinion known. “It can be difficult for some parents, may be busy or feel intimidated,” Cowan said. “But a really good school administration is open to conversations with parents.”
•The next step is the school’s parent teacher organization. The PTA should have a good working relationship with school officials. “One of the responsibilities of the PTA,” Cowan said,” is to fully understand what the laws are and the consequences.”
• Be prepared to go to your School Board. While changing school rules isn’t impossible, it usually takes a little pushing, Cowan said. Many of the rules started with the School Board, and parents are one of the main constituencies of school boards.
Cowan added that, in the opinion of the school psychologists association, zero-tolerance policies that don’t provide school officials with any discretion aren’t good for schools. Rules that keep kids safe are important, but rules should have clear standards for behaviors and reasonable consequences when the rules are not followed, Cowan said.

For example, a sexual harassment policy that punishes an innocent first-grader being silly on the playground in the exact same way that an 18-year is punished for more serious behavior is absolutely wrong.

“If the parent community doesn’t understand the consequences of zero tolerance and stand up to it, then zero tolerance will live forever,” Cowan predicted. “At its best, zero tolerance is a tool schools use to shield themselves from liability.”

Follow on Twitter @Education_com

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Magnolia Christian School formerly Carolina Springs Academy Alert

Read update on December 10, 2010.  Click here.

Are you at your wit's end and desperately searching the Internet for help for your out of control teen? Is your child a good teen making some very bad choices? Failing in school? Underachieving? Defiant? Runaway? Teen drug use? Teen drinking?

Are you considering a Residential Treatment Center (RTC), Therapeutic Boarding School (TBS), Emotional Growth Program, Behavioral Modification Program, Wilderness Program, etc?

As a Parent Advocate, I founded my organization after struggling with my own teenage daughter. My story has been widely read and published by Health Communications, Inc - original home of Chicken Soup for the Soul book series.

My daughter was harmed at Carolina Springs Academy. I won a court battle in 2004 proving my allegations against World Wide Association of Speciality Programs (WWASPS - the umbrella that Carolina Springs Academy fell under) and what they did to my daughter and the deception I endured.

It has been brought to my attention that Carolina Springs Academy recently lost their license and now have re-opened with a new name - "Magnolia Christian School".

It is my own opinion that if you are considering this "school" for your family, you may want to do your homework and also read my story. I understand not much has changed except the name. Although my story was in 2000, sadly I still receive calls and emails from parents and former students that have claimed abuse and fraud today.

See Below for an updated list of possible affiliation with the same organization that harmed my daughter.

As of August 2009 it is believed that WWASP aka WWASPS or Premier Educational Systems LLC has affiliations with the following:

Academy of Ivy Ridge, NY (CLOSED)
Bell Academy, CA (CLOSED)
Canyon View Park, MT
Camas Ranch, MT
Carolina Springs Academy, SC (License revoked, re-opened as Magnolia Hills Christian)
Casa By the Sea, Mexico (CLOSED)
Cross Creek Programs, UT (Cross Creek Center and Cross Creek Manor)
Darrington Academy, GA (CLOSED)
**Discovery - Mexico (see below)
Help My Teen, UT (Adolescent Services Adolescent Placement) Promotes and markets these programs.
Gulf Coast Academy, MS (CLOSED)
Horizon Academy, NV
Jane Hawley - Lifelines Family Services
Kathy Allred - Lifelines Sales Representative
Lisa Irvin - Helpmyteen and Teens in Crisis
Lifelines Family Services, UT (Promotes and markets these programs) Jane Hawley
Magnolia Christian School, SC - formerly Carolina Springs Academy
Mark Peterson - Teen Help Sales Representative
Majestic Ranch, UT
Midwest Academy, IA (Brian Viafanua, formerly the Director of Paradise Cove as shown on Primetime, is the current Director here)
Parent Teen Guide - Promotes and markets these programs
Pillars of Hope, Costa Rica
Pine View Christian Academy, (Borders FL, AL, MS)
Reality Trek, UT
Red River Academy, LA (Borders TX)
Respect Academy, NV
Royal Gorge Academy, CO (CLOSED)
Sherri Schwartzman - Lifelines Sales Representative
Sky View Academy, NV (allegedly closed?)
Spring Creek Lodge, MT (CLOSED) Rumors they have re-opened in another location of MT.
Sunset Bay Academy, CA
Teen Help, UT (Promotes and markets these programs)
Teens In Crisis - Lisa Irvin
Tranquility Bay, Jamaica
Youth Foundation, Inc. LaVerkin Utah
Sunset Bay Academy, Oceanside, CA - rumors of short term program there.

**There is reason to believe a new program in Mexico is now open - parents need to be aware of this. It is believed they may have re-opened Casa By the Sea location with another name - possibly Discovery. We have heard that Jade Robinson is running this program - he was formerly at Horizon Academy, Bell Academy (closed) and Casa by the Sea (closed).

In addition to the legal battle with WWASP, P.U.R.E. and founder Sue Scheff won an unprecedented $11.3 million jury verdict for Internet defamation. Despite being vindicated, many of the attacks on P.U.R.E. continue out of malice and spite.

Full Disclosure: The sales reps will discredit me as a disgruntled parent. When someone harms your child and dupes you, you tend to become disgruntled. However I have proven my allegations in court - and sadly continue to receive emails and calls from victims of this organization (2009).

See updated on December 10, 2010 - More closings and openings. Be an educated parent.

Sue Scheff: Hiding Drugs From Parents

Wake up parents and read this critical article if you suspect your teen is using drugs.

One of the most important parts of this article is the opening your lines of communication with your child. Are you noticing a change in behavior? Withdrawn? Depressed? Changing peer groups? Becoming secretive? Be an educated parent - you will have a safer teen.

Hiding Drugs from Parents

“The car is a big one. A lot of kids will hide it in the car now because they think the parents aren’t going to go through the car.”

– Heather Hayes, Licensed Drug Counselor

Inside a highlighter or tube of lipstick, stuffed into the back of a clock radio or hidden between a mattress and box springs- teens have a million clever ways to hide both their drugs and their drug use.

Chris, 24, would use a toilet paper tube lined with a dryer sheet to hide the smell of marijuana from his parents. He says, "All you have to do is blow out the smoke through there, and it scents the smoke so it doesn't smell like marijuana."

He says he would stash his drugs anywhere but in the house, where mom or dad might find them. Chris says, "Maybe in the garage, or under the hood of my car. We'd get pulled over and we wouldn't even be scared because you never see a cop open a hood on the side of the road."

Licensed drug counselor, Heather Hayes, says, "The car is a big one. A lot of kids will hide it in the car now because they think the parents aren't going to go through the car."

But Chris says the best way to hide drug use was just to avoid his parents. He says, "Cause I'd be high, and you know, I didn't want to give it away. So I would just come in, be like 'I'm home', you know, 'I'll be upstairs in my room.'"

Experts say by the time parents catch kids using drugs, there's a good chance they're already addicted.

Hayes says, "In the early beginning stages teens are extremely good, I mean they are brilliant at being able to hide things. They will change clothes so that their clothes don't smell. They will use Visine. As their addiction progresses, one of the things that they give up is the fact that they care, they care whether or not they get caught."

Chris has been in rehab for more than a year. Among his regrets: the time he didn't spend with his parents. Chris says, "My mom walks freely in and out of my room now. And it's like I just had so much to hide before, so I wouldn't let them in."

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) describes adolescence as a "time for trying new things." Teens use alcohol and drugs for many reasons, including curiosity, because it feels good, to reduce stress, to feel grown up or to fit in. Teens at risk of developing serious drug and alcohol problems include those ...

■With a family history of substance abuse.
■Who are depressed.
■Who have low self-esteem.
■Who feel like they don't fit in or are out of the mainstream.
In addition, warning signs of teen drug abuse may include ...

■Fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes, and a lasting cough.
■Personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression and a general lack of interest.
■Starting arguments, breaking rules or withdrawing from the family.
■Decreased interest, negative attitudes, a drop in grades, many absences, truancy and discipline problems.
■New friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities, problems with the law, and changes to less conventional styles in dress and music.
Peer pressure is one of the most difficult inducements faced by teens to use illegal substances. Experts at the Hazelden Foundation have created the following model that a teen might follow in dealing with pressure to use drugs or alcohol:

■Ask questions – Size up the situation before "going along." For example, a classmate might say, "Hey, lets go hang out at the mall" – and have shoplifting in mind. To be responsible, ask, "What are we going to do? How long will we be there?" These questions will help you make informed decisions before getting into a problem situation.
■Name the trouble – After you identify the situation, you need to state the possible problem: "That sounds like trouble to me."
■State the consequences – Use the threat of punishment as an excuse not to drink. Say something such as, "My parents would ground me for months," or "I could get kicked off the soccer team."
■Offer an alternative – If a friend invites you to drink or use drugs, suggest an alternative. "Lets go get pizza." If the friend pressures you more, walk away, but leave the door open. You could say, "Hey, that's fine. Go do your thing. You're welcome to join me later."
■Get out of trouble – Should you find yourself in a problem situation, get out immediately and call a responsible adult for help.

Tips for Parents

Drugs are a threat to almost every child, and one of the best ways to help ensure your child will make the right decisions when faced with choices regarding substance abuse is to confront the issue with your child as early as possible. Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics list the following as ways to address the subject of substance abuse with your child:

■Talk with your child honestly. Don't wait to have "the drug talk" with your child. Make discussions about tobacco, alcohol and other drugs part of your daily conversation. Know the facts about how drugs can harm your child. Clear up any wrong information, such as "everybody drinks" or "marijuana won't hurt you."
■Really listen to your child. Encourage your child to share questions and concerns about tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Do not do all the talking or give long lectures.
■Help your child develop self-confidence. Look for all the good things in your child – and then tell your child how proud you are. If you need to correct your child, criticize the action, not your child. Praise your child's efforts as well as successes.
■Help your child develop strong values. Talk about your family values. Teach your child how to make decisions based on these standards of right and wrong. Explain that these are the standards for your family, no matter what other families might decide.
■Be a good example. Look at your own habits and thoughts about tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Your actions speak louder than words.
■Help your child deal with peer pressure and acceptance. Discuss the importance of being an individual and the meaning of real friendships. Help your child understand that he/she does not have to do something wrong just to feel accepted. Remind your child that a real friend won't care if he/she does not use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
■Make family rules that help your child say "no." Talk with your child about your expectation that he/she will say "no" to drugs. Spell out what will happen if he/she breaks these rules. Be prepared to follow through, if necessary.
■Encourage healthy, creative activities. Look for ways to get your child involved in athletics, hobbies, school clubs and other activities that reduce boredom and excess free time. Encourage positive friendships and interests. Look for activities that you and your child can do together.
■Team up with other parents. Work with other parents to build a drug-free environment for children. When parents join together against drug use, they are much more effective than when they act alone. One way is to form a parent group with the parents of your child's friends. The best way to stop a child from using drugs is to stop friends from using them.
■Know what to do if your child has a drug problem. Realize that no child is immune to drugs. Learn the signs of drug use. Take seriously any concerns you hear from friends, teachers and/or other kids about your child's possible drug use. Trust your instincts. If you truly feel that something is wrong with your child, it probably is. If there's a problem, seek professional help.
According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), parents are the key to keeping kids drug-free. CASA research shows that the extent to which parents take a "hands-on" approach in raising their kids, the more they establish appropriate rules and standards of behavior, and the more they monitor their teens, the lower the teen's risk of substance abuse. "Hands-on," according to CASA, includes parents who consistently take 10 or more of the following 12 actions:

■Monitor what their teens watch on television
■Monitor what they do on the Internet
■Put restrictions on the music (CDs) they buy
■Know where their teens are after school and on weekends
■Expect to be and are told the truth by their teens about where they are going
■Are "very aware" of their teen's academic performance
■Impose a curfew
■Make clear they would be "extremely upset" if their teen used pot
■Eat dinner with their teens six or seven times a week
■Turn off the television during dinner
■Assign their teens regular chores
■Have an adult present when the teens return from school

■American Academy of Pediatrics
■The Hazelden Foundation
■The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sue Scheff: Holiday Safety Tips for you and your Teens

As we are now approaching the holidays, many people will be in malls or shopping plazas. It is time to review some tips to insure you and your family’s safety.

Be sure to go over these with teenagers and caregivers.

•When parking your vehicle to go shopping, remember where you parked it! Write it down if you have to. This can save you time and frustration after a long day of shopping.
•Always park in a well lit and well traveled area.
•Have your keys in your hand when approaching your vehicle.
•Before entering your vehicle, scan the interior of your car to be sure no one is hiding inside. Check to see if you are being followed. Always be alert.
•When storing items purchased at stores, place them out of sight in a locked trunk.
•Do not leave your purse, wallet, or cellular telephone in view; always LOCK VEHICLE, while driving or leaving your vehicle parked, even when in your own driveway.
•Don’t resist if someone tries to take any of your belongings. Don’t chase someone who robs you, they may have a weapon. Instead, call 911. If your cell phone is stolen with your belongings look around for an emergency phone or find someone immediately to call 911.
•If you go to an ATM for cash, check for people around and make sure it is well lit and in a safe location. Also be sure you complete your transaction and retrieve your ATM card.
•Carry only the credit cards you need and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
Do you have more safety tips? Please feel free to share them in comments. Being prepared can help us to all have a safer holiday season.

As Halloween approaches next week, be sure to review my Halloween Safety Tips.

For more information visit Road and Travel Magazine.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sue Scheff: Stop Teen Violence and Bullying

Last week the horrific story of the fifteen year old, Michael Brewer, who was doused in alcohol and set on fire by other teens! The story literally stunned our community. According to the Miami Herald, the doctors say he is making significant progress. The five teens are charged with aggravated battery in the attack earlier this month at a Broward County apartment complex. Authorities say they were retaliating in a quickly escalating dispute over a video game.

Recently Michael Brewer's parents have sent a letter of thanks (via CBS News) to everyone for their prayers, donations and support. Read here.

Ross Ellis founded one of the leading organizations to help STOMPOUTBULLYING in combination with Love Our Children USA has offered some excellent advice and tips for parents, educators and everyone working with children today.

1. Bullying hurts and being a victim of any kind of bullying feels really bad. And it’s important for you to know two things: You’re NOT alone and It’s NOT your fault

2. If you’re being bullied there’s a lot you can do. Depending on how bad the bullying is (and as long as you don’t feel at risk, scared or physically threatened) you might want to try and work it out yourself.
If the bully doesn’t change their behavior, that’s when talking to someone else can be really helpful.

If the bullying is verbal – ignore them. This means walking away from them – no matter how badly you want to respond. The bully wants you to react. And if you don’t, they will most often lose interest.
When possible, ignore them (This includes cyberbullying you by text, email or instant messaging – with one exception. Ignore them but save the texts, emails or instant messages for proof in case you need it.)

Ignoring the bully may be helpful, particularly for one-off cases. Bullies are looking for a reaction from you and often lose interest if they aren't given the satisfaction of getting one.

3. If You Feel Safe, Here Are Some Ways To Ignore The Bully:

• Walk away when the bully approaches you. Try and imagine you’re walking away from a stranger. Both you and your body language will show you don’t care.
• Concentrate on thinking about something else (maybe a concert you want to go to, or a new outfit you want to buy.)
• When the bully approaches you, count to 100 and keep walking. They’ll never see how upset you are.
• Yelling STOP and walk away. Keep walking and don’t turn around no matter what they say.

4. Be Positive

It can be hard to remember all your good points when someone is doing their best to be negative. However, try to think of all the things you do well and that you are a valuable person. Thinking of how bad the bully must be feeling may also help you to stay positive.

5. Picture This

Picture your bully standing on their head with their body stretching – almost as if they were standing in front of a distorted mirror like the kind you see at a carnival. Listen to their voice as comes out all distorted and warbled. And they’ve turned yellow with pink stripes. Now who’s laughing?

6. Build A Wall Around You

Can you visualize a tall stone wall? Build that invisible wall around you and when it’s up, imagine all the things the bully is saying bouncing off that wall.

7. Be confident

Bullies usually pick on people that they think are weaker than they are, so it may help if you stand up to them.

Some great comeback lines are:

• Whatever!
• Let’s move on!
• You finally found something funny to say?
• I’m not sure why you keep saying these things about me, but I don’t care.
• Be really cool and stop this!
• Enough!
• Why are you talking to me?
• Here we go again. This is boring. Let me know when you’re done.

8. The Buddy System

Bullies feel empowered to bully one, but rarely will they bully a group. Hang out with your friends.

If after using these tactics and the bullying doesn't stop, it may be time to ask for help. Don't be afraid to let someone know that you are being bullied. There are people who care about you and will help you.

9. Get Help - Tell An Adult

It may seem scary to tell someone but, telling will not only get you help, but make you feel less afraid. If you are being physically bullied and are in danger you must speak with a trusted adult immediately. And if you can’t go to your parents, seek out a trusted teacher guidance counselor or school psychologist. If an adult does not help you, tell another adult and keep telling someone until you do get help.

10. What NOT To Do If You Are Bullied


•Think it's your fault. Nobody deserves to be bullied!
•Fight back or bully a person back
•Keep it to yourself and just hope the bullying will "go away." Make sure you report the bullying.
•Skip school or avoid school or afterschool activities because you're afraid of the bully
•Don’t be afraid to tell. Telling is NOT tattling! It's the right thing to do!
•Hurt yourself. Nothing is that hopeless that it can’t be resolved.

For more information on bullying and cyberbullying visit , , and follow them on Twitter @ProtectChildren and @CatiCares

More news on Michael Brewer on CBS News.

Pictured above: Ross Ellis - Founder of Love Our Children USA and Teen Ambassador, Cati Grant.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sue Scheff: Last Minute College Application Tips

It is that time of year again when many High School teens seniors are applying to colleges. Are you running behind? Struggling to get through the application process? Here are some last minute college application tips from Peterson's Guide.

Applications are highly evolved documents, based on numerous admission deans asking themselves if they're asking you the right questions. For that reason, how you fill out an application is almost as important as the information you include. In other words, follow directions!

Review the requirements

Applying to college typically involves a fair amount of paperwork. So before you hit the post office or hit send, take a long last look at your application.
If you're applying electronically, did you type carefully and check your spelling? If you're applying on paper, was your application filled out neatly?

Did you take shortcuts? A partially completed application is a clear signal that you are not an eager applicant.

Did you send too much information? If a two-page essay is requested, did you send in four? Only do so if you’re not sending fluff!

Did you send all the information that was asked for — including transcripts, test scores, and recommendations?

Did you meet or beat deadlines?

Submit as early as possible

With deadlines in sight, keep in mind that admission offices are inundated with applications for a few months each year. When applying to college, consider getting your application in when the staff doesn't have hundreds and hundreds of them to read.Stragglers are accepted of course, but why send yours in at the last minute when you could get it there before the rush hits?Double-check the writing in your college application

Nothing says "I don't really care about this college" like inadvertently putting another college's name somewhere in the application. The same goes with spelling the college's name incorrectly. Either error signals a major lack of seriousness about really wanting to attend that particular school.

Avoid sending gifts

Gimmicks don't impress application readers, either. No matter how tempting it may be when you really, really want to get into a particular school, sending cookies or balloon bouquets doesn't make a good impression. It’s better to get noticed for the right things, like academic excellence and leadership qualities.

For more information visit College Board, Peterson's Guide
Also on

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sue Scheff: Is Penmanship becoming Extinct?

When I read this article it got me thinking, how often are our kids actually handwriting? Will this hinder them in the future, or is it the future? Years ago many of us hand wrote our essays and reports, today it is all about the keyboard. I think back to taking typing classes, never realizing how important that class would be. Did I mention that was in High School? Today it starts much earlier.

Source: Connect with Kids

Is Penmanship Extinct?

“If your handwriting is barely legible, it makes them think that you are not really an organized person.”

– Adam, 17 years old

Many tech-savvy teens use a keyboard far more often than a pencil with the result that their handwriting is virtually illegible. In fact, some argue that handwriting is becoming obsolete. Maybe one day it will be but, in the meantime, there are finals, midterms, and essays on college entrance exams.

Many tech-savvy teens say they use a keyboard far more often than a pencil – sending text messages, typing essays and taking notes on a laptop computer.

“Every assignment that we have to turn in, in the long run is required to be typed,” says 16-year-old Rebecca. “It looks neater.”

“I think I have horrible handwriting,” says 17-year-old Brandon. “It’s barely legible.”

There seems to be a growing opinion that handwriting is almost obsolete.

Some educators link the demise of penmanship to the rejection of repetitive drills as a teaching tool. Also, teachers are spending less time on handwriting and more time covering subjects like reading and math, which are measured by standardized tests.

In the meantime, however, there are finals, midterms and essays on college entrance exams – many of which still need to be written by hand.

The writing portion on the SAT exam, for example, requires students to write an essay by hand in 25 minutes.

“And I found it hard to write an essay just using handwriting, because I’ve grown used to typing my essays on the computer,” says Brandon.

While teachers who grade the SAT are told not to mark off for sloppy penmanship, research shows that handwriting can send a message.

“It’s hard when you look at some types of handwriting, to not read certain things into it,” says Dana Huff, an English teacher at the Weber School, who also grades essays for the SAT. “You know the big, bubbly handwriting, for instance, can sometimes lead a teacher to think, ‘Oh, Airhead.’”

“If your handwriting is barely legible, it makes them think that you are not really an organized person,” says 17-year-old Adam, “that you are writing too fast, and you are not thinking about it.”

While computers have made handwriting less important than in the past, educators say students still take tests – and they need to be able to write legibly.

“I think in the case of handwriting, one of the best things that they could do is just drill,” says Huff.

For example, she says, students could practice writing timed essays by hand before they take the SAT.

“I wish we could type it, but I know that’s not possible, so I think its okay,” says Rachel, a junior at the Weber School. “I think as long as they are okay with us crossing stuff out and it being not as neat than I think, it’s okay.”

Are students’ writing skills at their worst in decades? Possibly, according to a study from the National Commission on Writing, which suggests today’s students don’t receive enough writing instruction at school. The commission’s report shows that most fourth-graders spend less than three hours a week writing, which equals about 15% of the time they spend watching television. Consider these additional – and dismal – statistics about kids and writing:

•Seventy-five percent of high school seniors never receive a writing assignment from their history or social studies teachers.
•In most high schools, the extended research paper, once a senior-year rite of passage, has been abandoned because teachers do not have time to grade it anymore.
•Only about half of the nation’s 12th-graders report being regularly assigned papers of three or more pages in English class
•About four in 10 seniors say they never, or hardly ever, receive writing assignments.
Why is writing becoming a lost art form in schools? Most experts agree that part of the problem is the fact that many high school teachers don’t assign writing tasks because they don’t have the time to read and grade 120 to 200 papers per assignment.

Tips for Parents

If your child’s school does not emphasize teaching writing skills, you can take several steps on your own to help your child become a better writer. Consider these tips from the experts at Family Education Network:

•Provide appropriate tools and space. Provide plenty of paper – lined and unlined – and different kinds of writing utensils, including pencils, pens, markers and crayons. Allowing your child to choose a special pen or journal will help promote a willingness to write. Make sure the lighting is adequate and that the writing surface and chair are comfortable for your child.
•Allow time. Help your child spend time planning a writing project or exercise. You may even want to set aside a daily writing time at home. Writing for 20 minutes per day is equally as important as reading the same amount of time.
•Respond. Respond to the ideas your child expresses. Focus first on what your child has written, not how it was written. In the beginning, you can ignore minor errors while your child is just getting ideas together. After you acknowledge and respond to the content of your child’s writing, go back and correct errors or misspelled words.
•Praise. Always say something good about your child’s writing. Is it accurate? Descriptive? Thoughtful? Interesting?
•Write together. Have your child help you with letters, even such routine ones as ordering items from an advertisement or writing to a business firm. This helps him or her see a variety of ways in everyday life that writing is important.
•Make it real. Your child needs to do real writing. Encourage him or her to write letters or send email to relatives and friends or to help with shopping lists.
It is important to remind your child that writing skills don’t come without some hard work. You can help keep your child on the “write” track by trying the following strategies from the National PTA:

For middle school students:

•Do crossword puzzles with your child and play word games like Scrabble, which are excellent vocabulary builders.
•Teach your child to write the conclusion to an essay or story first. The conclusion of an essay is really a “destination” – it’s where the writer tries to take the reader. All of the thinking and reading a child has done on a topic has led to the conclusion.
•Encourage journal writing. The journal now becomes a diary full of names, places and activities that serves as your child’s memory bank for future writing assignments. It’s also a record of his or her evolving writing style.
For high school students:

•Encourage your child to write for the school newspaper or yearbook. These are excellent ways to develop a sense of writing structure and writer’s “voice.”
•Suggest that your teen learn how to handle writing deadlines. Use the “practice time” approach: Set aside time each day to work on a long-term assignment or just to write. Sticking to this routine helps your teen get into a habit so that he or she can deal with deadlines sensibly rather than feel stressed by an “all-nighter.”
•Advise your teen to interview someone in his or her anticipated career field about the value of writing to career performance. Your teen can ask questions such as, “Is writing important to you in your job? How? How important is writing when communicating with other people at work, such as your boss, co-workers and those you manage? How do you view your writing ability in terms of job promotion?”

•Family Education Network
•National Commission on Writing
National PTA
•New York Times
The College Board
•Utah State University, Handwriting Worksheets
•Dana Huff, English Teacher, The Weber School

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teaching gratitude even on Halloween?

MommyPerks founder, Shara Lawrence-Weiss, recently posted an excellent article on the upcoming event called Halloween! O-kay, I have never been a big fan of this holiday (so to speak), however I know the kids love it and look forward to it. Shara has a great positive twist to Halloween that helps teach our kids about appreciation and gratitude.


By Shara Lawrence-Weiss

I am a big believer in the need to teach our children/students a heart of gratitude. As with most things, modeling this behavior is the most effective way to teach it.

We can model gratitude simply by saying "thank you" or by offering hugs, a touch on the arm, an appreciative and genuine word, etc. We can also make a point to teach thankfulness and gratitude by offering our kids/students activities that promote these concepts.

Having spent much of my youth growing up in Australia, I was not aware of any Halloween traditions until our family moved to the States. My parents researched the background of the holiday and made the decision not to allow us to trick or treat. Instead, they took us to a movie each year and allowed us to pick out some lollies at a local shop (so we didn't feel left out the day after Halloween when all the kids at school brought their sweets along to sort through and trade).

While we do not necessarily like some of the Halloween traditions and/or decorations, we do allow our kids to participate in dressing up (in non 'evil' characters) and carrying around buckets or sacks to gather up sweets.

Really - when you think about it - it's a very funny holiday. Going from door-to-door shoving a bucket toward a stranger, asking for free junk food. Doing this on ANY other night of the year would be cause for long term lock up :-) All the same, kids LOVE it, don't they? So...we do partake.

One thing I have certainly noticed over the years is the lacking of an attitude of gratitude when kids trick or treat. They seem to believe they have a right to ask for the sweets and in all fairness, they have been told to do it so of course they feel entitled.
What to do?
So glad you asked :-) Lisa recently sent me to her Bing Note site to see a PDF file containing 4 Halloween thank you note cut-outs. Ha! Can you believe no one else has thought of this? Perhaps they have and we simply didn't know about it. All the same, we know now and I think it's a fabulous idea: teaching our kids to be grateful - even for FREE CANDY!

I showed the flier to Barb, owner of She then showed the flier to a group of teachers who stated they will use the printouts in their classrooms, having the children cut out the thank you notes prior to their trick or treat evening of fun.

Join me, won't you? Print out the notes and help your child cut around the lines (great early childhood activity right there). Teach them to appreciate what is offered by the neighbors and the thought that goes into buying and providing the holiday treats for so many children.
Click here to view the flier and print (free of charge).

And of course - a big THANKS to the Bing Note team for thinking up this tremendous idea. Your products, ethics and values are a blessing to all of us.

Thanks Shara for a great article!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sue Scheff: Kids and Dealing with Breast Cancer

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Kidlutions is offering an excellent source to help your kids if they are dealing with a loved one with cancer with KidTalkCards (TM). Help your kids to talk about Breast Cancer.
Source: Kidlutions

Each year, thousands of individuals will be diagnosed with breast cancer. We recognize that breast cancer patients do not exist in a vacuum. They are mothers, daughters, grandmothers, granddaughters, aunts, sisters and friends.

A cancer diagnosis can put families in a tailspin. Keeping track of treatment and appointments, medications and emotions can be tough for adults. At Kidlutions™, we know how difficult it can be for children, too. We know the questions, worries and concerns that go through kids' heads when a family member receives a diagnosis of cancer, becasue we have helped many of them in our practice.

Here's What You Get: KidTalkCards™ : Dealing with Breast Cancer, can help you ask the right questions to get kids talking about what's on their mind when a loved one has breast cancer. KidTalkCards are a set of 50 pockt-sized cards, each with a question, prompt, idea, activity or project to help you help kids discuss and deal with what can be a very scary topic. The cards help deal with feelings, fears, anger and other responses that kids have when they learn of the diagnosis, as well as helps the adults answer for the kids how they will be cared for, increasing their security and sense of normalcy.

What's better: For each purchase of our Dealing with Breast Cancer KidTalkCards™ that are purchased from our site, a charitable donation will be made to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. This foundation funds mammograms and screenings for women who could not otherwise afford them, as well as educational programs for the detection of breast cancer. All women deserve that. Because all women are connected to someone who loves them and needs them! Early detection saves lives! That could mean more birthdays, more volleyball games, more mommy and me dances...just MORE!

ORDER TODAY: Each purchase helps educate women about breast cancer and pay for mammograms for women who would not otherwise be able to afford them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sue Scheff: Clinical Research - Promoting Good Health

Here is something to think about. I was asked to post this information and encourage my readers to learn more about Clinical Research today and the the positive results that have been occurring.

Did you know that in recent years 8 out of 10 children have conquered their cancer, as opposed to only 2 out of 10 in 1960? And approximately 2 million children are saved each year due to receiving their Pneumonia shots? These victories are all due to advancements in medicine made possible by clinical research. Clinical Research introduces you to a new resource that provides important facts about clinical research, encourages more people to become champions of clinical research and builds excitement for the promise of tomorrow’s medicines! Sponsored by Quintiles, presents easy-to-use, comprehensive information for those who have little or no understanding of clinical research and the value it brings to healthcare.

With a few clicks, patients/parents who visit can identify appropriate, ongoing or future clinical trials and narrow them down to those that are geographically convenient. What else can provide?

· The Web site puts you in touch with supporting information about clinical research

· also provides videos and news from recent studies In order to win the fight against cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, viral diseases, heart disease and stroke, millions of people need to be aware of and participate in clinical trials and research. But more help is needed!

The clinical trial became the standard in developing drugs in 1962, and since then, the FDA has approved over 1,019 novel therapies. Virtually all the medicines used today are a result of clinical research, including all drugs for cancer, heart disease, depression, HIV, Alzheimer’s and asthma. Clinical research through clinical trials is arguably the greatest medical invention of the 20th century.

It continues to deliver life saving medicines and treatments and gives hope to patients in need of better care and effective medicines. To hear patients and doctors tell their story about clinical trials click here. Need another reason to consider clinical trials? The research pipeline holds over 9,605 potential breakthroughs!

Please visit today to learn more and get involved.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sue Scheff: Dangers of Chat Rooms

Does your child, teen or do you venture into “Chat Rooms” online? Chat rooms are among the riskiest places on the Net for children and teens. Most Internet Predators are lingering waiting for their next victim in a variety of chat rooms. Don’t allow it to be your child.

As a Parent Advocate, I encourage all parents to take the steps to educate your children about cyber safety with a strong emphasis on chat room safety. October is National Cyber Safety Awareness Month, which is a reason for you to set aside time to sit with your kids and discuss what lurks online.

Here are some great Chat Room safety tips from Connect Safely to share with your family:
Remember that what you say in a chat room or instant messaging session is live -- you can't take it back or delete it later.

1. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want the public to know — this includes your full name, your address, phone number of other personal information.

2. Don't get together with someone you meet in a chat room. If you must, meet in a public place and bring along some friends.

3. Don’t reveal your actual location or when and where you plan to hang out.

4. Choose a nickname that's not sexually suggestive and doesn’t give away your real name.
5. If someone says or does something creepy, block them and don't respond.
6. Just sign out if the topic turns to sex. That can often lead somewhere you don't want to go.

Also on

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teens helping teens and putting a smile on a child's face

There is nothing funny about the word cancer, and I recall Gilda Radner stated something similar to that in her book, “It’s Aways Something” which chronicled her battle with cancer.
Cancer has touched many lives. Whether you are a survivor of cancer, know someone battling it, or have lost someone to this disease, cancer is not a welcome guest in our lives. Unfortunately we don’t have control over all aspects of our ever changing life.

What can we do to help those that are suffering? Especially young children that are struggling with different forms of cancer such as Leukemia or other causes of hair loss. We need to give them hope and a sense of normalcy. These kids want to reach their teens, and hoping someday they will be going to college, have a family and so much more we take for granted.

You don’t have to have deep pockets to help. You don’t even have to write a check! All you need is hair! Do you or your kids have 10 inches or hair or more? Maybe you can work towards this and encourage your kids too. This is great way to not only bring self confidence and a smile to a child that has lost their hair; you can feel good about yourself. The benefits of giving will not only change the life of the recipient, it will change you too. Everyone knows it is better to give than to receive, and in this case, the gift is priceless and costs you nothing. You truly are the one that will be gaining so much.

Locks of Love is a win-win organization all the way around. During this month of Breast Cancer Awareness learn how you can help, and you don’t have to have a bank account. As a Parent Advocate I encourage parents to get their kids and teens involved. Giving back to your community is part of building their self esteem which in the end will help them to make better choices in their lives.

Be an example for your kids, reach out and give to children that need a boost of self confidence and a sense of normalcy simply by donating something that you are fortunate enough to have and will grow back faster than you realize. However the best part is how your heart will grow.

What is Locks of Love:

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

Mission and Vision for Locks of Love:

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics.

Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need.

Benefits for Children:

The children who receive these hairpieces have lost more than their hair; they suffer from a loss of self. Many children have been teased by classmates and/or embarrassed by the attention they receive because of their hair loss. They often will withdraw from normal childhood activities such as swimming, going to the mall or even playing with their friends. While wearing a hairpiece is certainly not a cure for these children, it can help restore some of the normalcy to their everyday lives that most of us take for granted. It is our goal to help provide a foundation on which they can begin to rebuild their self-esteem.

As holidays approach, think about this. Today’s economy will cause many cut-backs on commercial gifts, but this gift will keep on giving and doesn't cost you anything but time and love.

Also on

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sue Scheff: Stop Medicine Abuse - National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month

As a Parent Advocate, I am frequently asked to post current events that can help you be an educated parent and raise safer children. Today’s generation of teens as well as the challenges of parenting can be overwhelming.

I recently posted an article on The Examiner about the dangers of Inhalant Abuse. These are items that can be found in your home and kids today have learned how to use them to ”get high.”

Today we are talking about cough medicine abuse. One of several parents is sharing her story with us. Please take the time to learn more about this growing trend. As with inhalants, these items can be easily located in your home and simply purchased at your local stores.

Posted with permission from Mom, Misty Fetko:

My name is Misty Fetko. I am a registered nurse, mom of two, and the newest member of the Five Moms: Stopping Cough Medicine Abuse campaign. As I have been told, you have been one of the biggest allies of the Stop Medicine Abuse program, and I speak for everyone who’s been involved (even though I’m new!) when I say thank you for what you’ve done for these initiatives.

The reason you are hearing from me now is that October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, something that has particular meaning to my family and me. In 2003, I discovered my older son, Carl, unresponsive in his bedroom. He passed away that day from a lethal mix of drugs including Fentanyl, a prescription narcotic; marijuana; and dextromethorphan (DXM), the active ingredient in over-the-counter cough medicines.

As an emergency room nurse, I know about substance abuse from first-hand experience, but even with all that knowledge I never knew that teens were abusing cough medicine to get high. I’ve joined the Five Moms campaign in an effort to ensure that parents have all the information about medicine abuse that I unfortunately did not have.

As a widely read and influential voice in the online community, I am asking you to help me spread the word about the dangers of medicine abuse among your readers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teen Drug Prevention - Inhalant Abuse

Learn more about Inhalant use and your teens

Inhalant abuse is a growing problem that many parents are not aware of. We are cautious of drug abuse and alcohol consumption, however huffing, sniffing, dusting, bagging and the use of inhalants is not a frequent discussion.

Why is inhalant abuse to important to learn about? Because many of the products teens are using today to get high through inhalants, are located in your home. Many are household items such as nail polish remover, paint thinner, correction fluid, lighters, gasoline and many more.
As a Parent Advocate, I am constantly reminding parents that keeping your lines of communication open with your teens can help prevent drug use and other negative behavior that can stem from peer pressure, depression, etc.

Here are some talking tips to open your dialogue with your teen today:


• Ask your pre-teen or teenager if he or she knows about Inhalant Abuse or is aware of other kids abusing products.
• Reinforce peer resistance skills. Tell him or her that sniffing products to get high is not the way to fit in. Inhalants are harmful: the “high” comes with high cost.
• Encourage your child to come to you if he or she has any questions about Inhalants.
• Tell your child that the consequences of Inhalant Abuse are as dangerous as those from abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs. Be absolutely clear — emphasize that unsafe actions and risky behavior have serious consequences.
• Monitor your teen’s activities — set boundaries, ask questions. Be firm, know his or her friends and his or her friends’ parents, know where they meet to “hang out.”
• Educate your child about the dangers, but don’t mention specific substances unless your child brings them up. While many youngsters know kids are sniffing some substances, they may not know the full range of products that can be abused; and you don’t want to give them suggestions.
• Tell your children that you love them and that their safety is your number one priority. Tell them again…and again…and again

Be an educated parent, you will have a safer and healthier teen.

Also on

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sue Scheff: Cell Phones and your teens and kids - What is the right age for them to have one?

Sarah Newton and Lisa Warner have an amazing Blog, FINK (Family Interaction Nurtures Kids, which offers up-to-date advice, articles and resources for raising kid in today's world!Here is a recent post that I thought many parents can relate to and learn from.
When is the right age to get your child a mobile phone?
By Sarah Newton
I get asked this question a lot and to me it is so immotive and difficult to answer as each child and each family is different. And my opinion may differ from yours. There are so many things to consider.

1. Why does she want one or why do you want her to have one? Most girls will start asking for a phone when they move up to secondary school ( 12 years old) the phone becomes a social thing and a status symbol to them. Boys tends to be a bit later when they want to communicate with girls. Any requests before this time will simply be just because they like the look of them and can generally be disregarded. Most parents will buy their children one before this so they can know where they are – if this is the case there are other devices out there that can do that for you.

2. What sort of phone does she want and what features has that phone got? If she is a teen or nearly teen she will want the best pink one she can find and it will have a camera and she will want access to the internet. Girls love phones with cameras and take some very sultry and sometimes private pictures on them. They also want all the features so make sure that you call the mobile provider and ask how to turn the phone from adult to child mode.. All phones are set to adult so porn and other in unsavoury things are likely to appear on them.

3. The networks do not know how old your child is so when she signs up for the latest ring tone and suddenly her credit disappears as they take money out weekly, you can have very little to fall back on as the phone is always in an adults name.

4. The bill –get pay as you go and/or a deal with unlimited texts – the only person she is ever likely to speak to is you; the rest will be texts and lots of them, so don’t fall short by assuming your child will use the phone in the same way you do. You will need to make very clear guidelines with your child about the bill and who pays for what and how much. Phone bills can run away with you.

For those of you who have been around me for a while, you will remember my horror when Bronte’s dad bought her a phone at 8 years old. To me, having a phone is a responsibility issue; if they have showed they can be responsible in the past, then it may be a good idea.

If they have not, then it may not, so there is not one “correct” answer. Personally, if someone had not bought my daughter one (without my permission), she would have only got one when she could take full responsibility for the bill. We believe that we give them phones for their own safety, but is that really true? Did we not survive without them? Who, like me, can remember the mobile of the 1980’s? It was very uncool (and expensive) to have one. Anyway, it is a personal choice for you and your family.

Make sure you are making that choice from your own values and parenting purpose, not from pressure from the outside world. Oh, and get the boundaries very clear up front; what is and is not acceptable. Here are the boundaries around my daughters phone.

•She takes full responsibility for the money and topping up. We never give her money for her phone and after four years of having it, she has never asked. When we go out the phone is on silent.
•She talks to no-one for more than 20 minutes.
•She only gives her number to people she knows.
So there you are, make sure a phone is in line with your family and how you want to parent.

If it is and you get one, set some clear boundaries. Oh, and my 8-year-old has several old Blackberry, my old Nokia, my old Samsung…. She seems to care not that they have no credit; she still talks away and texts me!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sue Scheff: Bullying and the fear of going to school

During this STOMPOUTBULYING Awareness week, we need to recognize that some kids and teens are afraid to attend school. Bullying can be harsh and cause emotional harm to your kids. As a parent, we need to take steps to learn more about bullying and how it affects our children. Is your child the bully? Be proactive and get involved. Don't allow kids to hurt others with malicious words. Stick and stones will hurt you, and so will words.

Scared to go to School

“We know that there’s a sense that kids have, that frequently when somebody does engage in bullying nothing happens. That’s sometimes because it’s viewed as, ‘this is just what kids do’ or it’s just not recognized as bullying or something out of the ordinary that should not be accepted.”
– Joel Meyers, Ph.D, psychologist

A new national poll on children’s health finds that only a quarter of American parents would give their child’s school an “A” in preventing bullying and school violence. In fact, every day in America thousands of kids miss school because they’re afraid of being bullied or harassed.

Andre Johnson remembers some of the verbal harassment he dealt with at school. “You faggot, you got a little sugar in your tank, sissy,” were just some of the names he was called.

“There would be times when I just wouldn’t go to class,” he says.

Every day, thousands of kids like Andre are afraid to go to school for similar reasons.

Experts say one of the biggest problems is that some adults and children still view bullying as normal teenage behavior.

“We know that there’s a sense that kids have, that frequently when somebody does engage in bullying nothing happens,” explains psychologist Joel Meyers. “That’s sometimes because it’s viewed as, ‘this is just what kids do’ or it’s just not recognized as bullying or something out of the ordinary that should not be accepted.”

He says schools need to have clear and accurate policies on bullying, confidential ways to report harassment, a safe haven within the school. “But more importantly,” says Meyers, “I think you need to have mechanisms in place where teachers learn what bullying is, so they know how to identify it, so they know how to respond, so they don’t think, ‘oh, that’s just kids, that’s just what kids do’.”

And, experts say, parents shouldn’t underestimate their power within the school.

“Parents have got to realize that it’s just not the schools that can do this,” explains Vermont state representative Peter Hunt. “The schools receive these kids. The schools really have to have the parents’ support.”

Some educators say parents, teachers, and children should all fight for a kind of “zero tolerance” for bullying.

“If zero tolerance means that whenever a child engages in bullying behavior that there are natural and meaningful consequences to those negative behaviors, if that’s what’s meant by zero tolerance, then that makes sense,” explains Meyers.

With support from his mother and friends, Andre was able to overcome the harassment and, best of all, accept himself. “It was like around my junior year when I started not to care anymore,” he says, “and I was like, ‘okay, I don’t care anymore - who knows, who don’t knows, whatever. You like it, you don’t like it, so what. It’s me, not you.”

Tips for Parents

Who is likely to be a victim of bullying? The National Resource Center for Safe Schools says that passive loners are the most frequent victims, especially if they cry easily or lack social self-defense skills. Many victims are unable to deflect a conflict with humor and don’t think quickly on their feet. They are usually anxious, insecure and cautious and suffer from low self-esteem. In addition, they rarely defend themselves or retaliate and tend to lack friends, making them easy to isolate.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, you can help him or her in the following ways cited by the Committee for Children:

■Encourage your child to report bullying incidents to you. Validate your child’s feelings by letting him or her know that it is normal to feel hurt, sad, scared, angry, etc. Help your child be specific in describing bullying incidents – who, what, where and when.
■Ask your child how he or she has tried to stop the bullying. Coach him or her in possible coping methods – avoidance of the bully and making new friends for support.
■Treat the school as your ally. Share your child’s concerns and specific information around bullying incidents with appropriate school personnel. Work with school staff to protect your child from possible retaliation. Establish a plan with the school and your child for dealing with future bullying incidents. Volunteer time to help supervise on field trips, on the playground or in the lunchroom. And become an advocate for school-wide bullying prevention programs and policies.
■Encourage your child to continue to talk with you about all bullying incidents. Never ignore your child’s report. Remember that you should not advise your child to physically fight back. Bullying lasts longer and becomes more severe when children fight back, and physical injuries often result. Also, you should not confront the bullying child or his or her parents.
Unlike victims, bullies appear to suffer little anxiety and possess strong self-esteem, according to the National Resource Center for Safe Schools. They often come from homes where physical punishment is used and where children are taught to strike back physically as a way of handling problems. Bullies thus believe that it is all right for stronger children to hit weaker children. They frequently lack parental warmth and involvement and seem to desire power and control.

If you suspect that your child is bullying others, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) suggests you seek help for him or her as soon as possible. Without intervention, bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal difficulties. Talk to your child’s pediatrician, teacher, principal, school counselor or family physician. If the bullying continues, the AACAP advises you to arrange a comprehensive evaluation of your child by a child and adolescent psychiatrist or other mental health professional should be arranged.

The Coalition for Children says that you can also help your child by discussing with him or her these key points about bullying:

■Remind your child that bullying is not acceptable in your family or in society.
■Provide your child with alternatives to taking frustration or aggression out on others. You can even role-play different ways to behave in situations where your child would normally bully another.
■Specify concretely the consequences if the aggression or bullying continue.

While bullying, harassment and teasing are unfortunate aspects of childhood, you can help minimize these occurrences by raising non-violent children. The American Academy of Pediatrics cites the following tips for curbing hurtful behavior in your child:

■Give your child consistent love and attention. Every child needs a strong, loving, relationship with a parent or other adult to feel safe and secure and to develop a sense of trust. Without a steady bond to a caring adult, a child is at risk for becoming hostile, difficult and hard to manage.
■Make sure your child is supervised. A child depends on his or her parents and family members for encouragement, protection and support as he or she learns to think for himself or herself. Without proper supervision, your child will not receive the guidance he or she needs. Studies report that unsupervised children often have behavior problems.
■Show your child appropriate behaviors by the way you act. Children often learn by example. The behavior, values and attitudes of parents and siblings have a strong influence on them. Most children sometimes act aggressively and may hit another person. Be firm with your child about the possible dangers of violent behavior. Also remember to praise your child when he or she solves problems constructively without violence.
■Don’t hit your child. Hitting or slapping your child as punishment shows him or her that it’s OK to hit others to solve problems and can train him or her to punish others in the same way he or she were punished.
■Be consistent about rules and discipline. When you make a rule, stick to it. Your child needs structure with clear expectations for his or her behavior. Setting rules and then not enforcing them is confusing and sets up your child to “see what he or she can get away with.”
■Make sure your child does not have access to guns. Guns and children can be a deadly combination. Teach your child about the dangers of firearms or other weapons if you own and use them. If you keep a gun in your home, unload it and lock it up separately from the bullets. Don’t carry a gun or a weapon. If you do, this tells your child that using guns solves problems.
■Try to keep your child from seeing violence in the home or community. Violence in the home can be frightening and harmful to children. A child who has seen violence at home does not always become violent, but he or she may be more likely to try to resolve conflicts with violence.
■Try to keep your child from seeing too much violence in the media. Watching a lot of violence on television, in the movies and in video games can lead children to behave aggressively. As a parent, you can control the amount of violence your child sees in the media by limiting television viewing and previewing games, movies, etc., before allowing access to them by your child.
■Help your child stand up against violence. Support your child in standing up against violence. Teach him or her to respond with calm but firm words when others insult, threaten or hit another person. Help your child understand that it takes more courage and leadership to resist violence than to go along with it.

■American Academy of Pediatrics
■American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
■Coalition for Children
■Committee for Children
■Families and Work Institute
■National Resource Center for Safe Schools
■National School Safety Center
■U.S. Department of Education

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sue Scheff: Kids Are Heroes - Help Support these young Kids making a difference in many lives

As a parent advocate, I know how important it is to not only help parents, but to encourage kids/teens. Kids Are Heroes is an amazing organization helping to recognize kids that are making a difference. Take a moment to learn about Alaina. Can you help her to help others?
Re-printed with permission from Kids Are Heroes.
My last post [Gabe O'Neill] described our biggest event of the year which is Kids Are Heroes Day 2009. This year we are inviting all the kids from around the US and Canada to participate. Some of them would love to come but it is difficult for them financially. Here is an email I received from Alaina Podmorow, founder of “Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan”. (See her profile here on

Dear MaryMargaret and Gabe,

It’s me Alaina, the founder of Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan. I received your invitation to participate in the “Kids are Heroes” day on October 24th of this year and would absolutely love to be involved. I love the idea of being in Washington DC and being able to raise awareness with both youth and adults about the human rights violations against girls in Afghanistan. I believe that education is the most important key to unlock the door to peace.
If we can educate everybody, I believe peace will follow.
Once everyone is educated, people will not live in fear and be intimidated by what they don’t understand and they will understand how to exercise their human rights. My focus is educating girls in Afghanistan because they don’t have the same rights that men and boys do. Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan want to make that change by raising money and teaching our global community that it is our job to make the change toward peace. I would love to be able to share my story and plans at your event however it is not easy for us to travel such a distance due to the costs of airline tickets and hotel cost and other stuff as well. I hope things will work out and we can get some funding so we can participate. I wish you good luck in planning your event and if I can’t go, best of luck in making our world a better place.

Alaina Podmorow - Founder of Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan

If her story touches you and you or someone you know can help her in any way to get to this event, please visit to donate.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sue Scheff: Preparing Your Sophomore for College Applications

It may seem early for you to start preparing your teen for college applications, however you will soon learn it is a tedious and important process! Take the time to be sure you have all your needed classes, credits and more.

Preparing Your Sophomore for College Applications

by Lisa Mendelman

A marathon. A gauntlet. The Indy 500. There is no shortage of metaphors to describe the college application process. As a high schooler, these images can be daunting, if not downright scary. But, to add a new – and perhaps more heartening – metaphor to the mix, try this on for size: a skyscraper.

Freshman year is all about laying the foundation, comprised of strong academic coursework, time management, and organization. Building upon these general life skills, sophomore year is the time to widen the basis of support. Now is the time to expand the focus to the external factors that impact the college application process – extracurriculars and summer activities, for example.

But where to begin? It’s easy to be simultaneously overwhelmed by choices and not particularly excited about any one commitment. The answer? Passion. “Sophomores have to focus on their passions,” says educational consultant Peggy Baker of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She says she asks her students, “What extracurricular activity do you love and excel at?” Educational consultant Pearl Glassman of New York tells her clients: “Continue to take the strongest courses you can handle academically, but start looking outside yourself to find activities that you will enjoy and can become passionate about, if you haven’t already done so. This is the time to get serious about some project or activity.”

The task of identifying an extracurricular passion (or three) is undeniably easier for some teenagers than others. For those who struggle a bit more, Glassman recommends using the summer after freshman year as an exploratory period. “Look for a fun experience that is also worthwhile,” she suggests. Not every student is genuinely interested in building houses in South America; some might prefer to work at a local animal shelter, or teach arts and crafts at a senior center.

The goal should be to find something that is as enjoyable as it is potentially viable as a longer-term interest. The first (and second, and even third) concern should be whether an activity is fun, fulfilling, and personally meaningful. The weight it will add to a college application should be an afterthought. “My colleagues in admissions can tell who truly has the goods, as opposed to those who are trying to do what they think [the admissions office] wants,” says David Altshuler, an independent educational consultant based in Miami, Florida. “Going to a nursing home once for two hours isn’t going to do it. You need to find what makes you smile; the interest and passion have to be real.”

Also, don’t worry about doing everything. Just like the strongest structures have a few well-integrated centerpieces, so should a college application have a strong list of activities for which the student shows true commitment. “Colleges have moved away from looking for students who do everything,” says Karen Plescia, an educational consultant at Leslie Goldberg and Associates in Braintree, Massachusetts. “Now they are interested in what you have identified as a passion, where you have delved deeper. Ideally, by the middle to end of sophomore year, you begin to focus your passions such that, in your junior and/or senior year, you can step up and take on leadership roles in those [few] activities.”

However, while honing academic and extracurricular passions, sophomores don't need to worry about narrowing down college choices quite yet. Some counselors recommend one or two low-key campus visits, just to begin to investigate what “college” actually looks and feels like. “You don’t need a list, just visit informally,” Plescia advises. “If you’re going to a basketball game at Boston College, go early and walk around. What does a large school feel like? A small school? An urban school? Just gather the pieces of data early on; worry about narrowing later.”

That time would be much better spent in a soup kitchen, on a golf course, or in the dark room – wherever your child’s passions may lead.

After graduating from Stanford in 2004, Lisa Mendelman taught English,Writing, and Journalism at several private schools in the Bay Area to students ranging from eighth to twelfth grade. She is currently a Master's candidate in English at Stanford University and a freelance writer.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sue Scheff: Internet Things Your Child Should NEVER Know

October is National Cyber Safety Awareness Month.
It is a perfect time to review some great tips for parents, teens, kids, small business owners and everyone. The Internet today is our new information highway.

It is important that we are educated on the power of the Internet as well as the pitfalls of it. The World Wide Web has been considered an educational tool, however like with many things in life; there can be a dark side.

Take the time to become aware of tips to keep you and your family safe in cyberspace.
I will be bringing tips through this month from different sources; all are targeted to helping you be more secure while online.

Here is some advice from Nurse Practitioner Schools:

Internet Things Your Child Should Never Know
Strangers online are okay. Remind them that a stranger on the internet should be treated like a stranger in real life. If ignoring them doesn’t work, they should tell a parent. Check out NetSmartz for more.

Posting a picture is okay in certain situations. Even an innocent looking picture, once it is out there, can be changed to do all sorts of damage. Encourage your child to post a picture of themselves as a favorite cartoon character as a safe and fun option.

It’s okay to chat with other children online. Because anyone can pose as anyone else on the internet, chatting and other activities still fall under the no stranger rules. If you’re child does chat, make sure you know who they are chatting to both online and in person.

What type of monitoring software you use. If they can Google it, chances are a savvy child will be able to find out how to disable it. Keep software boxes and receipts out of sight so the child cannot find out that way, either.

If they are being monitored. Children who know they are being monitored may wait until they have access to another computer to do the stuff they know they shouldn’t be doing. If you catch your child doing something you don’t approve of, talk with them instead of blowing up at them.

Your passwords. Because adults often use the same passwords for different sites, telling your child even one password can open the door to them accessing every online account you have. If you have a family account on a site such as Flickr, have the whole family come up with a password together.

More advice and tips will be coming soon. Don’t miss this month of Cyber Safety Awareness. Keep in mind, an educated parent is a prepared parent which leads to safer children.

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