Aug 06

Why People Drive You Crazy

Especially those crazy-makers we call our kids!

Have you ever wondered why some people can’t get anything done and others can’t relax?

Why your kids react so differently to the same parenting methods?

Why some babies are calm and others hard to console?

Why your behavior changes around certain people?

Why getting along can be so difficult?

Why People Drive You Crazy: Part One: A Fresh Look at Temperament is the book for you. Karyn Van Der Zwet spent the last seven years poring over psychology, anthropology, physical health, and neurology trying to find out what provides each one of us with a sense of well-being. The answers she found dismantled many commonly held beliefs we rely on to parent our children and relate to each other.

Karyn distills this information into short and insightful sections in her newly released book, the first in a series. She explains temperament, personality, and different reactions to stress. The bulk of the book has to do with understanding and succeeding in our relationships with different temperament types.  Throughout the book she uses her own categories for four main temperaments: Owl, Hare, Butterfly, and Tortoise. I tend to shy away from such divisions, but I notice these names are easily remembered and quite useful. I’m mostly Owlish. Now I know why I clam up around Butterfly types and become frustrated by bossy Hares. More importantly, I see situations that I normally blame on myself differently and, thanks to hundreds of hints Karyn shares, have more constructive ways to deal with them.

This no-nonsense book is platitude-free and packed with practical tips. I think it’s particularly useful for parents. It’s not an overreach to say this is the sort of book that helps us make childhood better for our children. As Karyn notes in the first section,

Sometimes, people drive us crazy because their temperaments are different from our own. It is common to attribute certain behaviors to flaws in character, which are actually normal and uncontrollable biological reactions based in temperament. Sometimes we see behaviors in another, which reflect our own internal state or temperament. If we learned these behaviors were unacceptable or undesirable then, too, we may find the other person irritating…

Temperament is not destiny. If parents manage their children’s temperament well, the more extreme aspects can be modified and the children can, eventually, learn to manage their temperament for themselves.

The Kindle version is only 99 cents. For one week only, get 15 percent off the paperback price of $7.40 using this code created for Easy To Love readers: S2LW47CN

Jul 26

Technology Bridges Autism: Carly’s Voice

Carly Fleischmann was unable to communicate. Diagnosed with autism and related disorders by the age of two, she screamed, threw herself to the floor, smeared feces, moved constantly, and barely slept at night. An attentive family plus hours of daily therapy helped teach her rudiments like walking and feeding herself. Experts advised her parents to consider residential care.

But one day during a therapy session when she was ten years old, Carly reached for the computer. Slowly, using one finger, she typed




Her therapists were astonished. It took months and much coaxing to get her to use the computer again (at that time, an augmentative communication device). But she began to recognize that communication was essential. Technology made it possible.

What emerged from her arduous single strokes on the keypad showed a girl who wasn’t mentally retarded, as her doctors suspected, but someone spirited, insightful, and intelligent. She wrote about wanting to have fun with normal kids. She asked to do things she’d always wanted to try. And she tried to convey what it was like to live in an autistic body. She explained that behaviors (like banging her head on the floor and bleating loudly) erupted from her like liquid would burst from a can of Coke when it had been shaken and opened. She said those behaviors helped block the sensory input of sight and sound that constantly overwhelmed her.

A few years ago, a segment about Carly’s new-found communication aired on 20/20

Now Carly uses technology to communicate with a world that’s ever more open to her. She keeps up with a busy Twitter  feed and Facebook fans. She answers questions, promotes autism awareness, and says that she feels part of a larger community by connecting with people through social media.

Technology allows Carly to share what she calls her “inner voice.” Check out Carly’s Cafe, an interactive web video, to experience a coffee shop as she experiences it. And take a look at the memoir she wrote with her father, Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, to better understand this bright engaging girl whose world unlocked thanks to a keyboard.

May 30

Privilege of Parenting

There are only so many minutes in the day to spend reading blogs so those blog choices must be made wisely. I regularly dip into a few inspiring parenting blogs, a few spiritually nourishing blogs, and a few smart brainy blogs. I find all three of those elements in one of my favorites. It’s written by clinical psychologist, husband, father to two sons, former director and screenwriter, and all-around gentle soul Bruce Dolin. It’s named Privilege of Parenting.  which really says a lot about the content. Every post gives me something to think about, but if you want to drift over that direction try How is Narcissism like Footed Pajamas?,  Parenting Manifesto,  How Doing Things At Which We “Suck” Can Be Good Parenting, and Relationship is Everything.

Now Bruce has a book out, also titled Privilege of Parenting. I must have read a hundred parenting books and in too many I find finger wagging about particular “rules” that must be followed. Bruce doesn’t go there. He offers stories and metaphors, giving us ways to understand ourselves and our children. Many of the stories he shares come from his professional experience working with troubled kids. Others come from literature, films, and lessons he’s learned in his own life.

As he explains in the book’s introduction,

Children are a gift, sacred beings entrusted to us to facilitate their growth and development. But parenting can also be transformative for the parent. No one is fully formed when they choose to parent, no matter how good a planner they are. Parenting is a perfect arena for our own growth and enlightenment because it takes us beyond our self and demands we use our highest power–the power to love.

One of the core concepts in this book is cultivating good relationships with our children. He addresses this from all angles and doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff. He offers dozens of refreshingly different exercises to try, each one calling us to be present to ourselves while deepening our understanding of ourselves and our children.

There isn’t much he doesn’t cover. The table of contents include a wide range of topics such as:  “Sometimes Worry is an Act of Love,” “Helping Sad Kids Feel Better,” “Understanding and Dealing with Oppositionality,” and “Using Intuition to Parent Better.”

This is a book to read with a highlighter. It extends the promise of wisdom that’s applicable to our lives, right now.

Read his blog, get his book, and deepen the path parenting takes you on every single day.


Review copy provided. 

May 23

Kids Determine Their Own Interests


kids interests, stick to same interest, let kids have own hobbies,

Image: L. Weldon

Snake wrangler, computer geek, vintage auto restorer. These are a few of the identities one of my sons tries on as he masters areas of interest to him.

He used to patiently stalk alongside our creek and behind the woodpile to find snakes. He didn’t hurt them or even keep them for more than a few minutes. I’m not sure even now what the object was other than a pursuit of something that fascinated him. He brought many of his captives up to the house where we marveled at them before he released them. Personally I prefer to marvel at snakes from a healthy distance but I can squelch the shivers when necessary. He didn’t just wrangle snakes, he also studied huge reference books about snakes, drew pictures of snakes, talked about snakes. Then one day he moved on to other interests.

Mostly out of necessity he put together his first computer from cast-off parts. That started a new fascination with bettering computer operations. He became particularly intrigued by the cooling systems. I listened, or at least kept my head swiveled in his direction, as he explained excruciatingly in-depth explanations about cooling system modifications and the resultant effect on computer efficiency. He taught himself so well that he’s still paid to fix our friend’s computer problems, both software and hardware. Sometimes he shakes his head sadly at how poor cooling compromises these systems.

He became interested in auto restoration before he was old enough to drive. Using money earned by shoveling manure from horse stalls, he bought a 1973 Opel GT. He clearly relished the time and mess it took to carefully tear nearly everything out of the car. Now he is in the rebuilding phase, his progress limited to what parts he can afford.  He shares details with us at the dinner table and tracks each step with friends on forums. The day his little Opal is roadworthy I know that acclaim will come from friends, family and forum pals all over the world.

My husband owned his own computer business and has always fixed our cars, but he recognizes (sometimes to his chagrin) that our son prefers to go his own way as much as possible. In fact, when a question about computers or cars comes up it doesn’t always stay in the realm of consultation. It’s just as likely to become a spirited debate. That’s the nature of young people as they prove themselves, and we try to understand. That is, as long as the tools are put away.

We’ve noticed that eager parental encouragement doesn’t always translate to more eagerness on the part of our kids. Sometimes we like a hobby, lesson or interest much more than our kids do. Sometimes, even when they’re winning awards, they don’t want to continue. Or perhaps our excitement has put a damper on the pursuit. As our kids get older this becomes more evident.

We’ve learned our kids’ interests are their own. There’s no real value in forcing, cajoling or otherwise pressuring a young person to stay with an endeavor that has lost its allure. Kids in our house have to stick with chores and other work obligations, not interests.

Child development expert David Elkind notes in The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally it’s a misperception that children should “stick” to a pursuit once they’ve started in order to build better staying power for adult challenges. As Elkind writes, “The common assumption that commitment transfers from one activity to another is wrong.”

Making sure that a young person pursuues interests for his or her own reasons, not the parent’s, keeps motivation alive and passion genuine. Recent research backs this up.

Sure, we can foster our children’s enthusiasm with our approval and guidance when necessary. But we can also show them by example. We can pursue our own interests with the kind of joy and fervor that can’t help but inspire. That’s my newest excuse for my own art projects. I’m not making a mess, I’m providing a good example!

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives on a small farm with her family where they raise bees, cows, chickens, and the occasional ruckus. Laura writes about learning, sustainability, and peace for print and online publications. Connect with her at

May 09

Are We Really Listening?

attuned listening, how to know if you're listening,

Wikimedia Commons

“Do you really want a dead cat on your desk?”

When a teacher took a parent’s phone call at the end of another busy school day, she was taken aback by the question. She couldn’t figure out why a first grader in her class came home telling his mother that their recently deceased family pet had to be on the teacher’s desk the next morning.

Then she realized what must have happened. At the beginning of each school day, children clustered around her desk in the few minutes available before the bell rang. They were all eager to talk.

“Fish sticks are yucky so I want to change my lunch ticket.”

“Want to see me do jumping jacks?”

“This picture of me and my bike is for you.”

“Here’s a note from my mom.” Continue reading

Apr 30

What’s Good About Challenges

challenges are good, benefit of challenges, challenge good for kids,

Escalera al cielo by David Oliva

Interesting problems and exciting risks are life’s calisthenics. They stretch us in directions we need to grow. Children are particularly oriented this way. They think up huge questions and search for the answers. They face fears. They puzzle over inconsistencies in what is said and done around them. They relentlessly challenge themselves to achieve social, physical, or intellectual feats that (from the child’s perspective) seem daunting. They struggle for mastery even when dozens of attempts don’t provide them any success. It’s a testament to courage that they continue to try.

Sometimes children are accused of “looking for trouble” when they simply yearn to vanquish dragons of their own making. A child’s desire to challenge him- or herself is at times as unrelenting as physical growth.

As adults we do this in our own way. If we don’t have enticing challenges, we may develop a state of mental friction to compensate. It seems to be a very human trait to clutter up our days with trouble if we have no more engaging prospects. We worry, rehash old issues, overreact, or find complications where there may be none. As the roots of a plant become more tightly entangled once they are pot bound, an individual without the freedom to take on greater challenges often gets caught up in the same confining struggles.

One thing we can learn from children is the way they are attracted to dilemmas that help them learn and grow. Children who are nurtured in a healthy, free range learning environment are invigorated by the challenges they seek out. They expand their own frontiers on a comfortable, self-regulating timetable. Perhaps people of all ages define themselves, in part, through the challenges they take on and the way they resolve those challenges.

Oftentimes we deprive children of normal day-to-day challenges because of our own time constraints. As adults we are often distracted and focused on moving forward. It takes considerable tolerance to keep from stepping in and doing for children what will take them much longer to do for themselves, such as solving problems, making choices, completing tasks, and accepting the consequences. But when we recognize that even these small challenges are catalysts for growth, it is easier for us to step back and let children face them as they occur. These are normal stressors. Dealing with them gives children the critical experiences that lead to self-reliance.

So much about today’s “managed childhood” has developed in order to prevent young people from making mistakes. We think we know the prescription for success, but as we’ve seen, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t allow individuals to thrive. It also denies them the very human right to learn in the way best for them and to listen to the callings that prompt them. The “right way” to proceed in our culture usually means health, popularity, good grades, attractiveness, college degree, career, marriage, mortgage, and so on. We’ve created these societal expectations largely to cushion our youth from mistakes. But error is inevitable even if we avoid all risks. That narrow, preordained path is anathema to genuine experience. Setting rigid standards for children sends a message. It says to them that failure is the worst outcome and that our acceptance is conditional.

What we might do instead is recognize that courage is required to go one’s own way, that mistakes are inevitable, and that the outcome is authenticity. The real challenge lies in accepting each person’s possibilities. That’s how each of us proceeds when we do what we can with what we have in order to live our lives fully. The path not taken may be the journey regretted forever. That’s why we need to honor mistakes as important passages in our lives too. They help us face the next challenge with a wry smile and new determination, knowing another lesson has been learned.


challenge good for kids, benefit of difficulties,

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives on a small farm with her family where they raise bees, cows, chickens, and the occasional ruckus. Laura writes about learning, sustainability, and peace for print and online publications. Connect with her at

Mar 28

No Long-Term Benefit Of ADHD Meds?

ADHD meds no good, ADHD meds useless, avoid ADHD meds

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Want to cause a ruckus? Criticize attention-deficit meds.

Over three million U.S. kids take these drugs to help them stay calm and attentive. Parents may not be thrilled to dose their children but they are following expert advice to improve behavior and school performance.  They tend to see results. And they don’t need to be judged.

But it helps to pay attention to what works for parents who don’t put or keep their kids on meds. My son was diagnosed with ADD when he was in first grade.  There was a great deal of pressure from his teacher to put him on medication. As many parents do, I struggled to find ways to alleviate the problem without drugs. We found significant improvement when we changed his diet but that wasn’t enough to make the school setting truly work for him. The way he learned best and the way he flourished simply didn’t fit in the strictures of the school environment. He wasn’t wired to sit still and pay attention for hours. Once we began homeschooling we discovered that without classroom and homework pressure, what appeared to be ADD symptoms largely disappeared.

The newest studies of attention-deficit disorder medications now indicate that the calming effect of these drugs don’t necessarily indicate that those who take them have any sort of “brain deficit.”  As L. Alan Sroufe, professor emeritus of psychology at the Universityof Minnesota’s Instituteof Child Development explains,  such medications have a similar effect on all children as well as adults. “They enhance the ability to concentrate, especially on tasks that are not inherently interesting or when one is fatigued or bored, but they don’t improve broader learning abilities.”

Research shows the effect wanes in a few years without conferring any lasting benefit. Dr. Sroufe writes,

To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve.

This isn’t to say that drugs such as Ritalin are useless. It’s important to remember that studies cited by Dr. Sroufe are limited to children with ADHD, not concomitant diagnoses such as oppositional defiant disorder, bipolar disorder, or autism where such meds may be invaluable. Even when facing ADHD itself, parents need support that extends beyond what the mental health system, insurance company, or school district willingly offers. Some states provide advocates who help parents stand up for the child’s right to appropriate education, including extra time to complete assignments, smaller class sizes, and the kind of counseling that helps ADHD children internalize behavioral standards and respond appropriately to social cues. Parents also turn online for support. The blogosphere is full of information and empathy from others raising ADHD children, including the following:

Easy to Love, Hard to Raise

ADDitude Magazine ADHD parenting blog and education blog

ADHD Awareness

Edge Foundation

A Mom’s & Dad’s View of ADHD

Life with ADHD

While Dr. Sroute looks for a mental health answer, I think it’s a much bigger issue. It asks us to look at how today’s children are restricted in movement, have less time for free play, and are exposed to unnecessarily early academics.  It asks us to look at the quality of the air, water, and food in the lives of today’s children. It asks us to support all families as they are, recognizing that one-size-fits-all guidelines don’t embrace diverse ways of being. To me, particular hope lies in research showing that free time spent playing in natural settings significantly improved the behavior and focus of ADHD children. The more natural and wilderness-like the area, the greater the improvement.

Are our wonderfully distractible, messy, impulsive children trying to tell us something?


Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives on a small farm with her family where they raise bees, cows, chickens, and the occasional ruckus. Laura writes about learning, sustainability, and peace for print and online publications. Connect with her at

Mar 15

Food Dyes Linked To ADHD


food coloring and ADHD, artificial food dyes and ADHD,

wikimedia commons

It doesn’t take much—-a lollipop, a few sips of Kool-Aid, even fruit roll-ups coming from a package marked “natural.” My kids are sensitive to artificial food colorings (AFCs). One gets headaches, another gets oppositional, and two of them are simply less attentive. For years parents have been told that such observations were unreliable, that tests on food dyes showed no significant link to behavioral changes.

We know better. We see the effects when our children ingest certain foods and beverages. Despite the healthiest diets, some children suffer from food intolerances  that may not be substantiated by research or medical records. But elimination diets prove to us that our kids do better without these substances.

Now experts agree with us, at least regarding food dyes. Columbia University researchers analyzed the 15 best available studies on the topic. These were double-blind studies, meaning that participants weren’t aware of they were in the experimental or control groups. Although there was some variability in the way the research was conducted, most followed a general protocol. Children were taken off their regular diets which may or may not have contained AFCs. They were randomly assigned to two groups, one taking supplements containing AFCs and the other taking look-alike placebos. At the study’s end, caregivers including parents and teachers were asked to evaluate behavior.

Overall, these studies showed that children who already exhibited hyperactive behaviors tended to get worse on AFCs while children without hyperactivity problems experienced little or no effect. The study’s authors don’t limit their concerns to food dyes. They note there is “accumulating evidence that neurobehavioral toxicity may characterize a variety of widely distributed chemicals.”

For more information, check out Center For Science in the Public Interest report Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risk. And let us know, do you think your children are sensitive to food dyes or the sorts of processed foods that tend to include dyes?


Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives on a small farm with her family where they raise bees, cows, chickens, and the occasional ruckus. Laura writes about learning, sustainability, and peace for print and online publications. Connect with her at

Feb 27

Veggie Eater’s Anthem

We’ve talked about the ways food can affect health and behavior. But talking doesn’t necessarily make those veggies seem any more appealing to our kids.

Maybe they just need a power tune to croon, making a carrot snap and a celery crunch seem downright hip. Look no further. Check out “I Like Vegetables” by Parry Gripp. With lyrics like, “My enemies cower when they feel the power that I gain when I devour a cauliflower” you can’t go wrong. Veggie fueled dancing optional.


Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives on a small farm with her family where they raise bees, cows, chickens, and the occasional ruckus. Laura writes about learning, sustainability, and peace for print and online publications. Connect with her at

Feb 06

Hefty Topic Are Brain Food For Kids

Just try talking about an issue of substance in front of your kids. If they’re like mine, they dig right in with their questions and opinions. That’s what makes dinner table conversation so lively.

No surprise, a recent study notes that family discussions about current issues boost kids’ reasoning and mathematical skills. Unlike more casual chats, conversations about social and political concerns help kids make sense of numbers. That’s because parents tend to give examples, use real life mathematics and ask children to reason for themselves.

In our house, family blather tends to include topical issues but the study reports very few of these conversations are taking place between kids and parents around the world. In fact, they happen less than once a month for 58 percent of children in the 41 countries studied.

The study’s author suggests talking to kids about oil spill volume and asking them questions about clean-up methods, but there’s no need for a despair-laden quiz session. Open-ended discussions can easily touch on the math, science, history and ethics of any concern society struggles to resolve. The big issues don’t have easy answers but they do make great topics, even if we talk about them around the table while still chewing.


Laura Grace Weldon is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives on a small farm with her family where they raise bees, cows, chickens, and the occasional ruckus. Laura writes about learning, sustainability, and peace for print and online publications. Connect with her at