Educational Solutions

As we approach the end of Summer and the start of school, it seems each week brings news of a new solution to problems in education. Over the past two decades various solutions have been set forth to deal with what appears to be the failure of our education system. In unacceptable numbers students have either failed to finish their education or have emerged unprepared in key subjects for either college or various kinds of employment.

Last week, attention was paid to students lack of writing ability with new methods proposed as a remedy. This past week we have heard about mastery based, or competency based learning as a solution to the growing number of students who are failing or behind expectations in various academic skills. This approach does away with traditional grading and appears to be highly individualized. It focuses on mastering a set of grade level skills in which students move to the next set of skills when they have demonstrated they are ready.

In theory students work at their own pace with ample time to practice for those who are struggling, while those who learn quickly can move ahead. They get feedback on skills they have learned and those they need to master. This approach appears to be getting wide currency – in some states voluntarily and in others through legislation.

The idea that students individually needed to show how and what they are learning before moving ahead is not new as a theory, but was not widely applied because it was so labor intensive for teachers. Now the use of the computer allows for special exercises and online lessons making the approach more manageable. The goal is to make students feel in charge of their own learning by putting the focus on individual growth and competence rather than achieving a specific grade.

The critics of this approach worry that the method is used to save costs since the use of computers may mean fewer teachers and larger classes. Some say the approach may improve math skills but is not likely to help students advance in the humanities. There has been resistance from teachers who feel more comfortable with existing approaches and find this method unworkable.

It is interesting that parents have also been resistive to the frequent progress reports detailing outcomes for individual subjects. They want the traditional grade reports that tell them concretely where their children stand. This is not surprising given the competition that exists for higher education and employment.

The conflict about using this approach has elements in common with that of how to teach students writing. The conflict in both seems to be between child based learning and more traditionally expected mastery of skills and facts. The new approaches in both involve giving students more agency rather than learning based on external requirements.

In some ways, the conflict between child based and authority based approaches appears periodically as a solution to whatever problems exist in education. It is reminiscent of the ‘50’s when the Russian success with Sputnik meant we were behind in math and science. This resulted in a focus on achievements in those areas which ultimately transformed the educational system in ways that still need to be untangled.

This also is characteristic of the conflict in approaches to child-rearing. Originally parent centered with clear lines of authority, the move was to child centered approaches which ultimately resulted in its extreme form, of children rather than parents, being in charge.

Apparently, change in moderation is difficult to achieve. Instead, the result seems to be a move from one extreme to another. Taking the best ideas from conflicting approaches may be the most desirable – but unfortunately – not the usual outcome.

Reading and ‘Riting and ‘Rithmatic

“School days, school days, good old Golden Rule days,                        Reading and ‘riting’ and ‘rithmatic’                                                       Taught to the tune of the hick’ry stick…”

Just the beginning of August but already there are thoughts – pleasant and unpleasant about the return to school. One mother expressed her sad feelings at the realization that her oldest child will soon be returning to college. Another mother was excited that her twin daughters would be starting pre-K. Children are less excited about having to meet new teachers and the return to homework.

In recent years much attention has been paid to reading and arithmetic as essential to academic success. Now, educators seem to be recognizing that children can’t write – at least not in keeping with their grade level or in meeting the requirements they will face as they progress academically. According to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress three quarters of both 12th and 8th graders lack proficiency in writing.

Poor writing is nothing new, but the Common Core Standards were supposed to change that. Writing was thought to be central to the American curriculum, a change from the years of No Child Left Behind, which focused on reading comprehension and standardized multiple-choice tests.

Now educators are having a debate about the best approach to use in teaching writing. One approach, thought of as process writing, emphasizes activities such as journaling about one’s personal experiences. The idea is that focusing too much on grammar will stifle children’s voice and prevent them from falling in love with writing. There are those who agree that formal grammar instruction doesn’t work well and research finds that students exposed to a focus on such instruction perform worse on writing assignments.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that children writing their own experiences in a journal thinking this will lead to a love of writing, hasn’t work. In a move away from child-centered writing, children need to do more writing about what they have read and less about their own lives. The idea is that grammar and basic concepts need to be reinforced.

It is interesting that this social media generation, writing more than any generation before it, writing text messages and social media posts, struggle with the mechanics of simple sentences when it comes to the formal writing expected in school. Apparently, children have become so acclimated to small mobile screens that they are unable to work effectively at a laptop. Quick communication on a smart phone requires ignoring rules of grammar and punctuation, the opposite of the requirements wanted on the page.

In another educational direction, a summer camp run by a research group at Tufts University, is preparing children for the automated economy. While children at the camp were learning early childhood skills like block building, turn taking and mastering frustration, researchers say they were also learning the skills necessary to succeed in an automated economy.

Apparently, there are those educators and researchers who believe that the recent focus on coding is misplaced. The more important skills to teach have to do with playing with other children and nothing to do with machines, rather human skills that machines can’t easily replicate, like empathy, collaboration and problem-solving.

The idea seems to be that technological advances have made increasing numbers of jobs obsolete and parts of most jobs will eventually be automated. Jobs of the future are likely to be different but we don’t know now which will be done by machines and which new ones will be created. Children learn better by playing and building instead of sitting behind screens.

The striking thing about these ideas about education, whether writing or technology is that two schools of thought exist in both. One has to do with the mastery of skills, the other a focus on children’s development.

In thinking about how and what children should be taught – without the hick’ry stick – perhaps we should rely on what we know about how children learn.

Cheers to the Women

The recent struggle in Congress over health care has called attention to the role played by women – two women in particular. Bucking all those men who tried to intimidate them, they held firm to their feelings about depriving people in need. One man said, if one of them was a man he would take her on in an Aaron Burr style duel. The women were chastised for their feelings but were not given their point of view the respect they deserved.

Women are often put down for being too emotional – too concerned about feelings. But the gender differences in government have often shown the value of another point of view embodying other values. Those who feel the impact of laws and regulations put in place by those in authority are well served by the empathic approach often contributed by women.

As parents, we think about feelings in connection to our children. Sometimes their feelings – particularly their anger – makes life difficult for us. Hopefully, as adults we have some measure of control over the way we express our emotions. Children, on the other hand, are mercurial. Everything is black or white and the shift from one to the other is fluid – sometimes it seems without warning. The world – including you – is wonderful, until a dark cloud appears, and then it is terrible.  Children express these feelings in extreme ways, primarily through their behavior.

Of course, our goal as parents is to help our children express their feelings in words. “Use your words” has almost become a mantra when children act out their emotions. But words are not that readily available to children when they are angry or upset, and even when they have them, words don’t seem adequate to the feelings. We are asking them to be reasonable in the heat of emotion. Most often it is we they think are being unreasonable.

Thinking again about ourselves, if we are angry at someone for something they have done, or we think they have done, and they say in a somewhat unreal way, “I know you are angry”, and then the equivalent of, “Get over it!”, do we now feel better or perhaps even angrier? The point is, we want understanding and acceptance of what we are feeling.

In the same way, our children want to let us know how strongly they feel about a situation and we have to let them know in a convincing way that we do. But we can’t expect that just by recognizing the feeling verbally we will make it go away. Accepting the anger of others is not easy, especially when it is coming from our children who often express emotions in behavior that is difficult to deal with.

Parents, in their frustration may react to children’s emotional behavior with threats of punishment such as the loss of privileges. Most often, they find that approach not helpful in resolving the situation. In much the same way, the women who opposed the male majority were cajoled and then threatened when they held fast to their feelings. The frustration of the male majority was not unlike that of frustrated parents dealing with difficult children.

In that situation, it seemed it was the men, not the women, who were out of control, wanting their way and unable to hear another point of view, much less to act on it. The two women made clear from the start that certain provisions of a proposed bill were unacceptable to them but they weren’t heard. They were treated like recalcitrant children to be bribed or threatened.

Although children are not our peers, perhaps the message is that they need to have their feelings heard and understood, even when we cannot give them what they want,


Boys Will Be Boys

A recent article calls attention to the way misbehavior on the part of adult men is characterized and dismissed as simply youthful behavior. After all, they are just boys, which makes the behavior innocent, or harmless.

This is interesting on two counts. One, is the idea that misbehavior – or worse – is excusable if grown men are characterized as boys. The second, is that in reality the misbehavior of young boys is in no way considered acceptable when boys really are young. In fact, such behavior usually has consequences, the least of which being adult disapproval.

This is particularly apparent in school settings where little girls tend to set the standard for behavior that little boys are then expected to live up to. They can’t! It takes so much energy for any young child to sit still, but differences in development make it easier for girls than for boys. And there are differences!

Sex differences in behavior have been observed as early as the beginning of social play at two or two and a half years of age. Most moms even see differences much earlier than that. Differences in aggression between boys and girls have been noted in all cultures. Boys tend to be more active, competitive and dominant. In groups, they stimulate one another to increased activity and pretend fighting.

But when boys have difficulty managing their bodies, in other words when they are acting like boys, they are often considered a discipline problem. This is especially true in the classroom, where girls are generally more compliant and at least appear to be more accepting of the teacher’s directions. Of course, they, too, can be aggressive but in less obvious ways.

It is true that young children in particular, who are still learning how to be social beings, often express their feelings in behavior that is not acceptable, like hitting, grabbing, biting or screaming. This kind of primitive behavior can be scary to adults because we sometimes find ourselves hitting or screaming back – or at least feeling as though we might.

This makes us want to control the behavior – to make it disappear – instead of seeing it as a process of learning: for children, learning how to express themselves in more acceptable ways, for parents and teachers learning how to co-opt the aggression for constructive purposes. Because aggression also is part of curiosity, exploring the world, trying new things, in short, asserting oneself in positive ways.

Because boys are naturally more aggressive and have a higher activity level they can seem like a management problem – if expectations are unrealistic. Then they are too readily labeled, not only as bad, but as being hyperactive or having attention deficits. While it is true that more boys than girls are actually found to have such problems, nine times as many boys are referred for help on this basis.

The point is that we are hardly accepting or dismissive of boys’ behavior when it makes life difficult for teachers or parents. Yet the fact is that the behavior itself has a different meaning for young boys than for grown men. Understanding behavior as part of development can enable us to respond to it appropriately. An appropriate response to such behavior should be quite different for an adult.

A significant aspect of development is the ability to have control over one’s body, and to behave in socially acceptable way. This is accomplished through maturity, learning, and the guidance and support of parents and teachers. Hopefully, children are able to learn how to channel their aggression and activity level into successful pursuits.

Boys will be boys – when they are boys.


Old Ghosts

Most parents have seen or read Selma Fraiberg’s book, “The Magic Years.” If it has escaped you, make sure to find it as it is the best you can find about the development of young children. Fraiberg has also written many papers, one in particular called “Ghosts in the Nursery.”

The “ghosts in the nursery” are things we experienced when we ourselves were children, which sometimes pop up to haunt us when we become parents. Those ghosts may have to do with relationships we had with our own parents, or things about ourselves that may have caused us difficulty. Without realizing it, those old ghosts can influence the way we see our own children and the way we interact with them.

Old ghosts can also impact on our relationships with others as well as on our own behavior in general. When writing something recently I found myself remembering many things from the past that seemed to explain more contemporary behavior. For instance, I become very upset when losing something. I suddenly remembered as a child having left a book out in the rain. My mother’s anger about that has remained with me and probably influenced my insistence that my children take care of their things.

On the other hand, my children always teased their father about remembering things that had never happened. Those always seemed to me to be memories that created wished for events, or “I wish I had done that” moments. The point is that ghosts are often something we imagined, or events that as children we experienced in particular ways that may not have been what was intended.

Parents, in talking to me about a child’s behavior that is of concern to them often focus on social behavior, particularly “shyness.” One mother told me how her daughter retreats in social situations, unable to deal with them as easily as do other children. In the course of the discussion I asked her if her daughter reminded her of anyone. This led to her revelation that she was like that as a child and she remembers it causing her great misery.

Trying to solve her own difficulty as a child she was inadvertently putting pressure on her child, increasing the very behavior she was trying to change. Unhappily, that is what we often do when trying to get rid of our own childhood ghosts, which are haunting our present-day interactions with our children. At times, our old ghosts are not as clear to us and the connection is not so readily made with our current behavior. Thinking about our own growing-up years can help us make those connections.

When parents to be are expecting a child, part of pregnancy is imagining what that expected child will be like. A connection is made with that imagined child. When the real baby arrives, part of the challenge for parents is dealing with the difference between the real and the imagined child. And that challenge recurs at various times as a child grows and develops.

Our imagined children are always perfect. Our real children never are. The “ghosts” may make their appearance when we react to what we may see as our children’s “imperfections”. Of course, our own upbringing plays a big role in how we raise our children. But in thinking about our own lives, it helps to recognize that our children are entitled to their own. You are not your mother or father and your child is not you. Her life will be different from yours.

Ghosts are often invisible. Bringing them into view is what makes it possible to sweep them away.

Coding for Children

In the late 1950’s the Soviet Union had just launched Sputnik, seemingly having won the space race. The wish to catch up or overtake the Soviet advance promoted the idea that our educational system was in need of more science and math courses. This launched the idea of an emphasis on STEM subjects, which eventually came to dominate all levels of education to the disadvantage of the arts.

In the current era, the pervasive influence of technology is reaching into the educational system to promote coding. The idea is that computer science has become as essential for students as reading, writing and math. Encryption is promoted as foundational, with computer science essential to American tech companies, which have come to rely on foreign engineers.

An industry backed nonprofit group,, has as its goal to get every public school in the U.S to teach computer science. A new prototype for Silicon Valley education reform, pushes for educational policy changes, develops curriculums, offers online coding lessons and trains teachers, raising the question of whether Silicon Valley is swaying public schools to serve its own interest, the need for software engineers, with little scrutiny.

This seems part of a larger tech-industry push to remake America’s primary and secondary schools with computers and learning aps. Although there has been an effort for years to develop and spread computer science in schools, the current movement has supported legislation that could give companies enormous sway in public schools, starting with kindergarten, with little public awareness.

It appears that computer science instruction is being driven by the needs of industry. On the other hand, many parents seem to support this educational focus because of its significance for later employment, which has grown in importance in the present economy. Yet this intensifies the trend of making the needs of the commercial world the dominant factor in the purpose of education.

Particularly questionable is the move toward introducing coding into the earliest school years. As with many academic subjects that have been introduced earlier and earlier the idea that prevails is that earlier is better. What is lost is all that has been understood about children’s developmental needs at those early ages.

The fact that some children are able to learn reading and arithmetic at an early age doesn’t mean it is beneficial for them to do so. As a former colleague would say, to learn what the letter A is, you first have to experience an apple. This means that children first have to come to know about real things in their world before they can learn abstract symbols.  As it is, the world of technology has drawn children away from other kinds of learning. Imaginative play and social experience is disappearing as the youngest children spend time on ipads and cell phones rather than interactive play with peers.

The first school years were intended to provide children with an opportunity to explore their senses through the use of various materials such as paint, clay and water, and to use their bodies for climbing and other physical activities.

Children learn critical thinking and problem solving in many ways that are related to real experience. How does one solve a problem involving a conflict with peers? Or how to balance the blocks to create a bridge for cars? Various studies have shown the gaps in children’s knowledge about our country, or current events. The need to return to the teaching of civics throughout the school years has become apparent in various kinds of problematic social interactions.

School hours are limited. Despite Silicon Valley, learning coding should not be the priority for education.

Free at Last

School is out. For many, June 29th was the last day until the Fall. Of course, as with many transitions, changes can mean more work for mother – or father. The issue of child care is in the forefront with children not in school, and so the scramble for a summer plan that will keep children busy, safe and supervised.

Observing children – impossible not to do as they were everywhere – what was most apparent was their sense of freedom. It was impossible not to notice how many children were out, running ahead of a parent, skipping, jumping, riding scooters and generally expressing a sense of breaking loose. Sitting in the park, I noticed two girls off by themselves stretched out on a large towel. First order of business was kicking off their shoes. They were lying side by side, one head to the other’s feet, the other the reverse.

I guessed they were about eight years of age, seemingly a little young to be in the park without an adult. Then I noticed that at an enclosure a bit away there was a gathering of some sort with other children and parents. The girls were engaged in some game of their own which had no particular form that was clear. At one point, one of them jumped up and ran to where the larger group was sitting. The other girl seemed bewildered and at a loss for a few minutes. Then she returned to the towel engaging in an exercise routine of her own. After a while, the first girl returned with an ice-cream pop for each of them.

Middle childhood. It is when the parts of the brain most closely associated with being human finally come online: the ability to control impulses, to reason, to focus. It is useful to be reminded of the biological underpinnings of children’s maturation and development. In middle childhood – about ages 8 to 10 –  the brain is at its peak for learning, and physical development enables both large and fine motor skills to be applied in new ways.

Perhaps most important in terms of living with others, children develop an awareness that others have minds, ideas and wishes of their own. This is the basis for an ability to consider others, and that “you can’t always have what you want”.   Compromise is necessary in order to live in a family and to have friends.

This really struck me as I watched these two girls, having guessed their ages as eight. The way in which one of the girls just suddenly departed was clearly puzzling and disturbing to the other. She did not return immediately and it was interesting to see how the deserted girl dealt with it. After a moment or two of seeming at a loss, she engaged in a play routine of her own seemingly oblivious to her friend’s departure.

The girl who left, obviously had not given notice that she was returning to her mother and seemed to have left abruptly. Interestingly, having acted alone she returned with something for them both. Yet the “deserted girl” initially seemed disinterested and did not reach to accept the offering, which was then urged on her by her friend. Was that her expression of displeasure at what the other girl had done? Perhaps.

It was interesting to see how both of them handled this situation, one that might have caused an upset at an earlier age. The girl who left without warning returned with a treat for both. The girl who was left, although hurt, turned to her own inner resources and no overt confrontation occurred.

When I left I spoke to them briefly, asking when school had ended. “Today,” they said as though it was obvious. Which it was.



 A new movie by Sofia Coppola – “The Beguiled” – has given rise to some discussion about a different perspective to be found in films directed by female as compared to male directors. In this instance, the movie is a remake of an earlier version of the same story – a wounded soldier in the Civil War recuperates in a girls boarding school – directed by a man. The question raised is whether this is simply a difference between two directors or does gender have something to do with it?

The question of gender differences is raised in relation to many issues these days as there is more interaction between men and women in the workplace and as men are expected to participate more fully in child care and household responsibilities. But expected changes in behavior at times run counter to older attitudes and feelings about the respective roles of men and women.

During the 80’s, when feminist sensibilities were at a high point, I was invited to sit in on a consciousness raising group – popular at that time. A discussion ensued about the difficulty of trying to get men to do their share of housework. The complaint was that men’s idea of having cleaned the bathroom or washed the floor was a joke – meaning that they, the women, would have to do it over anyway.

At a friend’s home for dinner, the man doing his part, set the table. He said to watch, his wife would come in and change the way he had done the napkins. In fact, that was exactly what happened. This seemed like a replay from a male point of view that women think men don’t do things the right way.

A father told me that he had a terrible time connecting to his new baby until he realized he was trying to do everything exactly the way his wife did it, thinking that hers obviously was the right way. He finally gave up, just taking care of the baby the best way he could and after that everything seemed to go much better.

There are differences in gender perspective, some based on ingrained social roles and others based in biology. These differences often give rise to familiar conflicts between mates, and between parents and children. This raises the question of how we can deal with such differences in perspective that are expressed in blame or irritation and disrupt relationships.

Perhaps a first step is to accept what can and what cannot be changed in any relationship. In the case of men not doing things the right way how much of that is a woman’s investment in her former territory? The same might be said of male attitudes about women in the workplace. Can we accept differences in the way we function yet also think about the role of teaching in bringing about change?

This applies particularly to relationships between parents and children. Developmental issues come into play, which are expressed in children’s behavior that runs counter to parents’ expectations or wishes. Children, during certain periods of development are unable to conform to what parents’ want, which parents may misread as defiance.

A couple came to see me about their two-year-old son. The mother’s complaint was that the child no longer listens to her. An example was the fact that the child likes to play with the drapery cord in the living room and despite her repeated instructions to stop, he continues the behavior. Mom wanted to know what discipline could be used. The father clearly disagreed with his wife’s description, saying he was just being a child.

Helping parents see this behavior in the context of a two-year-old, I said besides, you have a little boy there – you don’t want to cut his b…s off.  As I apologized for the language, the mom replied that she was sure her husband appreciated it. His response was a big smile.

In this situation increased maturity along with parental teaching could bring about desired change. But mom in particular, had to accept that the child’s self-assertion, determined in part by gender, needed to be respected.

Respecting differences while using teaching to bring about change, may be a good route to follow in many relationships.


Searching for Balance

The recent put downs of women in the Senate have brought forth comments from other women in high places testifying to the pervasiveness of such experiences in male dominated organizations. They report as typical being interrupted, talked over and generally having their ideas treated dismissively only to see them later put forward by men as their own.

At the same time, almost daily there are reports of sexual harassment in many places which have resulted in investigations, firings and in some instances serious financial penalties. In these instances, too, women have responded with recognition of behavior seen as typical of the experience of working in settings in which men predominate.

Despite this, many women forge ahead, breaking trails and opening new doors for others to follow in the search for a more equal place for women in our society. At the same time, women have equaled men in enrollment in medical and law schools, suggesting that in some areas at least, some barriers have been broken.

Much that is written these days is about the contemporary challenges that exist for women. But the fact is that many women – perhaps most – are facing a different dilemma. In addition to the reality in many families that women seek employment out of financial necessity, there are those whose interests and abilities lead them to seek opportunities in which they can fulfill those abilities in addition to raising children.

Despite the obstacles and resistance confronting women trying to break through the glass ceiling, the more general resistance faced by a majority of women has been the unwillingness of those in power to provide the kind of child care that would meet the needs of all women who are mothers. The need for good child care remains the major unresolved issue confronting women in the workplace that has served well those whose underlying belief is that children should be cared for by their mothers.

This is a belief that underlies considerable conflict for women who either because of financial or personal need are in the workplace. It is also a driving force in the search to find balance between children’s needs and the demands of work. Recently, I had an opportunity to ask a number of mothers in demanding jobs about their solutions to this issue. One mother said that she works days and her husband works nights. They are together mostly on weekends when household tasks must also be accomplished.
Another mother is able to work three days a week, limiting the days she needs to arrange for child care.

Still another mother spoke of her children having been in daycare since infancy, a solution about which she has mixed feelings. She spoke sadly of her feelings that she is not a good mother. This is a feeling shared one way or another by many of the working mothers with whom I have talked.

I also had an opportunity to talk to several older mothers, both of whom are physicians, who raised their children during a period when most women were full-time mothers caring for their children. They also reflected a time when women generally were not accepted into medical school. What they both expressed was a lack of conflict about the care of their children. As long as the children were physically cared for, these mothers focused on the demands of their careers. One mother spoke of the crazy arrangements she had to make at times, determined to meet her training obligations.

This dedication to career goals is matched at the other end by mothers who are dedicated to the care of their children and the belief that such care is necessary. But most women today are searching for a way to balance the needs of work and children, often struggling with an underlying feeling that they are doing neither well.

Providing quality child care is a way toward that balance.

Back to Dependency

Have your children ever seemed to go backward in their development? Suddenly, it seems, they are unwilling or unable to do the things they had learned to do for and by themselves. In addition, they may suddenly seem cranky about being expected to do those things. They resist going to school or doing other things they always seemed to enjoy. What happened?

The behavior described sounds like that of a child who has been sick and needs help re-taking the developmental steps that had already been mastered. The march from dependence to independence, which in any case seems to involve two steps forward and one step back, is in fallback mode. Why does that happen?

I have been giving much thought to this question having just been through a period of enforced dependence as a result of a medical issue. As an adult, the issue of one’s responsibilities rears its head, serving as a reality goal post to be reached. On the other hand, the messages from one’s body are a counter weight creating its own reality.

Even as an adult, there are benefits – even pleasures – to be derived from enforced dependence. And we are light years away from having been taken care of. For children, who are just emerging from the state of having all their needs met, and for whom the conflict between dependence and independence is an ongoing challenge, it is easy to sink back to an earlier time.

Not feeling up to snuff physically turns the body into a co-conspirator in resisting adult expectations. How nice to once again experience the pleasures of being cared for with the attention that brings from mom or dad. No struggling with things that are hard, or demands to get dressed, or wash-up, or sit at the table for meals.

The conflict around dependence and independence continues in some form throughout life. For children, it emerges as part of developing new skills, both physical and cognitive. It is a real high to discover you can climb up and reach the cookies, or run and jump, or figure out how to do a new puzzle. When children first discover they can run ahead of mom it is a wonderful game. But they always look back to make sure mother is still there and watching.

Along with the new skills comes a push for autonomy. As masters of the universe it seems they should decide for themselves whether it is bedtime, or time to come home from the park, or a cookie before lunch. Developing language provides the word “no!”, which children often use even when they really mean yes. It begins to feel as though everything is about asserting independence.

But the conflict comes in because in reality children are still dependent on their parents. Pushing mom or dad away causes some anxiety about the possible loss of love and of the caregiving that is still needed. The memory of bottles and diapers, of being carried and of not being expected to do some of the things that are less pleasant about growing up is still fresh enough to want to regain them in some situations.

We all enjoy being cared for from time to time. Becoming ill and bedridden can give permission to have that kind of care. For children, other stressors such as travel, parents away, move to a new house or unusual changes in routine can bring with them anxiety and the need for old comforts.

At times, it may be obvious that children are reacting in their behavior to such changes, but parents can also become concerned with the seeming regression. At such times, it is helpful to know that the setback is only temporary and may require picking up where children are at the moment to help them regain the skills that may seem to be lost. Ultimately, the wish for independence wins out.