Child/Family Psychology Blog

The Coin Chronicles

The third book in The Coin Chronicles series is coming soon! Be on the lookout for The Quarter Question coming in early 2018.


Quick Info: Jake is almost 13 years old and its finally time to change his reputation. He’s no longer going to be known as the History Nerd–at least, not if he can help it. Joining the most popular Crew on campus will change things–but only if they let him in. All he has to do is complete three Dirty Deeds. With his lucky quarter by his side, what could go wrong?”

From Chapter 1:

My Mistake

I’ve decided to fail my history class.

I’ve earned As in history ever since I was old enough to read. It’s not my fault that God thought it would be a good idea to make me a N-E-R-D.

But not anymore.


I’ve made up my mind.

What happened in class yesterday sealed the deal. Picture this:

There I am, Jake King, standing at the front of the class with a report folder in hand. It’s mid-semester and time to let Mr. Birgdon–History teacher–know how much work we’ve done on our semester reports.

Reports aren’t due for months but I chose my topic weeks ago when my parents took us to a Renaissance (that’s REN–UH–SONCE) Faire–a fair just like any other except people dress up in costumes, put on fake jousting shows and act like court jesters.

When it’s my turn to review my report for Mr. Birgdon, I stand in front of the class and whip open my folder–Mistake Number 1. Half the class offers a shocked hiss and the other half flings themselves back in their seats causing a loud screeching sound. Then the snickering starts. I think I hear someone in the back of the classroom say something like teacher’s pet and then history nerd. But I ignore it–Mistake Number 2. Instead, I keep going.

I clear my throat and start in on my memorized speech meant to impress Mr. Birgdon. I turn the report to the class to show them the pictures I downloaded of the crazy Renaissance costumes.

Mr. Birgdon rubs his beard and peers back at the class as I talk. Before I reach the end of my speech, he holds up a hand to stop me.

“That’s enough, Mr. King,” he says and gets up from behind his desk. “We have the idea. Have a seat.”

The shock of being stopped mid-report leaves me silent for a second. But, crazy me, I shake it off, glance over at Misty Schreiber (the prettiest girl in school–with skin the color of caramel, dark curls and meadow green eyes) and flip to the next page in my folder. I still have over half the report to share, so I hold it up to the class and continue–Mistake Number 3.

Instead of Mr. Birgdon stopping me this time, the kids in class take it upon themselves to do the job. They continue their heckling, chanting History Nerd from all corners of the room. Then a spitball hits me in the forehead just as I start my section on Renaissance games.

I flick the wad away and search for the culprit. My best friend, Ben, sits in the back corner of the room and gives me a hand-slicing-across-the-throat sign to quit. But I just can’t. I’m going to finish no matter what–that attitude is Mistake Number 4.

For more from “The Quarter Question,” look for it on Amazon in early 2018.

Check out The Nickel Nuisance and The Penny Predicament




Forgiveness helps kidsHas your child ever come home from school in tears because of something another child did to hurt him? Whether it’s teasing, hurtful words or even physical aggression, most parents have had to comfort a child who has suffered due to the deeds of another. I’ve personally been angry at other children for their cruelty and even angry at their parents for raising such mean kids. But in the midst of that, I’ve also had to figure out how to help my child deal with the offense.

What would you do in this situation?

Your child comes home from school, head down and tears rolling down her cheeks. She explains that her best friend told everyone that she has a secret crush on a younger boy at school. Your daughter is embarrassed and devastated that her friend would do such a thing.

Would you:
A. encourage your daughter to get revenge
B. tell your daughter to no longer be friends with the other girl
C. talk to your daughter about forgiving the girl
D. none of the above
E. all of the above

If your response included talking to your daughter about forgiveness, this just might be the best response. A recent study (van der Wal, Karremans, & Cillessen, 2016) demonstrated the psychological importance of forgiveness in the lives of children.

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness has been defined in a variety of ways. However, in the van der Wal et al. study, forgiveness was defined as “the process of regulating negative emotions, cognitions, and behavior caused by another person’s hurtful behavior into more neutral or positive emotions, cognitions, and behavior toward the offender.”

So what does this mean? Think about a time when someone hurt you and you were able to forgive. Somehow, you were able to manage the angry, vengeful, shameful feelings and thoughts caused by the offense. You were able to avoid revenge and possibly even experience positive thoughts and feelings toward the person at one point. If not positive feelings, you were likely able to at least feel neutral toward the person. You didn’t lash out, try to hurt the person in return or constantly ruminate about ways to punish them. Basically, you figured out how to forgive.

Forgiveness and Children

Using the definition of forgiveness just described, van der Wal et al. set out to determine how forgiveness may relate to psychological well-being in the lives of children. These researchers worked with a group of 275 children from 9–13 years old. These kids were asked a series of questions related to friendship, forgiveness and their personal happiness, satisfaction and self-esteem. Specifically, the researchers wanted to know whether forgiveness of friends and non-friends was related to a child’s psychological well-being.

These authors found that when children were able to forgive close friends, these psychological areas improved. However, when they were unable to forgive close friends, these areas weakened. This wasn’t true of non-friends though. If a child wasn’t close with someone who had hurt them, forgiveness or lack of forgiveness didn’t impact the child’s psychological well-being.

These findings provide us with 5 important reasons to help children learn to forgive those they are close to:

1. Children feel more satisfied with their lives

When asked to grade their lives on a scale of 1-10, forgiving children rated their lives higher on the scale. These children experienced a general sense of overall satisfaction when, despite being hurt, they were able to somehow change their thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward the person who hurt them.

2. Children feel happier

It may be that when children are hurt by a friend, they struggle with a desire to maintain the friendship coupled with an internal battle with anger, desire for revenge or bitterness. This internal tension can cause children to feel less happy. However, when they are able to forgive, this tension is relieved and they feel happier.

3. Children have increased self-esteem

Kids feel more positive about themselves and who they are when they forgive. In addition, according to Flanagan et al. (2012), less forgiving children have lower self-esteem and tend to be more socially anxious.

4. Children maintain friendships

Friendship is a very important part of childhood. Learning how to maintain long-term friends is part of this. Forgiveness plays an integral role. If children aren’t able to forgive friends, they likely won’t maintain any long-term relationships. As an added bonus, if forgiveness and reconciliation are possible within a relationship, the relationship often becomes stronger.

5. Children learn conflict resolution

The opposite of forgiveness can be seen as anger, shame, vengefulness, resentment and any behaviors that evidence these things. If children engage with others who have hurt them by taking revenge, or even by avoiding the other person, they do so at the risk of not learning how to manage conflict. However, when they must find ways to disengage from these negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors, they learn new strategies for dealing with painful situations and hurtful people.

Teaching Children Forgiveness

It is unclear from this particular study exactly how to help children become more forgiving. However, let me provide some suggestions:

1. Educate children about the behavior and attitude aspects of forgiveness

Just telling children to forgive isn’t enough. Explain to them that forgiveness includes:

  • Behavior change: not getting revenge, not using mean words, not spreading gossip, etc.
  • Attitude change: changing anger to something more neutral, letting go of bitterness, replacing negative thoughts with neutral or positive thoughts.

2. Remind children that forgiveness is often not a one-time experience

Behavior and attitude changes don’t occur overnight. Remind kids that forgiveness is a process and an ongoing decision that requires action on their part to make the necessary changes.

3. Talk about the pros and cons of forgiveness

Teach children about the possible positive results of forgiveness: increased happiness, satisfaction and self-esteem. Remind them that a choice not to forgive may lead them to be less happy and feel worse about themselves as a person.

4. Model forgiveness

When conflict arises with a family member, spouse or friend, allow your child to see how you show forgiveness in your behavior (ie: not retaliating in words or actions) and in your attitude (not holding a grudge).

A Christian Perspective

Forgiveness is commanded of us in scripture:

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

It is also offered to us freely:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Yet, if parents do not purposefully model and teach children how to forgive, they may not learn it. Obviously our best teacher of forgiveness is Jesus Christ himself. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8). Despite the fact that we continually demonstrate disobedience and lack of reverence for His deity, He forgives as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Early and often we need to remind children of this sacrifice. However, we must also model this form of forgiveness in our relationships with others. When in conflict, we must show that forgiveness is possible and even necessary to maintain relationship. Lack of forgiveness hurts relationships. If we aren’t able to forgive those in our lives who cause us pain, how can we expect our children to do the same – whether it’s forgiveness toward a friend, sibling or even toward us?

Until next time,


Visit my Bible Study blog here.

Want to learn more about the psychology of forgiveness?


Limitations of this study

As a “cross-sectional” study (a study done at one point in time with differing groups), we cannot deduce cause and effect. We cannot say with certainty that forgiveness increases psychological well-being. It may be that children with greater psychological well-being are more likely to forgive.


Flanagan, K. S., Van den Hoek, K. K., Ranter, J. M., & Reich, H. A. (2012). The potential of forgiveness as a response for coping with negative peer experiences. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 1215–1223.

van der Wal, R. C., Karremans, J. C., & Cillessen, A. N. (2016). Interpersonal forgiveness and psychological well-being in late childhood. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 62(1), 1-21. doi:10.13110/merrpalmquar1982.62.1.0001



Child Abuse is Way too common

A Child’s Voice in the Midst of Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a tragic and difficult topic to address.

It is an issue that many people would rather not discuss. However, from the standpoint of a helping professional, it is highly important to understand the experiences of abused children and the factors that influence abuse perpetration. Therefore, the topic is studied deeply by those who desire to help these children.

But why should someone who isn’t a helping professional want to know about child sexual abuse?

It is common:

  • Estimates indicate that nearly 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys experience sexual abuse (estimates differ depending upon the specific study parameters)

It has lasting effects:

  • Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, promiscuity, etc.

Caring/loving adults can make a difference:

  • Early intervention can prevent some of the long term effects

Click to Tweet this: Nearly 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys experience sexual abuse. Stop abuse now!

With this in mind, I recently reviewed a landmark 2016 study (Jackson, Newall and Backett-Milburn) in which children’s personal reports of abuse were analyzed. Typically child abuse research uses adult’s reports of their experiences as children. However, this current study done in Scotland uses children’s own words and descriptions of their experiences.

ChildLine Scotland (CLS) is a free, confidential phone-in helpline for children. Children may call the helpline for a variety of reasons, but sexual abuse is always within the top 5 reasons for a call. Due to the anonymous nature of these calls and the confidentiality involved, children are often very open about their experiences. From almost 3,000 calls, the researchers gleaned important descriptions of the children’s experiences of abuse. Some important highlights of what they learned are these:


  • The most commonly reported perpetrator of sexual abuse (38% of cases) was a biological parent – in the majority of these cases (70%) it was a biological father (debunking the myth of “stranger danger”)
  • Only a small percentage of the perpetrators were strangers (7%)
  • Nearly double the number of girls reported abuse compared to boys.
  • A large number of children stated that they had already told someone about the abuse prior to calling the helpline. However, nearly 1/3 were not believed.

Children’s Experiences

How kids talk about abuse

Often children used the term “rape” to describe their abuse, despite meaning many things by this term. More commonly, children used euphemisms to describe their experience – and these were typically very explicit, using very adult language.

How kids cope

Children did not have healthy coping strategies. They engaged in self-harm or suicidal behavior, ran away, tried not to think about it, etc. At times, however, they resisted.

How Perpetrators Behave

Violence or threats of violence towards others were used as means to keep children quiet about the abuse. When children resisted, violence would be used as a punishment. Perpetrators also coerced or talked children into complying by using gifts, telling them the abuse was a game or even convincing them that it was normal.

Effects of Abuse

Emotional effects

Children described experiencing fear, nightmares, depression, eating disorders, relationship problems, etc. They described feeling “cheap,” “embarrassed,” “worthless” and “numb.”

Sense of Responsibility

Many children struggled with feeling at fault for the abuse. They worried that something they did or said brought it on. The also expressed a great deal of shame.

The Take-Away

Again, why is this research important – especially for those individuals not in the helping professions?

Understanding children’s experiences from their uncensored personal reports helps us know how to help.

1. Listen – children may be afraid to disclose abuse, but often want to.

2. Validate – the feelings and experiences of abused children need to be acknowledged (they need to know an adult cares, hears and believes what happened to them was wrong)

3. Observe – be aware of an abused child’s coping strategies and provide healthy strategies when possible (ie: talking about their feelings/experiences, spending time with caring family/friends, finding enjoyable activities, listening to uplifting music, etc.)

4. Reach Out – abused children often need mentors and safe adults in their lives. They may be a part of the foster care system or in struggling single-parent families. Big Brothers Big Sisters ( is a great way to mentor at-risk children and youth.

A Christian Perspective Revelation 21:4

Children are loved by God and God never desires that a child be harmed by sexual abuse. God does not engage in evil nor does he tempt others to do evil. (James 1:13).

See John Piper’s series on evil –

However, we live in a world where sin and evil exist. Yet, we also live in a world where goodness and mercy are experienced at the hands of others and through God’s sovereignty. The “problem of evil” has long been a theological topic of discussion. To come to terms with evil’s existence, we must understand God’s character. God loves us (1 John 4), so much that He sent his son to pay for our sins and bring us into relationship with Him (John 3:16). His love is never-ending and reaches as far as to touch a child in the midst of suffering at the hands of evil.

The “Father’s Love Letter” does an amazing job of explaining His love for us:


Click to Tweet this: God Loves You – See more:


Why would a loving God allow a child to be harmed by abuse? There’s no easy answer to this question. Yet we do know this: “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed…” Psalm 10:17

Our solid hope and foundation is this: one day, in Heaven, there will be no more tears, no more evil and no more abuse. (Check out my Bible Study blog here.)

Until next time – Veola

Limitations of this study:

  • Reports of children were taken by helpline callers and recorded in writing. For this study, the information was then broken down and interpreted by the researchers. Some of the results may be biased based upon researchers’ interpretations.
  • The research was done in Scotland and may not relate to individuals in other cultures.

References and further reading:

Jackson, S., Newall, E., & Backett-Milburn, K. (2015). Children’s narratives of sexual abuse. Child & Family Social Work20(3), 322-332. doi:10.1111/cfs.12080

Pereda, N., Guilera, G., Forns, M., & Gómez-Benito, J. (2009). The international epidemiology of child sexual abuse: A continuation of Finkelhor (1994). Child Abuse & Neglect33(6), 331-342. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.07.007

John Piper’s series on evil –

Father’s Love Letter –


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5 Simple Ways to Know if You Should Spank

Instead of reviewing recent research, today I’m going to give my opinion on a topic often discussed by parents:



Parents often disagree about the use of corporal punishment. Should we spank? Is it okay to smack a child’s hand when he touches a light socket? What if a child runs into the street? Should we swat her backside?

Answers to these questions differ depending upon the parent. Even among child psychologists, opinions about corporal punishment are vast. So, what is the right answer?

My opinion on the topic of corporal punishment depends upon several factors.

I believe parents should always think through the following five areas when determining whether to spank:


1. The age of the child

Children between the ages of 2 and 6 will likely benefit from occasional corporal punishment. Swift and direct, it can cause children to stop defiant or inappropriate behavior immediately. Children younger or older than these ages are less likely to benefit as easily or as quickly from corporal punishment. Younger children will not connect the behavior with the punishment. Older children may change behavior just to avoid the punishment, not because they’ve learned a lesson. In addition to this, these older kids may begin hiding misbehavior rather than changing the character traits that may influence it.

2. The behavior

Innocent mistakes and unknowing errors do not call for punishment. Instead, parents should educate the child about what he’s done wrong. However, when children blatantly misbehave in the face of direct instructions or they are in the middle of committing an act by which they could hurt themselves (i.e.: running into the street without looking), a swift spanking on the backside or a swat on the hand may be appropriate.

3. The form of corporal punishment

As just mentioned, one or two firm spankings on the backside or a swat on the hand is the only form of corporal punishment I tend to endorse. Using a belt, spoon, switch, etc. is not something I endorse due to the fact that adults may not recognize the intensity of the swat or the power they place behind the smack with the belt. They may unwittingly injure the child. Some experts may argue for using an object so that the child will associate the pain with the object rather than the hand of the parent. However, if corporal punishment is done in a harsh and intense fashion, using an object instead of a hand doesn’t matter. The child will feel the physical and emotional pain of the punishment whether a hand or belt is used.

4. The background of the parent

I recommend that parents who have experienced physical abuse themselves do not use corporal punishment. Simply due to the fact that a history of abuse can have multiple ripple effects, I believe it is a safer policy to find other means of discipline if a parent has this experience in his/her background. Some other forms of discipline might include:

  • Natural consequences (letting nature takes its course) – i.e.: if the child leaves a jacket at school over and over, she may have to go to school without one.
  • Logical consequences (using consequences that fit the crime)- e.: if a child loses a lunch pail for the hundredth time, he may have to do extra chores to pay to buy a new one.
  • Time-out (from positive reinforcement)- this can be helpful if used correctly – one minute per year of a child’s age and the child must not receive any attention during the time-out period. (Attention could be in the form of angry looks from the parent, yelling, etc.) Parents must not use time-out for every infringement – it can lose its effectiveness if used too often.

5. The context in which punishment is given

If corporal punishment is used in the context of a loving environment in which the parent explains the misbehavior and then administers the punishment (typically 1 or 2 firm swats – causing pain but not bruising!), the punishment can be effective and useful. However, if a parent disciplines with corporal punishment in anger or as a harsh reaction to misbehavior, it can cause fear and emotional insecurity in a child.

My final comment is this:

Often parents want to know the best way to punish misbehavior. However, wouldn’t it be better to find a way to help kids avoid misbehavior? What if there was a way to decrease misbehavior and increase positive behavior? It may be an old saying, but the best way to do this is to “catch them being good”. Look for ways your child is behaving and comment on it, encourage it, build it up. Children are more likely to behave in positive ways when we acknowledge that they are doing so.

* As stated earlier, psychologists, doctors and parents disagree about the use of corporal punishment. The ideas stated above are my opinions based upon many years of thought, research, personal parenting experience and therapeutic work with parents and children.

Until next time,


View my Bible Study blog here


Can rejection make AD/HD symptoms worse?




Do any of these adjectives sound like a child you know?


If you know a child with AD/HD, you’ve experienced these behaviors first hand. You’ve likely also noticed the difficulties these kids often have with peers. Kids who are impulsive, distracted and hyperactive just tend to have a harder time relating to others. Sadly, even the research attests to the notion that children with AD/HD get rejected more often than other children (Mrug et al., 2012). But can kids without the actual disorder show AD/HD symptoms and also have problems with peers because of them?



The symptoms that make up AD/HD are not confined to the children with the actual diagnosis. Children without a diagnosis of AD/HD can also show signs of distractibility, uncontrolled behavior, difficulties sitting still, problems with judgment, acting without thinking, etc. Behaviors such as these in children (even without a diagnosis) can cause problems with peers.

However, a recent study addressed whether these AD/HD type symptoms can influence peers to reject these kids (Stenseng et al., 2016). Stenseng’s group followed 600 children in Norway (most of whom originated from the USA or another Western nation) from age 4 to age 8. Teachers and parents reported about the presence of AD/HD type symptoms and peer rejection in the lives of their children. Over the course of the four-year period, the researchers found some interesting results.



The authors found a pattern of interaction between peer rejection and AD/HD symptoms over time.

Peer Rejection and ADHD Interaction


  • Children with more AD/HD symptoms experienced more peer rejection.
  • Early peer rejection was related to more AD/HD symptoms as kids grew.
  • Early AD/HD symptoms meant more peer rejection at age 6.


Simply put… kids often reject hyperactive, impulsive and distractible peers. Unfortunately, peer rejection influences these behaviors in some way, increasing them.

Why does peer rejection seem to have such an influence on the development of uncontrolled behavior? It may be that difficult peer interactions in preschool erode self-control. When a child is rejected socially, the bulk of their coping may involve trying to manage their fear, anxiety, anger, etc. This may come at the cost of depleting their ability to manage their own behavior. Over time, as peer rejection continues or worsens, coping skills may also worsen – presenting itself as AD/HD type symptoms.

Tweet this: Peer rejection in preschool may erode self-control, leading to AD/HD type symptoms in elementary school.





Parent awareness is key. Pay attention to your young child’s interactions with other kids. Is your child teased often? Do other children refuse to play with him? Does she get into arguments or conflicts with kids at the park, at preschool or in other environments?

If you notice harsh and rejecting peer interactions, you can intervene and model how to best solve the problem. However, there will be times when you won’t be present to help out. So, what can you do? You can teach your child healthy coping mechanisms so they can manage these difficult interactions on their own. John Gottman (1998) provides excellent ideas in his approach to healthy parenting that he calls being an Emotion Coach:

Validate feelings

When your child has a problem with a friend, listen actively–paraphrasing your child’s problem. Help the child label his emotions. Provide feelings words without telling her what she ought to feel. When children understand their own feelings, they are better able to manage and cope with them.

Set limits on behavior

If a conflict arises with a peer, make appropriate behavior clear to your child. Feelings are not a problem, misbehavior is. Structure and limits provide much wanted boundaries for children. When interacting with rejecting or harsh peers, your child needs to know which behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable.

Problem solve

Encourage your child to stop, take some time out and think through the problem. Remind her of past successes when dealing with similar problems–she may find old ideas that can work in a new situation. List possible solutions together. Review the list and help him evaluate the possible solutions, choose one & follow through.

Basic problem solving and emotion management skills such as these can go a long way in helping children deal with peer rejection and improve peer relationships.

A Christian Perspective

A Biblical view of relationships emphasizes the fact that we were made to be in relationship. God himself is relational. The simple fact that “God is love” (John 4:16) is evidence of his relationality because love is only experienced within relationship. The New Testament regularly attests to the fact that Christians are meant to “love one another,” “bear one another’s burdens,” “pray for one another,” etc. According to some (I haven’t personally counted them), there are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament alone.

The Old Testament also speaks to how we are meant to relate. In particular, the book of Proverbs gives wisdom on how to relate to both friends and enemies. For example: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17) and “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Prov. 24:17).

With the relational nature of people, it is clear that we can have both healthy and unhealthy relationships and that we can be negatively impacted when relationships go wrong. The fact that peer rejection can have a detrimental influence on child behavior, therefore, isn’t surprising. However, it also should not be surprising that healthy relationships can build confidence and strength in these children. Whether these relationships come in the form of an encouraging adults or one close friend, there is hope for children who experience early peer rejection. We are not commanded to do all of the above without a purpose. Our relationships with others are not only meant to build us up, they are meant to heal us and spur us on toward godliness. (Click here to visit my Bible Study Blog)

Until next time – Veola

Limits of the study:

  • Remember, the majority of the children studied did not have AD/HD just AD/HD symptoms.
  • The experience of peer rejection was based upon teacher reports, not on the report of the children involved.
  • The study was conducted in Norway with Western families – this may not be generalizable to other cultures.

References and Further Reading:

Gottman, J. & Declaire, J. (1998). Raising an emotionally intelligent child: The heart of parenting. New York. Simon & Schuster

Mrug, S., Molina, B., Hoza, B., Gerdes, A., Hinshaw, S., Hechtman, L., & Arnold, L. (2012). Peer Rejection and Friendships in Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Contributions to Long-Term Outcomes. Journal Of Abnormal Child Psychology40(6), 1013-1026. doi:10.1007/s10802-012-9610-2

Stenseng, F., Belsky, J., Skalicka, V., Wichstrøm, L., & Wichstrøm, L. (2016). Peer rejection and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder symptoms: Reciprocal relations through Ages 4, 6, and 8. Child Development87(2), 365-373. doi:10.1111/cdev.12471

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3 Practical Ways to Improve Your Teen’s Academics

Have you ever wondered why your teen continues to struggle in school despite the fact that you’ve done everything you know to help him or her? You’ve spent a huge part of your monthly budget on a tutor, you make sure she’s at school early to discuss assignments with her teachers and she stays late to get extra help. She spends hours studying for exams and has even cut out extra-curricular activities. Yet, when grades come, you’re surprised to see that she’s not doing as well as you’d hoped.


Did you ever consider that maybe she’s not sleeping well? That maybe her sleep habits are influencing her grades?

A recent study done in the UK (Dimitriou, Knight & Milton, 2015) addressed the factors that may indirectly influence your teen’s GPA and cognitive functioning. According to these authors, total time spent sleeping and the quality of teen’s sleep may be related to how they perform in school.

Although the National Sleep Foundation recommends teens get 8-10 hours of sleep each night (, in the study conducted by Dimitriou et al., teens spent an average of approximately 7 hours sleeping each night. These authors addressed the fact that certain factors may decrease a teen’s likeliness of fulfilling the recommended 8-10 hours, which may lower their GPA. Here are some practical tips for helping teens get more sleep and improve academics based upon the Dimitriou et al. study:


Using a screen before going to sleep can decrease an adolescent’s total time sleeping. The teens in the Dimitriou et al. study who used a screen at least 30 minutes before bed slept less than teens who didn’t. This included television, tablets and phones. When TV and media influenced sleep, teens’ reasoning ability dropped as well as their GPA. It may be that both TV and social media increase teen “physiological arousal making it more difficult to sleep”. In addition, it could be that screens influence melatonin – which affects sleep.


Caffeine consumption, either in the form of sodas or energy drinks, impacts sleep. Although many people report that caffeine before bed has no effect on them, this current study found a relationship between less sleep and caffeine consumption within half an hour of going to bed. This consumption indirectly affected the teen’s grades by decreasing the quantity and quality of their sleep.

Tweet this: Technology and Caffeine before bed impacts teen sleep and indirectly reduces GPA.


According to Dimitriou et al., teen grades can be impacted by exercise. When the teens in their study exercised more often, GPA improved. Although exercise wasn’t directly linked with improved sleep, it was certainly a means by which teen grades were influenced.


As has been described, it is not only important for teens to get the right amount of sleep (8-10 hours each night), but they also need to get good sleep. When teens are restless in their sleep, wake up in the middle of the night or find it hard to get back to sleep once they wake up early, their grades are impacted. Teens who have access to screens when they wake in the middle of the night are at risk of poor sleep quality.

The disturbing part of this is that teens may not even notice the negative impact on their functioning. When deprived of sleep (for whatever reason), teens/young adults aren’t able to recognize that their abilities aren’t as sharp. Despite showing less ability to concentrate, problems with focused attention and lower performance on cognitive tasks when sleep deprived, teens/young adults actually rate themselves as performing well. (Pilcher & Walters, 1997). These youth simply don’t notice the drop off in their abilities.

Tweet this: Teens may not recognize when they’re sleep deprived.

Tired Teens Perform Worse at School


  • Talk with your teen about the importance of sleep and the negative impact of not sleeping well
  • Make a plan to help your teen avoid screens at least an hour before bed. A few examples:
    • Think about keeping televisions out of teen bedrooms
    • Have a check-in time for phones and tablets
    • Encourage “down-time” an hour before bed without screens
  • Discourage caffeine an hour before bed
  • Encourage a regular bed time (rather than differing times each night)–sleep routines can increase total sleep time


The Bible doesn’t give direct commands about how much sleep we’re supposed to get. I venture to guess that this wasn’t necessarily a cultural issue of the day. However, we are provided with guidance about how to live a life worthy of His calling (Col 1:10)–of how to walk in a way that glorifies God. One of the ways in which we do this is that we are commanded to do our work as for the Lord and not for others. Certainly there are steps we can take in our daily lives that will make us more productive and more likely to function at our peak. Taking care of ourselves is one way we do this–by treating our bodies as a temple of the holy spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20). Sleep may just fall into this realm.

Helping teens adjust their sleeping patterns and habits so as to make the most of their sleep–increasing quantity and quality–can impact the ways in which they perform one of their most important jobs, school. Parents play a role in this by encouraging healthy habits and helping teens avoid activities that may influence their sleep and, therefore, their performance. This may seem a stretch, but making sure our kids rightly use their gifts and talents is one of the responsibilities of a parent. Teens tend to think that they are invincible, that bad things won’t happen to them and they won’t necessarily have the effects of sleep deprivation. However, parents play a key role during adolescence of teaching teens to understand the impact of their actions. In this case, choosing to spend time staring at a screen, drinking a coke and staying up too late may all have an unwanted effect that teens need to be aware of. Once again, parents can help them to perform their “work” as if for the Lord and not for others. (Click here to visit my Bible Study Blog)

Until next time – Veola

Limits to this study:
  • This study was completed in the UK and may not apply to other cultures
  • This study focused on just 48 Caucasian teens. A larger group of teens may have made these findings more relatable to other races and the greater population of teens in general
  • Teens in the study supplied a self-report of their activities–at times self-reports are limited due to their lack of objectivity.
References and Additional Reading:

Dimitriou, D., Le Cornu Knight, F., & Milton, P. (2015). The Role of Environmental Factors on Sleep Patterns and School Performance in Adolescents. Frontiers In Psychology61-9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01717

Pilcher, J. J., & Walters, A. S. (1997). How sleep deprivation affects psychological variables. Journal Of American College Health46(3), 121.

National Sleep Foundation

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Your Child’s Social Skills – What’s a Parent’s Role?

How You Parent Impacts Your Child's Social Skills
It’s no surprise that parents play a role in teaching their children social skills. From reminders to say please and thank-you to basic interventions to get kids to share, part of parenting will always include a bit of education related to social interaction. However, a recent study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies sheds light on the interaction between parenting style, child temperament and social competence.


Specific parenting styles were first described by Diana Baumrind in the 1960’s. According to her work:

  1. Authoritative Parenting is healthy parenting.

    Parents balance warmth and structure, or love and limits.

  2. Authoritarian Parenting is unhealthy parenting.

    Parents value and demonstrate strict control over children and show little warmth in the process. This does not mean that these parents do not love their children–they do. However, they tend to interact with their children in a cold and punitive manner, expecting obedience at all costs.

This recent study (Reichard, et al. 2014) explored the role that Authoritarian parenting can have on how preschool children play. In particular, the authors wanted to understand how a child’s manner of play may be impacted by the interaction between this style of parenting and a child’s temperament.


Temperament has been described in many ways. At its essence it is seen as one’s inborn style of interacting with the world–how we come out of the womb, let’s say. Two specific extremes of temperament have been described as high and low reactivity.

  • A highly reactive child tends to withdraw from new situations and have intense negative and positive emotional reactions.
  • A low reactive child isn’t as quick to react and instead of withdrawing in new situations, tends to approach these experiences without intense emotions.

He might play better with others if you changed your parenting style.Research has shown that highly reactive children, in general, show fewer positive social behaviors and they experience difficulties with their peers. The interesting results of the current study show:

  • Highly reactive children with Authoritarian parents tend to be more disruptive in their play. They are more likely to demand to be in charge and become more aggressive than do highly reactive children with Authoritative
  • When highly reactive children have Authoritative parents, the difficulties they experience with peers diminish.

Tweet this: Emotionally reactive children with demanding, controlling parents don’t play well with others.

The take-away from these findings is this:

Assess your own parenting style: Are you more Authoritative or Authoritarian?

Remember, an Authoritarian parent may think or say things like this:

  • “Kids need to obey with questioning.”
  • “I don’t care if my kids are unhappy with me.”
  • “I’m the parent.”
  • “They better follow the rules.”
  • “If they get off track, I’ll show them whose boss.”

On the other hand, an Authoritative parent may respond in this way:

  • “I have rules but I’m willing to be flexible.”
  • “Discipline is a way to teach children.”
  • “I’m available when my kids need me.”

Not everyone aligns with one end of this continuum or the other. However, if you tend to fall on the Authoritarian end of the parenting continuum, your style may be modeling unhelpful behaviors that your child may mimic in his/her play.

Tweet this:  Authoritarian parents model controlling & demanding behaviors that children may mimic in their play.

Assess your child’s temperament.

Does your child tend to be highly reactive? In a new situation, does your child pull away? Does he/she react with an intense response when faced with difficulties? Does your child tend to be aggressive or demanding with peers? Children with these experiences lean toward high reactivity.

Model socially acceptable behaviors.

Highly reactive children need to see how to interact in healthy ways. A change in parenting style may provide just what is needed to help a child develop social competence. Parents can do this by adjusting a few things:

  • Increase listening – when a child reacts negatively, listen for the feelings behind the reaction. Express that you hear him/her and reflect back his/her experience. For example, “I see that you’re angry, Billy. You get mad when the other kids don’t share.”
  • Be slow to react – as the parent, take a breather before reacting to your child’s negative behavior. Slow and patient responses will model how to handle negative emotions.
  • Avoid harsh punishments – child behavior can be managed in a variety of ways, try out tools such as time out (one minute per each year of the child’s age, removal of privileges (for short time periods) and limit setting (provide few but clear rules)

Finally, if you want your child to play better with others, practice playing with him/her yourself. Positive playtime, without rules our punishments, can be an important part of showing children how to get along with others.

A Christian Perspective

Hebrews 12:11 – “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Biblically, parents are instructed to discipline their children–to teach them to serve Him, to care for others, to avoid sin and to live a life worthy of the Lord. However, Christian parents may at times interpret verses such as this one in Hebrews to encourage the adoption of an Authoriaran style.

We need to search the whole of scripture to understand God’s heart for parenting. God as a “parent” himself–our Heavenly Father–ultimately demonstrates how parenting should look. The Lord himself is JUST (expecting his people to live within certain limits) but at the same time He is, himself, LOVE. A striking balance between love and limits is demonstrated. Yet, before we say that we can completely understand human parenting by using this model, we have to remember that our understanding of both love and structure is limited by our humanness. We can only understand God’s love to the extent that we compare it to our own. However, God’s love and his justice are higher than ours and deeper than ours. We get a glimpse of it as we read the scripture and remind ourselves that we can, in our parenting, seek to portray these qualities. (Click here to visit my Bible Study Blog)

Until next time – Veola

Limitations of this study:

  • A small sample of 63 children
  • The majority of children were Caucasian (87%)
  • The majority of parents were highly educated (65%)

References/Further Reading

Baumrind, D. (1968). Authoritarian vs. authoritative parental control. Adolescence, 3, 255–272.

Evans, C. A., Nelson, L. J., & Porter, C. L. (2012). Making sense of their world: Sensory reactivity and novelty awareness as aspects of temperament and correlates of social behaviours in early childhood. Infant & Child Development21(5), 503-520. doi:10.1002/icd.1754

Gagnon, S., Huelsman, T., Reichard, A., Kidder-Ashley, P., Griggs, M., Struby, J., & Bollinger, J. (2014). Help me play! Parental behaviors, child temperament, and preschool peer play. Journal of Child & Family Studies23(5), 872-884. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9743-0

* all verses taken from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible

 Click here to view my Bible Study blog.

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Purity Rings. Do they matter?Despite widespread sexual messages in the media and sexual activity among young adults, virginity pledges or purity promises continue to be popular. Often, students make these pledges after a religious message about purity or at a religious gathering.

The popularity of these pledges stems from several sources. Of course, many religions value virginity (including Christianity) and believe marriage to be sacred–encouraging young people to save themselves for their marriage partner. In addition to this, nonreligious individuals have encouraged the pledge as a means of helping young people avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and teen pregnancy. Abstinence-only education (for which there continues to be some federal funding) has also driven the idea of virginity pledges.


Despite support from both religious and non-religious sources, research looking at whether virginity pledges work has had varying results (see Bruckner & Bearman, 2005 and Martino et al., 2008). A recent study by Landor and Simons (2014) addressed the role religiosity may play in the effectiveness of virginity pledges.

These authors surveyed a group of over 1,000 “emerging adults”–young college students between the ages of 18-24 years. These students supplied information related to their sexual histories, their virginity status and their experiences of making virginity pledges.

Of the students in this study, 27% reported having signed a virginity pledge at some point. Yet, making a promise against sexual activity did not stop these individuals from having sex – 65% had engaged in intercourse and 77% had engaged in oral sex.

The question remains–does religiosity impact these numbers? It basically depends on the person’s religious experience. The authors discuss two different forms of religiosity:

* External religiosity/religious participation – the person goes to church, youth group or religious ceremonies but does not report an internal religious experience or commitment

* Internal religiosity/religious commitment – the person reports praying and seeking spiritual comfort, basically reporting that religion influences his/her daily life

Do Teen Virginity Pledges Work? It depends...


Landor and Simons found an interesting interaction between virginity pledges and the form of religiosity endorsed by the students.

Highly committed pledgers and non-pledgers looked different compared to pledgers and non-pledgers with low commitment.



  • pledgers were less likely to have intercourse than non-pledgers
  • pledgers had fewer intercourse partners than non-pledgers
  • pledgers had fewer oral sex partners than non-pledgers

Tweet this: If students have a deep religious commitment, signing a purity pledge decreases chances of early or frequent sex.


  • pledgers were more likely to have intercourse than non-pledgers
  • pledgers had more intercourse partners than non-pledgers
  • pledgers had more oral sex partners than non-pledgers

Tweet this: If students don’t have a strong religious commitment, signing a purity pledge increases their chances of early or frequent sex.


When young adults (emerging adults) choose to sign virginity or make purity promises, the pledge tends to be more effective when the person experiences a commitment to their religious beliefs. Instead of just attending church, these committed students say that their spiritual lives are of daily importance. For these students, the commitment to the pledge is an important part of their overall religious commitment.

Although the pledge doesn’t necessarily keep religiously committed students from pre-marital sex in all circumstances, it does appear to decrease their risky sexual behaviors. They postpone sex, have fewer sexual partners and engage in oral sex less often (oral sex with multiple partners is liked to STIs).

In opposition to these findings, pledge signers who show low or no religious commitment are more risky in their sexual behaviors than nonpledgers.

Why is this? Maybe low committed pledgers experience a sort of rebound effect after they break their pledge for the first time. It’s possible that once they break their promise they feel a sense of failure and develop a “what the heck” attitude toward sex and risky behaviors. Without a religious commitment to fall back on, they act out sexually (despite having made a pledge against it).

Based upon these findings, Landor and Simons question the value of virginity pledges for the general population of emerging adults. They also question the use of government funds for abstinence-only education. They suggest the use of comprehensive sex education which includes contraception information and information about protection against STIs.

A Christian Perspective

Advocates for abstinence-only education as well as purity pledges are found throughout the Christian community. Do these study results and other equivocal results related to these programs mean that Christians should deny their usefulness and move in the direction of the general culture?
Actually, these results actually give weight to the Biblical view of purity before marriage.

• “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18)
• “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3)
• “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

These results support the idea that a commitment to these Biblical commands and an overall religious commitment are important when it comes to purity pledges. Virginity pledges in religiously committed individuals appear to make a difference. The key is the level of commitment–the daily impact of the person’s spiritual life. Christians can use this information to remind young people that making a purity pledge isn’t just about following the crowd–it’s about a personal commitment to God and following His calling to live a life of purity.

For those who take ahold of this idea, the virginity pledge may not just be the key to fewer sexually risky behaviors but also abstinence until marriage. (Click here to visit my Bible Study blog.)

Until next time – Veola

Limits of this study:

  • The study only used college students
  • Religious commitment and religious participation were measured with a total of just 3 questions – the type of religious commitment was not specified (ie: evangelical Christian, Catholic, etc.)
  • It’s unclear when the students took the virginity pledge

References and Further Reading

Brückner, H., & Bearman, P.B. (2005). After the promise: The STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges. Journal of Adolescent Health, 36(4) , 271-278.
Landor, A., & Simons, L. (2014). Why virginity pledges succeed or fail: The moderating effect of religious commitment versus religious participation. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 23(6), 1102-1113. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9769-3
Martino, S. C., Elliott, M. N., Collins, R. L., Kanouse, D. E., & Berry, S. H. (2008). Virginity pledges among the willing: Delays in first intercourse and consistency of condom use. The Journal of Adolescent Health : Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 43(4), 341–348.

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It’s common sense that problems within a marriage can impact the children. However, it’s less common to think about how marital conflict may impact a child’s eating habits and possibly even relate to a teen’s development of or increase in dysfunctional eating patterns.


Blodgett Salafia, Schaefer and Haugen (2014) studied the connections between problems in a marriage and teen girls’ problematic eating behaviors. This was not a study focused on eating disorders such as Anorexia and Bulimia. According to this group, “disordered eating” specifically falls into three categories:

  1. A drive for thinness – girls may worry that just gaining a pound means they won’t ever stop gaining weight. Or they worry about being just a bit skinnier. (Feelings about being fat play a role here.)
  2. Dieting – girls eat less than they’d like to or they avoid high fat foods and only eat foods they consider to be slimming (Behaviors about food.)
  3. Preoccupation with food and weight – girls may engage in behaviors to avoid weight gain, like vomiting based on daily negative thoughts about their bodies and weight. (Thinking influences their daily life.)


This particular study addressed marital conflict as seen through the eyes of the teen girls. Teen girls responded to questions about their parents. They rated the frequency and intensity of their parents’ conflict and also gave their opinions on how their parents resolved their problems.

The more conflict that existed in a marriage, the more disordered eating these girls showed. In addition to this, these girls had poorer and less positive relationships with both their moms and dads when conflict was high in the marriage.

The most interesting finding of this study relates to the interaction between the teen-parent relationship, the marital conflict and the disordered eating. When marital conflict was present, teens showed poorer perceived relationships with their parents which led to more disordered eating. Unfortunately, previous research supports the idea that teen girls who engage in disordered eating have high chances of continuing those patterns into adulthood and even have the possibility of developing a true eating disorder.

Tweet this: Marital conflict leads to poorer teen-parent relationships. Together, both may lead to disordered eating.

Why is this the case? It may be that teen girls who live in homes with martial conflict experience their parents to be more controlling and less warm. This experience of losing a sense of independence and feeling emotionally disconnected from parents may impact a girl’s ability to manage her emotional experiences in a healthy way. She may experience negative emotions that are expressed in her manner of managing food and her experience of her body.


  • Manage martial conflict – Marriage researcher John Gottman explains that conflict in marriage is not necessarily a problem. The problem instead tends to be how the conflict is handled.
  • Increase warmth – Have you pulled away from the family due to the stresses in your marriage? Are you emotionally available to your child? Increased physical touch, positive communication and increased involvement in the home may help.
  • Decrease control – this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set limits. However, you may need to assess whether or not your child is able to develop a sense of autonomy and independence – is she able to think on her own about decisions, does she show confidence in her own judgement?

Teen Disordered Eating? Is Your Marital Conflict to Blame?As you can see, I didn’t mention anything about controlling your daughter’s eating habits, changing the food in the home or making sure her weight is stable. The most important part of these findings is the influence of the parent-child relationship and marital conflict. Making changes in these two areas might just change the way your child feels about her body and handles food.

A Christian Perspective

A Biblical perspective on marriage is one that supports the loving relationship between husband and wife. It is one in which husbands are commanded to love their wives and wives are commanded to respect their husbands. The Bible is also clear that when parents do not live Godly lives, their sins are “visited” on their children (Exodus 20:5). An appropriate theology of the word used in this verse does not mean that children must pay for the sins of their parents. On the contrary, in Ezekiel 18:20 we are told that each person must account for his/her own sins–a parent for his/her own and a child for his/her own. However, the “visiting” of sins upon our children is a clear indication that God sees that the sins of the fathers are evidenced in the lives of the children. God looks into our lives and counts the ways a parent’s sin impacts a child.

As parents we may tend to look for the obvious ways in which our ungodly behaviors impact our kids. For example, if we fly into a rage and then see our children yelling at others, we may quickly blame ourselves or our spouse. However, this research helps us become aware that there may be many less obvious consequences of our behaviors. (Click here to visit my Bible Study Blog)

Until next time – Veola

A few limitations to this study:

  • the population studied was primarily Caucasian (94%)
  • the majority of the families showed highly educated parents (>60%)
  • this isn’t a “cause & effect” study – the information found focuses on correlations

References/Further Reading:

Blodgett Salafia, E., Schaefer, M., & Haugen, E. (2014). Connections Between Marital Conflict and Adolescent Girls’ Disordered Eating: Parent-Adolescent Relationship Quality as a Mediator. Journal Of Child & Family Studies,23(6), 1128-1138. doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9771-9

Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M., Larson, N. I., Eisenberg, M. E., & Loth, K. (2011). Dieting and Disordered Eating Behaviors from Adolescence to Young Adulthood: Findings from a 10-Year Longitudinal Study. Journal Of The American Dietetic Association111(7), 1004-1011. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2011.04.012

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BookCoverImage From createspace

The second book in The Coin Chronicles series – The Penny Predicament – is now published!


Get Your Copy – The Penny Predicament

Haven’t read The Nickel Nuisance? Check it out here.

Here’s a quick synopsis: 

What would a 12-year-old boy do to help save his family from financial ruin? In Jake King’s case, he’d do just about anything. But uncertainty sets in as his plans go awry, his friendships start to fail and his faith takes a few hits. Finding a rare coin worth a fortune might be the answer. But what if it’s not real? Will Jake lose his best friend and his family’s future at the same time? Only God knows and, hopefully, he’ll let Jake in on it.

A sneak peak at the first few pages…

Chapter 1
No New Jersey


I’ve got my ear to my parents’ door and it’s those two words I hear mixed with the clomping noise of my dad’s boots on the wood floor.

I shake my head and whisper them to myself over and over again. “Laid off … laid off … laid off.” They start to sound like a foreign language after I say them too many times. But I know what they mean. They mean that Dad no longer has a J-O-B.

Nope, “laid off” is not the news I expected when Dad came in the house after work today and asked Mom to follow him to their room. When I decided to eavesdrop, I guess I expected something other than …

Laid off.
Without work.

It’s this news that’s causing my heart to beat and a line of sweat to mount on my brow. I grit my teeth and inch even closer to their door. My only prayer is that I can listen in without my own nervous breathing giving me away.

Lucky for me, Mom’s voice grows louder and drowns out some of my noise. “Dex, are you telling me that they laid you off without even two weeks’ pay?”

Dad lets out a big sigh. “Sharon, I told you. It’s the same for all of us. They let five of us go today.”

Dad’s shoes make that clomping sound again, closer to the door and then farther away. Back and forth, back and forth. With each step nearer the door, I feel a jolt of fear that he might find me.

Knowing that eavesdropping is considered a major crime in my house doesn’t matter. I have to hear more, so I stay, biting my lip in anticipation.

The Penny Predicament

No New Jersey!

When his boots grow silent, I suck in a breath and hold it, trying to keep as quiet as I can. Even with my adrenaline pumping, and sweat starting to pour down my face,

I can’t pull myself away!



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