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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Teenage Blues? Find out how this father re-connected with his teenage son.

Recently I spoke with one father who confessed to having difficulty liking his son. Clearly his son was rebellious and had some behaviors that most parents would find offensive. The son rarely did what he had promised. He blew off chores. He had trouble backing down and he thought he never made a mistake.

When I pushed the father to tell me something he liked about his son, he reluctantly admitted that the boy was a pretty good student, didn’t get in trouble at school, had a great sense of humor and a rather endearing smile. The trick for me was to get the father to focus on his son’s attributes at least some of the time. This would allow the father to feel good about his son as opposed to always feeling negative.

The first thing I did was to ask the father to bring me a list of fifty things he liked about his son even if he had to go back in history and remember some of the incidences from his son’s childhood. Although the father dutifully made his list he couldn’t wait to tell me how his son had messed up that week.

The father’s next assignment was to only comment on the positive things his son did. The idea was to get the father to change his focus from looking at the negative to looking at the positive. This assignment did not work either.

I then came up with the idea that every time the son messed up the father would say in his head, “At least he’s alive.” When I told the father this he said, “You do have a point.”

The following week when I saw this man he said that the assignment had worked. For the first time in almost three years he felt some genuine closeness toward his son. He no longer saw his son as an incompetent. What he saw was a boy struggling, sometimes inappropriately, for his own identity. As this father left my office that day, he grinned a little and said, “You know, I really do love that kid.”

If you’re having trouble loving your kid because of his hard-to-deal with behaviors, why not experiment with one on the previous homework assignments?

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”. Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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What do you think is the most important message of the book?  

The message I wanted to convey was that all kids are motivated. The task of a parent or teacher or counselor is tapping into what interests a seemingly unmotivated kid has, in order to get him moving in perhaps a more productive endeavor. The second message: You don’t have to be a great student to accomplish great things in life. 

Of the numerous adversities Alex faces, which do you think is the most trying?

I think Alex’s long recovery at home after the accident, as well as how his appearance had changed (he now had a dimple on his cheek), were the most trying.

Why crickets? Has the question of food shortage interested you for a while?

Years ago, I had read that you could eat crickets. So when I was working on the book, I started exploring what bugs people eat in other parts of the world. I got so interested that I visited a cricket farm in Florida. And what an education I got! I incorporated that experience and had Alex and his family and Mr. D visiting a cricket farm and then, of course, Alex’s entire class raising crickets as part of their class science project.

Regarding food shortage: Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been conscious of what a terrible thing it is not having enough food to eat. When my mother was growing up, she didn’t have enough food, and I think her talking about going to bed hungry stuck with me.

Are there plans to publish another book that continues Alex’s adventures?

Yes, I have the story line and this time not only Alex, but also several of his classmates will take center stage.

How important was your own counseling practice to the development of the very convincing character in the book, particularly Alex and Mr. D?

I’ve been a counselor for many years so I think the counseling process that took place between Mr. D and Alex was similar to what actually goes on when I see a kid in counseling. So I would say it was essential.

How is the style of the illustrations connected to the story?  

 I’ve known John Dyess, the illustrator, for many years and have admired his work. So I was delighted when he agreed to illustrate the book. When I look at John’s work, I feel a connection: whether an illustration of a beautiful trout about to take a hook for Field & Stream or a bunch of guys playing basketball. That’s what I wanted the kids to feel when looking at the various bugs – a connection. When I first saw the illustrations for the book, I was blown-away.

How much is Alex’s physical condition (and recovery) a metaphor for his emotional one? 

When Alex was young, his father died, but he had little recollection of the event. But talking with his mom about his father’s death during his recovery was twofold: To help Alex come to terms with not having a father and to come to terms with his own pain from the accident. Years ago I asked a seventh grade class to write some of the losses they had experienced, trying to get a sense of loss at their age. I was astonished and saddened that almost everyone in the class had experienced a loss, and often a major one: the death of a sibling, parent, grandparent, relative, or divorce within the family and all the losses that entails.

Was any of the story based on real life events?

Yes. As a graduate student, I was a counselor at a boy’s home, so it was a natural for Mr. D to have been raised for part of his life in one. The part where his father, whom he never knew, came into the store where he worked and never identified himself, that happened to a close friend of mine. Sadly, the incident with the dogs was also based on a real-life event. The planting of a bottle garden, I did that many years ago with my husband, and I also like to roam around in junk stores like Alex’s family.

Have you tried eating crickets?

Actually I have. I’ve also eaten worms. How could I talk to kids about a book that has the potential of feeding the world and not have tasted some crawly cuisine myself? You can buy edible crickets and worms on the Internet. Dare I say, you too should take the plunge and try a handful of crickets or some crunchy worms. Believe me, you’ll catch the attention and admiration of a lot of kids.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”. Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

 

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New Young Adult Novel Puts Motivation and Mealworms on the Menu

There’s a reason Americans don’t often hear the phrase, “please pass the crickets” during families meals and other fine dining occasions. Entomophagy—including insects in your diet—is, for want of a better clinical term, totally gross. Which, of course, makes it the perfect topic for Doris Wild Helmering’s charming and amusingly educational young adult novel The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World.
          Meet Alex Crow, a seventh-grader at 
Roosevelt Ridge Middle School, working with yet another school counselor to see why the smart 12-year-old is such a slacker when it comes to school work. The last counselor didn’t get too far. But this guy—“Call me Mr. D.”—this guy is different. All he cares about is putting Alex in touch with his passion.  Turns out, Alex’s passion is bugs. And that’s where the fun begins, as Helmering, a nationally-known author and syndicated news columnist, treats us to an all-you-can-eat buffet of grasshoppers, earthworms, and other slithery non-vertebrates with the potential to solve world hunger. Did you know that cockroaches run the equivalent of 141 mph? Or that if you were a grasshopper you could jump the length of a basketball court in less than a second? There’s a lot of fun as well as eeeew-inducing content in Helmering’s clear, beautiful prose. But Helmering has a more important fish, if not caterpillars, to fry.

A study in motivation

Helmering, a clinical social worker whose impressive portfolio of published books includes popular self-help titles such as Husbands, Wives & Sex and Happily Ever After, tackles, head-on, what it takes to succeed in life. “Helmering creates a delightful and imaginative experience for middle-grade readers that will inspire and motivate them to think outside the box as they consider their own life aspirations,” says M. Catherine Downer, a nationally certified counselor.
         “Ms. Helmering begins with the rock bottom belief that all children are naturally motivated to learn and it’s an adult’s job to discover and use their natural curiosity to help them develop the resilience and work habits to succeed in school and life,” adds Barbara Kohm, author of The Power of Conversation: Transforming Principals into Great Leaders. “[This is] a multi-layered book [that] addresses core issues middle students face with warmth, depth and humor.”

Motivation for parents, teachers, and grandparents, too

The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World comes with a powerful Parent Teacher Discussion Guide to help facilitate conversation about the book’s weighty themes: motivation, bullying, self-esteem, teamwork, grief, diversity, and environmentalism.  Helmering, whose “fresh, witty, wise, down-to-earth style” has been distilled from many years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and television and radio personality, certainly knows how to get the conversation going. And if that conversation happens to involve such mouthwatering fare as wormburgers and the etiquette of removing bug legs from your teeth, well, nobody ever said saving the world would be pretty.
Bon Apetite!

The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World & The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide by
Doris Wild Helmering (Author), John Dyess (Illustrator)

Check out her additional books on Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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I want to know how can I control my temperament/anger, and increase my patience with my 3 year old son. I am out of energy, struggling with my weight/shape, time management and level of responsibility at work. I feel like a zombie.

Three year olds can be a handful and everyone seems to be overwhelmed today. Regarding your anger and weight, try this affirmation, “I choose not to be angry or overeat, I choose to be in control.”

Why this particular affirmation? Because it addresses both of your issues, anger and weight and the mere repetition of the affirmation will help you feel more calm. Say it several thousands times a day (no joking!).

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” (a middle grade read) as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” www.doriswildhelmering.com

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finalcover

The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World will grab the attention of any upper grade or middle school student. Whether interested in science projects, bugs, getting along with others, or motivation, readers are caught up in the story from the first page to the last. Teachers, parents, and counselors will find the book useful to stimulate conversation about difficult topics like bullying, doing well in school, and family illness. Students will love the practical approach to friendship and family. Would make for a great classroom book group discussion!

Dr. Catherine Von Hatten, Educational Consultant, Retired Public School Assistant Superintendent, Teacher, and Principal

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Doris Wild Helmering’s young adult book The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World is ostensibly a story about 12-yr-old Alex who is unmotivated at school but realizes with the help of a sympathetic school counselor that he loves to learn about bugs and worms. However, this book has an unusual twist in that it is also a learning tool that provides essential information about how protein-rich insects and worms can be used to enhance worldwide nutrition.

After a few dark months of recuperating from a serious accident, Alex visits an indoor cricket farm where he encounters terrible smells and overwhelming chirping sounds. He asks a lot of questions and is inspired at the food potential of these loud, malodorous creatures. At first, Alex and his grandmother cook up a few recipes with crickets and worms in their apartment kitchen. Although his mother is at first skeptical, his grandmother, brother, and counselor encourage Alex to think big about his newfound knowledge. After a successful class science project, Alex partners with a company to raise crickets and produce “bug bars” to help feed the world.

This is an engaging tale that rings true regarding a boy’s enthusiasm for insects and application of what he learns to help alleviate world hunger. Illustrations by John Dyess also help make this book rich with visual energy. Endnotes offer readers additional information about the role insects can play in meeting global food needs and activities that encourage children to think more about nutritional protein sources for food.

By offering nuts and bolts information about nutrition in insects, Doris Helmering has provided an unusual twist on the story of a child who doesn’t like school and feels that he is not meant to do anything important. This work would appeal to upper-elementary and middle school students and their parents, and even adult book clubs could enjoy this story within a story and might even be inspired to taste a few crunchy crickets.

Patricia Gregory, PhD — Assistant Dean for Library Assessment Professor, Pius XII Memorial Library, Saint Louis University

Now Available on Amazon

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When Mary walked into my office for her therapy appointment, she wasn’t a happy camper. When I asked her what was going on, she said she was furious at her daughter, Alice, who’s seven. In Mary’s evaluation, her daughter is extremely rebellious.

“How so?” I asked.
“If I try to hurry her up, she slows down.”
“If we tell her she can’t go outside to play, she runs out the door anyway. Or she’s supposed to stay in the backyard, but I find her at the neighbors down the street.”

“This morning I had a baby sitter lined up. But Alice didn’t want to stay with the sitter. So I decided to let her come along to this appointment, with the stipulation that she would have to sit quietly in the waiting room.”
“We were pulling out of the driveway when Alice realized she’d forgotten her book. I let her go back in the house but told her to hurry. Five minutes later I had to get out of the car and go get her. There she was in the kitchen fixing herself a glass of juice. I should have left her at home, but I didn’t.”

As Mary and I continued talking, we heard a little knock on my door and then it opened. There stood Alice. Mary looked at her daughter and said firmly, “You can’t come in here.” The daughter stepped back and it looked as though she was going to leave and close the door.

The mother then added, “I told you before we left the house that you’d have to wait for me in the waiting room.” With this comment, the little girl grinned ever so slightly and stepped into the room. It was evident to me that the power struggle was on.

As an observer, I suspect that if Mary hadn’t said anything more to her daughter after her first comment, but had immediately turned her attention back on the two of us talking, Alice would have closed the door and gone back into the waiting room. But when her mother gave her an additional warning, the little girl must have felt challenged and she reacted.

I saw a similar dynamic take place several days later when I was working with a mother and her adolescent daughter. They were seeing me because the mother was feeling more than annoyed at her daughter’s rebelliousness. The girl talks back, doesn’t come home on time, refuses to do her chores, and helps herself to her mother’s clothes whenever she wants.

During the session the daughter started twirling, lasso-style, a long chain she was wearing with a large polished stone attached to the end of it. The mother looked at her daughter and said, “Please stop that.” The daughter looked at her mother and continued to twirl the chain.

Again the mother said, “Stop,” but this time she said it with a little playful laugh.
At this point a noticeable grin came over the daughter’s face, she started swinging the necklace more vigorously, and the power struggle was on.

Children need to flex their rebellious muscle once in a while as a way to reach independence, and parents need to take on their children to teach them how to behave. Sometimes, however, we parents inadvertently encourage our children to get into bigger power struggles
than need be.

For example, it’s understandable why Mary told her daughter a second time not to come into my office. She already had to deal with several other issues that morning. Too, she was probably feeling anxious about how I perceived her as a parent, and she didn’t want her therapy time wasted.

But sometimes one firm no works better than two. If a parent says no and immediately turns her attention elsewhere, she closes off a power struggle by refusing to participate. One no doesn’t always work – rebellious children are tenacious – but sometimes it does.
In the second situation, the mother might have outsmarted her daughter and said nothing. I’m sure her daughter would have gotten tired of twirling. When children do something that is obviously designed to get them negative attention, sometimes it’s better not to give it to them.

Once the mother decided to confront her daughter, however, she needed to hang tough and stick with the confrontation. The Mother’s little laugh could certainly be interpreted as encouraging her daughter to be rebellious. Or it could signal her daughter that she wanted to stay friends with her. When you decide to take on a child’s rebelliousness, you must be willing to take the risk that a child is not going to like you at that moment. At the same time, her negativism toward you won’t last forever. And confronting bad behavior is a necessary part of child rearing.

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