Real Life Solutions: ADHD and Counseling

We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

troy at desk
source: brookesb

Q: Our 10-year-old son has been diagnosed with ADHD. The school recommended he have counseling, but we really don’t know why. Our family seems to get along and we don’t have problems with our son other than his direction following and forgetfulness. Why would the school recommend counseling?

A: I would encourage you to ask the school directly as to why the recommendation for counseling was made. Without knowing your specific case, I can’t say exactly why, but I can tell you the purpose of counseling in most cases.

There is a saying, “Pills don’t teach skills.” Too often, parents medicate their children and don’t work on the management of ADHD. Counseling does not cure this disorder, but it does help kids figure out their strengths and weaknesses and how to help themselves, given their unique way of doing things. For example, counseling can help your son develop a reminder system or a tracking system for his homework.

Counseling might focus on relationship skills that help his social life at school—how to deal with frustration, impulsive behaviors, etc. Counseling reinforces a positive mindset and helps children understand that learning can take different forms and doesn’t mean they aren’t bright simply because they learn in less conventional ways.

Counseling is usually helpful when parents feel like they have tried things and need extra help with systems that work. Usually the counselor uses a cognitive behavioral approach in which the focus is on thoughts and behavior. This type of therapy teaches problem-solving, goal setting, new skills, and management of feelings. Finding a therapist who specializes in working with children with ADHD and understands the impact of the disorder is important.

Resource: Raising Boys with ADHD by Mary Anne Richey and James W. Forgan

Real Life Solutions: Pacifier Use

We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Pacifiers in the tree
source: Dilona

Q: I have been trying very hard not to have my baby use a pacifier. I’m the only one of my friends who seems to be overly concerned about this. My mother-in-law is telling me to lighten up. I’ve read that pacifiers can affect a baby’s speech. Am I overreacting?

A: This is a generational question that parents must consider. Pacifiers are typically used to soothe and distract a baby.

Here is what we know. One positive finding about pacifier use is that it has been linked to reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in sleeping babies. On the negative side, thumb sucking, pacifier use, and even bottle use have been associated with an increase in the risk of speech disorders when the sucking is long-term.

Breastfeeding did not have this effect on children and in fact, promotes positive oral development. And pacifier use can interfere with breastfeeding.

In terms of pacifier use, the results from a 2009 study published in BMC Pediatrics were based on children who used pacifiers for more than three years. These kids were three times more likely to develop speech impediments. Now, the authors of this study also said that pacifier use and thumb-sucking for less than three years increased risk. The reason has to do with how the sucking motion changes the normal shape of the dental arch and bite.

We also know that pacifier use can be associated with middle ear infections. However, the Mayo Clinic tells us that when the risk of SIDS is the highest (birth to six months), rates of middle ear infections are also low.  The recommendation to reduce SIDS is to offer a pacifier at bed or naptime until the age of one.

So the information is a bit confusing. I don’t believe you are overreacting. The concern about pacifier use grows as your baby grows. You can choose other ways to soothe your baby. I’m a big believer in nursing because there are so many benefits to the baby and you. If you are breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you wait until four to six weeks after birth to introduce a pacifier. Certainly, don’t give a baby a pacifier all day, choose a silicone one-piece to avoid breaking (a choking hazard), and don’t force the use.

Resource: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5

Real Life Solutions: Thanksgiving

We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Source: via C on Pinterest


Q: Thanksgiving is a holiday that doesn’t seem to get its due. I want my children to understand the meaning of the holiday, as it is an important part of American history. What kinds of activities can I do with my children that will teach them more about this important day?

A: I agree that Thanksgiving doesn’t get the same attention as other holidays. Yet it is an important part of American history that should not be relegated to a big meal. Here are a few ideas.

  • Print up a paper that says, “I am thankful for … ” and every day in November encourage your kids fill in the blank. Then, read a few of their answers on Thanksgiving.
  • Print up an Indian sign language chart and use them to tell a story.
  • Cook a few original colony foods (you can look these up on the Internet) and talk about the first feast.
  • Try your hand at several colonial crafts like weaving and pottery making with homemade clay.
  • Get an archery board and shoot arrows.
  • Build a campfire and try to cook something over it.

Activities like these will make the holiday come alive and give an appreciation of what times were like during colonial days.

Finally, find quotes about the holiday, such as this one from Abraham Lincoln: “But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, by the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” Talk about what Lincoln meant and how your family can remember to give God the glory for all you have.

What do you do to teach your children about Thanksgiving?

Source: Read & Write Booklets: Thanksgiving: 10 Nonfiction Booklets That Teach About the Mayflower, Pilgrims, Wampanoag, and More! by Alyse Sweeney (Scholastic Teaching Resources, 2010)

Real Life Solutions: No Halloween


We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: My husband and I decided we are not going to celebrate Halloween. Our child is 3 years old, and she doesn’t know much about the holiday yet, but I have been surprised at how many people, Christians included, have given us a hard time about our decision. What is your opinion?

A: After researching the roots of Halloween, I am not a fan either. I don’t like the connection to occult roots, the scary costumes, the gore, and the idea of frightening kids and desensitizing them to the dark spiritual world that does exist. However, every family needs to make a decision as to what they are going to do with Halloween. Some people allow their kids to dress up in fun costumes and trick or treat. Others attend alternate harvest parties at their churches. Some feel alternatives should not be offered as it assumes kids are missing something.

The important thing to do is research the holiday, pay attention to what you feel the Lord is telling you to do, and talk as a family. Pray for wisdom and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, not other people. Then help your child understand the position you take and why.

Other people should respect your decision. You don’t need the approval of others. Romans 12:2 reminds us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Taking a stand for what you believe to be true based on Scripture is an important lesson to model for children. Perhaps that is what you will teach your child as she gets older.

What do you think, PL Readers?

Real Life Solutions: 10 Ideas to Beat Summer Boredom

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: I do my best to keep my kids active in the summer, but I am already hearing, “Mom, I’m bored!” and it is only June! Do you have any suggestions in terms of keeping them busy?

A: I doubt there is a parent reading this who has not heard those words. Kids are so used to being entertained every minute that parents honestly need to teach them how to relax and have downtime. That said, here are 10 suggestions that may help.

10 Summer Boredom Beaters

  1. Turn off the TV, computer, and other electronic forms of entertainment. Electronic “stuff” teaches kids to attend for short intervals, encourages passive activity, and doesn’t stimulate cognitive development.
  2. Enroll your child in day camps or park and recreation activities. Many cities have organized opportunities for children.
  3. Find a fun class such as cooking, sculpting, tap-dancing, or pottery-making. Experiment with an area of interest.
  4. Buy a pass to a community pool. Swimming is active, fun, and interactive. It’s also a great way to beat summer heat!
  5. Get involved in the public library with a summer reading program. You will reinforce reading skills, explore books, and relax in an air-conditioned room.
  6. Explore your city. Check out the museums, points of interest, fun stores, etc. Check out this list of "staycation" ideas in cities across the country!
  7. Volunteer for civic organizations or church activities as helpers, workers, or whatever is needed. Do a park clean-up day or a walk to fight cancer, teach at Vacation Bible School and take the kids, or plant flowers at your church.
  8. Get kids helping others, such as doing errands for a homebound adult.
  9. Help your child develop a hobby, such as bird-watching, card-collecting, or marbles. Have your child organize groups around those activities.
  10. Encourage creative play around the house. Have bountiful art supplies, water games, board games, and cards. Put on dramatic plays. Be prepared for rainy days.

What do you do when your child proclaims, "I’m bored"?

The Big Summer Activity Book by Anne Thomas and Peter Thomas (Floris Books, 2009)


Real Life Solutions: Video Gaming

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: My 10-year-old son would play video games all day if I let him. Every time I tell him to put down the game, he says, “But I am in the middle of a game and can’t stop.” I feel like pulling out my hair and wish I had never given in to buying him a gaming system.

A: Don’t pull out your hair! You are more powerful than a 10-year-old armed with video games. Instead of buyer’s remorse, teach him how to use those games responsibly.

Most video games have a save button that allows the player to quit and then pick up the game again with no lost action. Your son’s excuse to keep playing is just that—an excuse. But first, you need an established time limit for play before he ever turns on a game. Experts recommend that screen time not exceed one to two hours in any given day. That includes all screens (TV, computer, gaming systems, and mobile devices).

Once you have established the amount of playing time, make sure he does not have the gaming system, TV, or computer in his room unsupervised. You cannot monitor screen time if you cannot see when and where he is using screens.

Also, review the content of games. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that most games have common themes that are promoted. You should be screening for the killing of people or animals; the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol; criminal behavior; disrespect for authority and the law; sexual exploitation; violence toward women; racial, sexual, and gender stereotypes; foul language; obscenities; and obscene gestures.

Finally, remember you are the boss and decide the rules of usage. If he does not abide by the time frame, give one warning and then remove the device as a time-out from play. Loss of the privilege is usually enough punishment to keep a child in line with the established time frame.

For video and game reviews:
Raising Healthy Kids in an Unhealthy World by Linda Mintle (Nelson, 2008), chapter on media usage

Do you have a video gamer in your family? How do you handle time limits or screening games?

Real Life Solutions: Is My Child Really Overweight?

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mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: I have never thought of my child as fat, but the pediatrician tells me he is according to the Body Mass Index charts. Won’t my son grow out of this baby fat? I never thought he was overweight. His dad and I are overweight. Maybe we do not see it.

A: You join many parents who do not see their children as overweight. Studies indicate that parents of overweight children often are in denial and have the misconception that their child is normal weight.

Interestingly, even parents of normal weight kids think their children are smaller than they actually are. One reason for this is because there are so many overweight children now. Thus, when a parent looks at her child, that child does not look much different than most children. But “normal” is not necessarily healthy. Because of this, you cannot rely on the power of sight. You need to take into account what the pediatrician is telling you.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure based on a child’s age, gender, height, and weight. It is one indicator that a weight problem exists. Children who score at or above the 85th percentile on growth charts are at risk of being overweight. The concern is that excess weight can cause multiple health issues now and later in life.

We now see record rates of diabetes, hypertension, and other serious diseases in childhood because of the obesity epidemic. We know that being an overweight child increases that child’s risk of heart disease later in life. It is best to get a handle on this as early as possible, especially while you have the power to control the diet of your child.

I have also worked with a number of parents who feel guilty about their own weight. As a result, they do not monitor their child’s eating habits. Do not go there. Make eating healthy a family affair. You do not have to be at your goal weight in order to help your child. And if you are sneaking food and overeating at night when your child is asleep, this is still no reason to give up. Remember, you control the food your child eats. This is an important difference between adult and child eating.

Some Silverware

Even if you personally feel defeated, think of it this way. You have the opportunity to give your child a good start in life and may prevent him from overeating. Do not talk to your child about dieting. Instead, control the diet, teach him to eat healthy foods, and eliminate sodas and products high in sugar and fat. If you are uncertain what to do to make changes, make an appointment with a registered dietitian who will help guide you. In addition, there are a number of wonderful Web sites geared to helping parents and kids eat healthy.

Raising Healthy Kids in an Unhealthy World by Dr. Linda Mintle (Thomas Nelson, 2008)

Have you had to deal with weight issues with your kids?

Photo of fork and spoon used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.

How to Find a Good Babysitter

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: I’d like some guidelines on choosing a babysitter. I am afraid to bring someone in to my home that I don’t know very well. We have several teenagers in our church and I’d like to use a few of them but how do I know which ones to use?

A: You can’t be too careful as to who watches your children when you are away. The younger the ages of your children, the less they can tell you about the babysitter, so you have to do your homework ahead of time.

  • The best place to begin is to ask for references from other parents. If other parents have used the sitter and have been satisfied, that usually is a good sign.
  • Interview the sitter and try to schedule a time to watch her interact with other children. Perhaps you could watch her in the church nursery or in a Sunday School class.
  • Talk to older siblings of families who have used a babysitter and get their impressions of the person. I think it is best to hire someone you know fairly well or take the recommendation from someone you trust.
  • If you can, find someone who shares your values. This usually impacts the way a sitter handles a problem, the type of media she brings into your home and the way she talks to your child. Ask her how she would handle specific problems.
  • Ask if the sitter has taken a babysitter class at a local hospital or community agency. My daughter did this when she was older and learned CPR, poison control and other important emergency protocols. Safety is so important that you need someone who knows and follows safety guidelines such as locking doors and windows, keeping hazards away from children, staying off the phone and is clear headed if a problem occurs. 
  • Is the sitter a caring person who actually likes children? If she is a teenager who is doing this for money but has no interest in your child and ignores your child most of the time, pass on that person. The sitter should also be reliable and consistent—showing up when she says, arranging rides, following the rules you outline, etc. A sitter who makes excuses for why she didn’t follow your instructions raises a red flag.
  • Ask your child how she liked the sitter, if she wants her back and pay attention to how she behaves when the sitter is gone. Even young kids can give you some indication of how they were treated.
  • You can also make a surprise visit home to see what is going on. Some people even go so far as putting cameras in their homes so they can watch how the sitter dealt with their child. That seems a bit extreme to me. I did surprise the sitter a few times when I forgot something. It was actually reassuring to see them smiling and having fun.


Extra Resource: What to Expect Baby-sitter Handbook by Heidi Murkoff (Workman Publishing Company, 2003)

Thinking About a Pet?

We had a tough last year with our pets. Our youngest pet, Tobey, was killed by a wild animal in a neighbor’s yard. Our oldest cat, Samantha, had to be put to sleep because of mouth cancer. Aside from dealing with the loss of these dear pets and talking with our kids about their deaths, we soon found that we really wanted another pet. After 5 months, we finally decided on a cat, Charlie. He is a frisky tabby that we dearly love!

After talking with a rep from the ASCPA about a ParentLife article, we found that many families adopt pets at Christmastime. Our monthly Real Life Solutions writer, Dr. LInda Mintle, has some good advice for families considering getting a pet.

Q: Our 10-year-old daughter is begging us for a pet. I have two younger children and adding a pet to the mix feels overwhelming. However, my daughter desperately wants a pet and I am an animal lover. I am not sure about the added responsibility right now. What should we consider in making this decision?

92_pet-adoption.jpgA: Most children will beg you for a pet some time in their young lives. The main issues to consider are the child’s developmental stage and your expectations for taking care of a pet. Obviously a cat or dog would require care and attention — feeding, grooming, exercise, clean up, and more. Other pets, such as fish and guinea pigs, are less time and care intensive and good choices for younger children. They offer you an opportunity to see how committed to taking care of a pet your child really is and how long interest will be sustained. Go to the library and get a book about pet care. As a family, talk about the needs of a pet, what type of pet you may consider, and what the expectations would be. For example, certain dog breeds are more kid-friendly than others. Goldfish or hermit crab requires very little upkeep and expense. Visit a pet store and talk with a friend who has the kind of pet you are interested in to get a better idea of time and care issues.

Know that your child could lose interest in the pet after several weeks and you may end up with the responsibility. Schedule playdates with a friend who has a pet and see if the interest in the pet sustains over time. Decide what you can handle right now and do not be swayed by the begging.

Finally, consider the cost of owning a pet, family stability in terms of moves and housing, the demand of time and energy, and the possibility of the pet becoming a source of family conflict if people slack off on their responsibilities. The benefits of pet owning should be considered as well. Pets help teach a child structure, empathy, compassion, nurturing, loyalty, trust, and responsibility and provide companionship. Pets are also sources of unconditional love and dependability. Pets can improve mood and blood pressure, increase family exercise, and even reduce stress.

For more information on adopting a pet, visit Visit Dr. Linda Mintle at

Do you have a pet? Tell us what kind of pet you have and why!

Dr. Mintle Answers Your Questions


Each month in ParentLife, Christian counselor Dr. Linda Mintle answers your questions about parenting. We have an extra question this month and wanted to get it to you on the blog.

Q: My 5-year-old son tried to kiss a girl in kindergarten. The teacher called me and told me he chases a girl at recess and tries to kiss her. Apparently the little girl runs away and giggles. The teacher is new and young and wanted me to know. The teacher says he is doing well in class, and we don’t have problems with him at home.  He does see my husband kiss me when he comes home from work. How should I handle this and why is he doing this at such a young age? Apparently this isn’t the first girl he’s tried to kiss either!

A: Do not panic! This is the age in which your child is learning about what it means to be male. He does this primarily through identification with Dad and watching and imitating others. Developmentally, he is learning basic gender identity. He has seen your husband kiss you and watched people in movies and TV do the same.  Your son is curious and experimenting with what he has seen. It is normal to try and copy this behavior. In a few years, he will think kissing is gross! So talk to your son and tell him that kissing his classmates is inappropriate. Do not punish him but tell him to stop. He can chase the little girl he likes but not kiss her. Suggest that he play tag instead. Most important is your attitude toward this behavior. Be careful not to shame your son or make this into a big deal. How you feel about his sexual development and how you respond to normal development is important.

Post your questions for Dr. Mintle, and we will send them to her to be answered in a future issue of ParentLife!