“Hey, Coach!” Parents, They’re Talking to You

Parents, you’re about to get drafted.

No, you’re not headed to boot camp, although there might be days when you feel trapped and welcome any relief from the pressures of parenting. I’m talking about the kind of drafting that sounds like this:

“You know, it’s important that everybody does their part to help the kids succeed. Trust us, you’ll love being a coach, and it takes no time at all!”

At this point, you might be wiping your forehead because someone must’ve written “stupid” on your forehead. The idea that coaching a sport – be it Little League, soccer, even a bowling team – doesn’t take time is just silly, and the person saying it knows that better than you do. After all, he got roped into it a long time ago.

Your first instinct might be to politely say no and then run away as fast as possible. But speaking as a fellow parent and former volunteer coach, you might want to give it a try. You’ll spend a lot of time with your kids and their friends, you’ll be out in the sun getting exercise, and you’ll have the chance to interact with other adults. (Okay, the other parents can be challenging, but we’ll get to that.)

I coached for 10 years before going into family therapy, and I might be able to help you through the rough spots. Here are a few things that helped me:

 Remember that it’s about the kids. As parents, we want our children to have the best possible experience, but we often lose sight of what that means. Kids want to be challenged but still have fun with their friends; kids don’t have fun when they see adults arguing or hear parents badmouthing each other.

 Involve the other parents. This is the easiest way to make sure everyone feels involved (and it also keeps them off your back). Let’s face it, if I never hear another parent telling me why his kid should play shortstop, hit cleanup, pitch all of the important games, and be fed grapes between pitches by his teammates, I’ll be a happy man. But I’ve been on both sides of this; when you’re sitting in the stands, you can’t help but wonder what you might do differently. And believe it or not, some parents in the stands not only feel left out of the fun, but they might have a few good ideas, too.

 Don’t let other parents try to take over. If you have three parents helping, and they all try to run things, you’ll have chaos. You have to set boundaries and rules for the running of the team, and you don’t have to be mean or controlling about it. Just lay out your plan as simply as possible and then stick with it. If you’re helping someone coach a team, show enough respect for the head coach that you follow his plan. The team will not only function better, but you’ll be role-modeling for your children how to cooperate with others for the good of all.

 Accept that you won’t make everyone happy all of the time. If someone has a complaint, hear them out. They might’ve noticed something that you didn’t. If you like what they say, use it. If you don’t agree, politely thank them for their opinion, then do what you think is right. Don’t – I can’t say this enough – don’t get into an argument. It’s rare to change someone’s mind by arguing with them, and you risk the issue exploding into a larger problem.

 Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Nobody expects you to be the next Tony LaRussa. Just do the best job that you can do, and accept that you don’t control everything about whether your team wins. Your job is to help teach a game to kids who are playing for fun, and nothing more. The more like work it becomes for you, the more like work it becomes for the kids.

 Let kids make mistakes. They’re going to do it anyway, so it helps to look at mistakes as learning opportunities. I once had an assistant coach who insisted on yelling out which infielder should catch a pop fly, which just made the kids stare at each other while the ball fell between them. Coach ‘em up at practice, and then give them the chance to perform during the game. They’ll learn from their mistakes, and more importantly, they’ll feel good about themselves when they make plays on their own.

 Finally, don’t yell. Don’t scream. Don’t bellow. And one more thing – don’t yell. It scares children and makes you look like an ogre. I coached a Babe Ruth team when I was in my 20s and figured my job was to “motivate” players and umpires to make sure they took their jobs seriously. Only nobody was there to work, and I made the game a lot less fun. One day, a veteran coach pulled me aside. His name was Slats Maple (yes, that really was his name), and he never raised his voice to anyone. He told me, “They don’t hear me any better when I yell, and they listen a whole lot better when I don’t.” I never yelled at my players again. And when I had kids of my own, I tried not to yell at them, either. So far, it’s worked pretty well.

(Carl Grody, LISW-S, specializes in child, adolescent, and family therapy. He has a private practice, Grody Family Counseling, in Worthington, Ohio. For an appointment with Carl, call 614-477-5565.)

“Mom, I’m Bored.” Now What?

If you listen closely, you can hear them murmuring. Their eyes are wide. Fear oozes from their pores. Before long, panic sets in.

Yep, it’s the parents. They stare at you with dread and mutter, “What do I do? The children are coming home.”

Ah, June. School’s out for the summer, and no matter how much you love your children, it’s normal to wonder how you’re going to entertain them.

Sure, you’ve got plenty planned already. There might be a vacation or two, sports, maybe dance lessons or a camp or a chance to visit relatives. But many parents fret about the in-between moments, the lazy summer afternoons, the cabin fever that comes along with children arguing with each other and with you and even with themselves.

So what do you do? The short answer — do nothing. I’m not saying leave them to the whims of their video games, TV shows, and I-Pads. You can limit those. But it’s OK, and even good for your kids, to be bored. Just ask my kids. When they were younger and said they were bored, I always responded, “Adults call that relaxing.” (They never liked that answer.)

I’m not saying this because I only had four TV channels growing up, or because our idea of a game system was lining up two games of Monopoly together. I’m saying it because learning to fill their time actually teaches children important lessons and helps them develop as people.

For example, it fosters creativity. Sometimes, our kids don’t think creatively just because they don’t have to do it. They have movies, TV, gaming systems, and organized activities to keep them occupied until they’re exhausted and overwhelmed. When they have spare time, they don’t know what to do with it because they never had to learn. Being bored forces them to learn ways to entertain themselves. (You might want to supervise the creativity from time to time. My parents never knew, for example, that one of my creative ideas was jumping bicycles over railroad tracks. In hindsight, not my smartest move . . .)

Free time also encourages kids to play with each other. I remember marathon hide-and-seek games in my neighborhood while our parents hung out on porches and chatted. As a result, my friends and I learned to get along, to cooperate with each other, to fight with each other, and (most importantly) how to resolve those arguments.

Free time also encourages children to learn to relax. Sure, we tell them to relax, but they don’t often know what we mean. After all, we’re often telling them to relax while falling apart ourselves. It’s hard for parents to role-model relaxation when they just finished working, cooking, cleaning the bathroom, driving to soccer practice, driving to dance practice, driving back to soccer practice, going to the bank, going to the store, and did I mention driving back to dance practice? Kids need to learn how to have down time just as much as parents need to figure out how to find down time for themselves. So while your kids are “bored,” relax a little yourself, too. You might have to relearn how, but it’ll be worth it.

I know this might sound overwhelming, so start small. Pick one afternoon a week when you don’t fill the kids’ time for them, and when they’re not allowed to play on the gaming system or watch TV. They might kick and scream, but they’ll get over that eventually. You’ll be amazed what they might learn to do when they’re “bored.”

(Carl Grody, LISW-S, specializes in family therapy in Worthington, Ohio, at Grody Family Counseling. He’s also the author of 13 books and hundreds of articles for national magazines. If you’d like to make an appointment with Carl, call 614-477-5565.)

Initial Session Information


Note: information you provide here is protected as confidential information.

Client Name: __________________________________________________________________
Birth Date: ______ /______ /______
Address: ________________________________ City, Zip:_____________________________
Home Phone: __________________________May I leave a message? □Yes □No
Cell/Other Phone:_______________________ May I leave a VM? □Yes □No
E-mail/Texts: _________________________________ May I email/text you? □Yes □No
*Note: Email correspondence and texts are not guaranteed as a confidential method of communication. If you choose to use either or both, please limit information to details like scheduling. Check the boxes to allow communication via e-mail and/or text.
*Please initial here:______.
Referred by/how did you find me:________________________________________________
□ Single □ Cohabitating/Domestic Partnership □ Married □ Separated □ Divorced □ Widowed
Any children/ages:____________________________________________________________
Are you currently in a committed or romantic relationship? □ No □ Yes
If yes, for how long? __________________
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your relationship? __________
Describe any issues __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Have you previously received any type of mental health services (psychotherapy, psychiatric help, counseling, self help, etc.)?
□ No □ Yes, previous therapist/practitioner and time table: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Describe that process and if it was helpful: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Are you currently employed or in school? □ No □ Yes
Do you enjoy your work/school? Is there anything stressful about your current work/school? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Rate your current physical health? (please circle)
Poor Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Good Very good
Please describe any health issues: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Current sleeping habits (please circle)
Poor Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Good Very good
Please describe any sleep problems:
Describe any difficulties you experience with your appetite or eating patterns:
What hobbies, interests, or exercises do you participate in?:
Do you experience anxiety, panic attack, obsessions, compulsions, fears, phobias?
□ No □ Yes If yes, when did you begin experiencing this?______________________________
Do you experience sadness, grief, depression? □ No □ Yes If yes, how long? ______________________
Have you had or are you currently having thoughts of harming yourself? □ No □ Yes If yes, describe:___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Have you had any suicide attempts? □ No □ Yes: If yes, describe circumstances/dates: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Do you experience acute or chronic pain? □ No □ Yes; If yes, describe: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Do you take any medication? □ No □ Yes
Please list medication(s) & prescribing physician(s): ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Have you ever been prescribed psychiatric medication? □ No □ Yes
Please list and provide dates and prescriber: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Have you ever felt you needed to cut down on your alcohol or drug use? □ No □ Yes
Have some people criticized your use or shared concerns about it? □ No □ Yes
Have you felt guilty, worried, or stressed about your drinking or drug use? □ No □ Yes
Describe any alcohol or drug related details or concerns: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Describe any other types of addictive-type behaviors (internet, excessive gaming, gambling, sex, shopping, substances):
What significant life changes or events have you experienced in the past year? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
In the section below, please identify if there is a family history of any of the following.
• If yes, please list and describe relative’s relationship to you as well as any effects of these issues on your relative(s) and on your relationship with the relative(s):
Alcohol/Substance Abuse y□ No □ Yes ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Anxiety □ No □ Yes ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Depression □ No □ Yes ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Domestic Violence/Abuse y□ No □ Yes ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Eating Disorders y□ No □ Yes ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Schizophrenia □ No □ Yes ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Suicide/ Attempts □ No □ Yes ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Obsessive Compulsive Behavior/OCD □ No □ Yes ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Others? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Have you been diagnosed or thought you had any of the issues listed above or others not listed? □ No □ Yes
If so, please describe: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What is your highest level of formal education?______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Have you had or do you currently have any legal issues □ No □ Yes
If yes, describe:___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Do you consider yourself to be spiritual or religious? □ No □ Yes
If yes, please briefly describe your faith or belief:
What do you consider your strengths or areas in your life that are going well?
What do you consider to be areas that need improvement? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What do you hope to accomplish in therapy? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Is there anything else I should know about your story, history, or situation?

OFFICE POLICIES/PRACTICES: Please review carefully.

TELEPHONE & EMERGENCY PROCEDURES: At times, phone contact is necessary between sessions. Clients are encouraged to keep phone contacts brief, if possible, and to address issues during your regularly therapy session. If you need to speak with me between sessions, please call (614) 477-5565. Your call will be returned as soon as possible. I am in solo private practice, so I won’t always be accessible in a crisis. If you or someone in your family is in a crisis that requires immediate attention and you can’t reach me, you agree to go to Netcare (if in Franklin County), go to a hospital emergency room, call 911 for assistance, or call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-784-2433.

CONFIDENTIALITY: All clients sign and agree to confidentiality/HIPAA guidelines indicating that I follow national standards as a Licensed Independent Social Worker to protect the privacy of your personal information. All information is kept private and confidential unless you provide written and specific authorization to share it. Exceptions to confidentiality include: threat of imminent and serious harm to self or others; abuse of a minor, elder or disabled adult; a court order; or in the event of a medical circumstance requiring immediate medical attention. In couples and family therapy, or when different family members are seen individually, confidentiality and privilege do not apply between the couple or among family members. I will use my clinical judgment when revealing such information.

CONSULTATION: I may consult with licensed professionals regarding my clients when doing so might improve the outcome for the client; the client’s name or other identifying information is never disclosed. The client’s identity remains anonymous and confidentiality is fully maintained.

INSURANCE: I do not accept insurance.

FEES: $125/session. I accept cash, check, credit card, debit card, and cards attached to flexible health spending accounts. A sliding scale fee is available for qualifying clients. Please have payment ready at the start of sessions so as not to use your session time writing checks, etc.

SESSION LENGTH: Individual sessions are scheduled for one hour. Family and couple sessions are scheduled for 90 minutes.

LITIGATION LIMITATION: Due to the nature of the therapeutic process and that it often involves making a full disclosure with regard to many matters which may be of a confidential nature, you agree that should there be legal proceedings (such as, but not limited to divorce and custody disputes, injuries, lawsuits, etc.), neither you (client) nor your attorney, nor anyone else acting on your behalf will call on me to testify in court or at any other proceeding, nor will a disclosure of the psychotherapy records be requested. However, if my appearance at court on your behalf is required by law and you have signed a release form allowing this, my fee is $1,500 per day and must be paid in full 30 days prior to the expected court date. Note: I will NOT make a custody recommendation to the court in any circumstance. That falls outside the scope of my practice, and the possibility of making such a recommendation can be a negative influence during sessions. Any disputes arising out of or in relation to this agreement to provide psychotherapy services shall first be referred to mediation, before, and as a pre-condition of, the initiation of arbitration. The mediator shall be a neutral third party chosen by agreement of me (Carl Grody, LISW-S) and the client(s). The cost of such mediation, if any, shall be split equally, unless otherwise agreed. In the event that mediation is unsuccessful, any unresolved controversy related to this agreement should be submitted to and settled by binding arbitration in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association that are in effect at the time the demand for arbitration is filed. The prevailing party in arbitration proceedings shall be entitled to recover a reasonable sum for attorneys’ fees. The arbitrator will determine that sum.

ENDING THERAPY: If, at any point during therapy, I assess that I am not effective in helping you, I will discuss this with you. In such a case, I would give you a number of referrals that may be of help to you. If you request and authorize in writing, I will talk to the therapist of your choice in order to help. You have the right to end therapy at any time. If you choose to do so prior to the completion of the counseling process, I’ll offer to provide contact info of other qualified professionals whose services may better meet your needs. Once you have stopped attending sessions, you are no longer under my care, and our therapeutic relationship will be ended unless you reinitiate treatment with me. Length of counseling varies and is ultimately up to the client; however, please let me know if you feel ready to complete this course of counseling so that we can have one-to-two wrap-up sessions to solidify progress and so I can make recommendations to maintain progress.

SIGNATURE OF CLIENT: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
DATE: ________________

SIGNATURE OF PARENT/GUARDIAN (IF CLIENT IS A MINOR): ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
DATE: ________________

Receipt of Privacy Practices — Grody Family Counseling


I hereby acknowledge that I have received a copy of the Notice of Privacy Practices from Carl Grody, LISW-S. I understand this document provides information on how my health information may be used or disclosed by Carl Grody, LISW-S, and my rights with respect to my health information.

_______________________________________ ________________
Signature of Patient/Legal Representative Date

If signed by a legal representative, relationship to patient


Notice of Privacy Practices — Grody Family Counseling




Your medical information is personal. Grody Family Counseling is committed to protecting your medical information. We are required by law to:

 Maintain the privacy of your health information;

 Give you this Notice of our legal duties and privacy practices;

 And follow the terms of this Notice.

Possible Uses and Disclosures of Your Medical Records

There are many ways in which your medical information can be used and disclosed. Some of the following categories list examples of how information can be disclosed. Not every use or disclosure will be listed. All the ways use is permitted fall into one of the following categories:

For Treatment: If you sign a release authorizing these actions, I may do the following:

 Use your medical information about you to provide you with treatment and services;

 Disclose your information to other doctors or healthcare professionals who are involved in your care.

 Disclose your medical information to people who are involved with your healthcare, such as family members.

 Disclose your medical information to another healthcare facility or healthcare professional that is or is going to be involved in your healthcare.

For Payment: If you sign a release authorizing these actions, I may do the following:

 Use and disclose your medical information to your insurance company to assist you with reimbursement from your insurance company for fees paid out-of-pocket to me. Please note that such information may include information that identifies you and/or your family members as well as any diagnosis and interventions. I may need to give your insurance company information from your session notes so that they will reimburse you for those services.

 I believe sending a client to collections for past due payments is an unethical release of information about my clients. As a result, I require payment at the time of services.

Appointment Reminders and Phone Contact:

 I may contact your for scheduling or reminding you of an appointment, returning your call, answering questions, or informing you about treatment alternatives and test results.

 I may contact you by mail or I may call you. If I contact you by mail, I will address the card or envelope to you.

 Test results or other health information will be sent in a sealed envelope.

 If I contact you by phone, I simply will identify myself and ask to speak with you. If you are not available, I will leave a message with the person who answered the phone asking you to call me. If you have voice mail, I will leave a message identifying myself and telephone number with a message for you to return my call, but I will not disclose any information.

 Please let me know if you do not want me to leave a message on your voice mail.

Family and Friends:

 I may release medical information about you to a friend or family member who is involved in your care if we have a signed consent form on file.

Business Associate:

 I am not using any services that require me to release your health information to business associates.

 If I bring in another clinician to assist with your case, I will only do so after receiving a written release of permission from you.

For Safety Purposes:

 I may use or disclose your medical information when necessary to prevent a serious threat to your health and safety, or the health and safety of the public or other person. Any disclosure would only be to someone able to help prevent the threat.

Military and Veterans:

 If you are a member of the military, I may release your medical information as required by the military authorities.

Workers Compensation:
 I may disclose health information to the extent authorized by and to the extent necessary to comply with laws relating to worker’s compensation or other similar programs established by law.

As Required by Law:
 I may disclose your health information when required to do so by federal, state, or local law.

Health Oversight Activities:
 I may use and disclose your medical information to health oversight agencies such as auditors, inspectors, and investigators. This may be necessary in order for the government to monitor the health care systems, government programs, and compliance with civil laws.

Lawsuits and Disputes:
 Unless specifically required by law or specifically ordered to do so by the court, I will not disclose your medical information in response to a subpoena or court/administrative order without your specific authorization.

Your Health Information Rights

You have the right to inspect and copy medical information that may be used to make decisions about your health care. This usually includes medical billing and records, but does NOT include psychotherapy notes. In order to inspect or copy medical information, a written request must be submitted to me. There may be a fee for copying and/or mailing the records.

Your request may be denied. If you are denied access to your medical information, you can ask for a review. I will ask another provider to review your request and the initial denial. I will comply with the outcome of the review.

You have the right to amend your medical information if you believe that it is incorrect or incomplete. You have the right to amend as long as the information was made at our facility. You must make the request in writing on my forms to me. The request must include the reason that supports your request. I may also deny your request if:

 The medical information was not created by me;

 The information requested is not part of the medical information kept by me;

 The information is not part of the information that you would be allowed to inspect or copy;

 My information is accurate and complete.

 Your request is inaccurate or incomplete.

You have a right to request an accounting of disclosures. Your request must be in writing. This request must state a specific time period, no longer than six years. The first request within a 12-month period is free. I reserve the right to charge you for copying any additional requests.

You have the right to request a restriction or to limit the medical information we may use or disclose for treatment, payment, or health care operations. You may also request a limit on the health information that we disclose to someone involved in your care, like a family member or friend.

In order to request restrictions, you must do so in writing. The following information is needed in the request:

 What information you want to limit;

 Whether you want to limit use, disclosure, or both;

 To whom the limits apply.

You have the right to request that I communicate with you regarding medical matters in a certain way. For example, you could request that I contact you only at work or only at home. Such a request must be done in writing. I will accommodate all reasonable requests. The request must specify how or where you wish to be contacted.

You have a right to a paper copy of this Notice of Privacy Practices. You may ask for a copy at any time.

Changes to this notice: I reserve the right to change this notice at any time. I also reserve the right to make this change effective for medical information I already have regarding you and information I will receive about you in the future. I will post this notice in the waiting area or office. This notice will contain the effective date of the notice.

Complaints: I am committed to protecting your health information. Despite good faith efforts, there may be times when questions, concerns, or problems arise. If you have concerns or believe that I have violated your privacy rights, please contact me immediately. You may do so by filling out a complaint form, or you may contact me by phone or e-mail. You may identify yourself or remain anonymous. I take all concerns and complaints seriously and will investigate each one promptly. If I make a mistake, I will do what I can to correct it and take steps to prevent such mistakes from recurring in the future. If I did not make a mistake, I will provide you with an explanation. I will make every effort to complete my investigation within 30 days. Under no circumstances will I retaliate against you for expressing concerns or filing a complaint relating to your privacy rights. You also have the right to contact the department of Health and Human Services secretary if you believe your privacy rights have been violated.

Other Uses of Medical Information: Other uses and disclosures of your medical information not covered by this notice or the laws that apply to us will be made only with your written permission. If you give me permission to use or disclose your medical information, you can revoke it at any time with a written request.

Carl Grody, LISW-S, is a mental health provider and must follow the state laws regarding your medical information as well as the federal laws. If the state laws are stricter than the federal, then we will follow the state laws, and vice versa.

Release of Information form — Grody Family Counseling


Date: ______________________
RE: Case of: ________________
Expiration date: ______________
I, ______________, give permission for Carl Grody, LISW-S, to discuss details of the case involving _________________________ with ____________________________________. The purpose of such communication is for continuity of care. I also give permission for ________________ to discuss details of the case with Mr. Grody.
I agree that Mr. Grody may communicate through in-person conversations, phone calls, e-mails, and/or letters with _______________. This release does not cover any exchange of records involving _________________’s case.

Printed name of parent/legal guardian: _______________________
Signature of parent/legal guardian: __________________________
Date of signature: ________________________________________
Witness signature: _______________________________________
Date of witness’ signature: _________________________________

FAQs for Grody Online Family Counseling

Q: Where are you located?

A: I’m based in Columbus, Ohio, but I don’t have a traditional office. Sessions are online via video; it’s like Skyping with someone in a HIPAA-compliant way.

Q: How do I schedule an appointment?

A: You can call (614) 477-5565 to schedule. You can also schedule directly online at carlgrodylisws.clientsecure.me.

Q: What are your hours?

A: Working with families is an important part of the therapeutic process, so I keep a flexible schedule to accommodate each family’s needs. That includes evenings and Saturdays.

Q: What’s your approach to therapy?

A: I use an integrated method that combines several approaches – mainly narrative therapy, solution-focused therapy, structural therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. I also use mindfulness, and I’m a trained group leader in the Incredible Years parenting program. My practice is online to offer flexibility and convenience to my clients.

Q: Can I use your services outside the Columbus area?

A: Yes. A benefit of having an online practice is that anyone in the state of Ohio can participate in treatment with me.

Q: Can I use your services outside of Ohio?

A: No. Ohio’s board that governs social workers limits online treatment to people physically inside the state of Ohio.

Q: Is online therapy complicated?

A: No. Once you’ve scheduled an appointment with me, I’ll e-mail you a link to a secure program where you’ll fill out your intake paperwork. When it’s time for our appointment, I’ll e-mail you a link that you click on with your computer, smart phone or tablet that starts the video session. Again, it’s just like using Skype to chat with someone in a confidential, HIPAA-compliant way.

Q: Do you take insurance?

A: No.

Q: What are your fees?

A: $100 for a 60-minute individual session. $125 for a 90-minute family session. $175 for a 90-minute couples session.

Q: Do you intervene with schools if needed?

A: Yes. I often meet with school officials and teachers on behalf of clients.

Q: What are the fees for working with schools?

A: $125 per meeting. Phone calls are billed at $75/hour.

Q&A: One … Two … Uh-Oh

Q: My kids have always responded to me counting out a warning, as in, “You need to do this before I get to three. One … two …” But what happens when they don’t listen anymore? What do I do when I finally get to three?

A: Before I get into specifics, let me share a story from my parenting life.

On this particular day, I told my daughter to clean her room. She, of course, said no. Before I knew it, it escalated to this: “Either start cleaning your room by the time I get to three, or you won’t get any dessert tonight. One … two … three! OK, no dessert. Now, I’m going to count again, and if you’re not cleaning your room, you’ll lose TV for the evening …”

Nope, it didn’t work. I kept upping the ante, and within a few minutes, she’d lost cookies for five years, the chance to see a movie until after college, and the chance to see her friends until roughly the next Ice Age. (Not the next movie with Ray Romano, but the actual next Ice Age.)

Back then, I was Mr. Mom and hadn’t become a social worker specializing in family therapy, but I didn’t need training to realize I was floundering. I backed off, apologized to my daughter for losing my cool, and told her we’d wipe the slate clean while we figured out how to resolve the issue of her room.

So when I say your question is common among parents, I mean it. Here are a few tips that might help you not only when you get to three, but to avoid having to count in the first place.

 Avoid power struggles. The fact that parents count to three means the kids aren’t doing what we want in the first place. When that happens, we think we have to prove to the kids (and ourselves) that we’re in charge. In fact, the opposite happens. Kids realize that if they can get us in a power struggle, we might not be all-powerful after all. (“Ignore that man behind the curtain; I’m the all-powerful Wizard of Dad!”)

Ironically, if you win a power struggle with a kid, you still lose. The child doesn’t walk away thinking, “Dad was right after all. I’d better clean my room.” Instead, the child thinks: “Dad won that argument by being more stubborn than me. If I can just be as stubborn as Dad, I can win the next time.”

Power struggles are about nothing but the power struggles themselves. The child doesn’t learn the lesson that you’re trying to teach, and you just drive yourself crazy. That’s why we should avoid power struggles whenever we can. (Nobody’s perfect, though. If you catch yourself in a power struggle, it’s okay to be the one who calls timeout so everyone can calm down. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s role-modeling for your children what to do when things start getting out of hand.)

 Consistent boundaries help keep you out of power struggles. It’s our job as parents to set rules and expectations for our children, and to communicate those in clear, easy-to-understand fashion. It’s also important not to argue about those expectations. Attention increases behavior, so if you give attention to your child for arguing about whether he has to clean his room, you’re encouraging him to argue.

Set your expectations simply: “I expect for you to clean your room,” and then walk away from the conversation. When kids realize that you won’t argue, they’ll eventually stop trying and instead work on meeting your expectations.

 I can hear you now: “Life doesn’t work like that. That’ll never work with my kids. What if they just refuse?”

That’s when you use the “First, then,” rule. It sounds like this: “First you clean your room, and then you can go to the movie with your friends.” Or, “First you do your homework, and then you can play the game.” Let them make the choice, and let the consequences do the work for you. You’re not saying they can’t go to the movie; you’re saying they can earn it. If the kids choose not to clean their rooms, they’re also choosing not to go to the movie. It’s really up to them whether they earn the reward or the negative consequence.

But don’t try to force your choice on them if they decide not to do what you want. That leads to another power struggle and keeps them from experiencing the natural consequences of their choice.

 When you first try this approach, expect an “extinction burst,” which is a fancy way of saying that things will get worse before they get better. This is natural and understandable. The kid needs to test you to see if you mean what you say.

A good example is what happens when a young child wants a candy bar in a store. The parent says no, so the child starts crying. If the parent gives in, the kid learns that crying gets him what he wants. So the next time the parent says no, the kid starts bawling again; when the answer is still no, he tries the next extreme behavior – maybe kicking and screaming, or smacking a magazine rack, or throwing candy bars at the parent. That’s the extinction burst. If the parent holds his ground, the kid eventually learns that he can’t get the candy bar by acting out and gives up. But if the parent gives in again, the kid learns that the more extreme behavior works, and he’ll do it again the next time.

The best way to handle an extinction burst – heck, to handle a good old-fashioned fit – is to give it as little attention as possible. After all, if a kid throws a fit and nobody pays attention to it, what’s the point in doing it?

 If those approaches don’t work, you might have to give negative consequences to your child. If so, be careful what you threaten to do because you’ll actually have to follow through. The severity of the consequence (“You’re grounded for a month!”) isn’t as effective as the certainty of it (“You knew that behavior would get you grounded.”). If the child knows that a certain behavior leads to a certain consequence 100% of the time, he knows where the boundary is and is less likely to test it. Again, the key is to be consistent (and to remember that if you ground your child for a month, you just grounded yourself for a month, too).

Kids of all ages want rules, structure, and routine. It makes them feel safe to know that their parents care enough to hold them to a set of expectations and rules. It confuses them, though, when they can lure parents into power struggles or positions where the parents start to openly question what they should do. That encourages children to act out just to determine where the boundaries really are. If you still feel like you need to count to three with your kids, remember this – if you’re not sure what happens at three, it’s best not to start counting in the first place.

(Carl Grody, LISW-S, specializes in family therapy at Grody Online Family Therapy based in Columbus, Ohio. He has 12 years of experience working with children, adolescents, couples and families. He’s a trained group leader in the Incredible Years parenting program, and he’s also the family therapy columnist for Columbus Parent magazine. To schedule an online appointment, call Carl at 614-477-5565 or e-mail carlgrody@grodyfamilycounseling.com. You can also schedule directly online at carlgrodylisws.clientsecure.me.)

In Praise of Praise

Praise has taken a beating lately.

Several studies show that over-praising children can make them less able to handle adversity, less successful and less confident. The headlines are enough to scare and confuse parents trying to motivate their kids while also building and maintaining self-esteem.

Those studies, though, didn’t say that we should stop praising children. They said we should be careful how we do it. Here are a few tips that might help:

 Praise the process instead of the results. Tom Lehrer, a math professor who was also a comedian back in the 1960s, joked that the key to new math was to understand what you’re doing rather than to get the right answer. That’s a good approach with praise, even though it feels backward.

Let’s compare two children – one gets A’s without trying, and one gets B’s by working hard. The parents of Mr. A tell him how smart he is, but he doesn’t receive praise for the process because he really doesn’t engage in it. Finally, he hits a class where he can’t breeze through; since he never learned to study, he’s suddenly lost and doesn’t feel so smart after all. He starts to believe his intelligence is a fraud, and he’s afraid other people will figure it out, too. His self-esteem dips and he stops challenging himself because he’s afraid to fail.

Our B student, though, has to work for good grades. When he doesn’t understand something, he knows studying will help him get it. He’s learned to rely on the process of working hard; in the long run, he’ll end up with better grades than Mr. A. More importantly, he’ll feel better about himself because he learned tools to get what he wants – in this case, good grades.

That’s why it’s important to praise process over results. Don’t say, “You got another A? You’re so smart!” Instead, try this: “You’re such a hard worker. That extra studying seems to be paying off.”

 Attention increases behavior. If you praise your child for doing what you want (studying, cleaning his room, being nice to his brothers and sisters, etc.), those behaviors will increase. If you point out what your child does wrong (bad grades, fighting with brothers and sisters, throwing towels on the floor, etc.), those behaviors will increase. It sounds simple, and it’s not always easy to do, but attention to a behavior is like air to a fire. Blow on the fire, and it becomes a huge blaze. Keep air away from the fire, and it goes out.

 Be specific with praise. Children see the world differently than we do, so we have to teach them specifically what we expect and how it’s supposed to be done.

For example, suppose a mother tells her son to clean his room. Two hours later, she finds him lying in a pile of clean clothes on his bed playing a video game. She might be angry, but he thinks he cleaned the room. After all, the clothes are no longer littered across the floor. It doesn’t do the mom any good to get mad; that won’t help her son understand what she wanted. However, the mom could use specific praise to help her son feel good about himself and still learn what she wants. She might say, “Thank you for picking the clean clothes up off the floor. Now I’d like you to put them in the closet.” And when he does that, she should praise that specific behavior, too.

This also works with bigger issues. A common complaint of parents in sessions is that their kids don’t respect them. When we explore this, it often turns out the kids don’t know what their parents mean by respect. If parents think it’s disrespectful for children to chew gum while talking, for example, they need to be specific about that behavior, and then they need to praise the child when they’re not doing it. (Remember the attention principle above.) When we explore in session what respect means to both parents and children, families work together to identify behaviors they like and don’t like. That makes it clear for everyone and often makes a huge difference for the family.

 Keep praise appropriate to the situation. One recent study focused on parents whose praise is “inflated” – in other words, over-the-top phrases like “Amazing!” or “Perfect!” or “What an incredibly beautiful drawing!” When you react with that much enthusiasm, you’re actually putting pressure on the child to achieve that level of praise again, and as seen with Mr. A above, they probably don’t know how to do it.

Over-inflated praise also sounds to kids like their behavior is rare, which makes them feel like they do something wrong the rest of the time. Think about how you’d react if your boss dropped by your office and said, “Hey, I just wanted to say that the margins on your report were simply the best I’ve ever seen! Keep up the great layout work!” You’d start to wonder if your other reports looked like trash, or if there wasn’t anything else good about the report or if your boss was just a sarcastic jerk.

The praise is important, though. Remember, it’s how we teach other people what we want and expect from them. The key is to treat it in a matter-of-fact way, like you’re noticing something that you expect from them all of the time. For example, if your kids fight a lot, don’t walk into the room when you discover them getting along and act so surprised that you’re going to throw a party. Instead, say something like this: “I’m glad to see you guys getting along.” And then keep walking. Unless you decide you want to reward the behavior to reinforce it . . .

But that’s another article.

(Carl Grody, LISW-S, specializes in family therapy at Grody Online Family Therapy based in Columbus, Ohio. He has 12 years experience working with children, teens, families and couples. He’s a trained group leader in the Incredible Years parenting program, and he’s the family therapy columnist for Columbus Parent magazine. To make an appointment with Carl, call 614-477-5565 or schedule directly online at carlgrodylisws.clientsecure.me.)

Q and A: How Do I Apologize to My Child Without Losing Authority?

Parents often feel trapped by these situations. Everyone makes mistakes, even parents, and everyone needs to apologize once in a while – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it helps the person doing the apologizing move on, too. But it seems trickier when a parent needs to say, “I’m sorry.” They know they’re wrong, but they’re afraid that their children will think less of them if they realize that Mom or Dad can be wrong.

Let’s set those parents at ease — your kids already know that you can be wrong. They’ve seen it plenty of times before, and they know that they’ll see it again.

What makes the apology important is that you’re role-modeling how to handle such a situation for your children. Remember the old phrase: they may not always listen to what you say, but they’re always watching what you do. If you’d like your children to be accountable and take responsibility for what they do, there’s no better way to teach them than to model it yourself.

The basics of apology apply. Explain what you did (in an age-appropriate way), why you were wrong, how you understand that it affected the child, what you’ll do to try to keep from doing it again, and (if appropriate) what you’ll do to right the wrong. Once you’ve done that, stop beating yourself up and move on. Remember, you don’t want to teach kids that they have to carry a mistake forever.

Don’t worry about your authority being compromised. The kids will see you as responsible, accountable, and fair, and that’ll increase your authority in the long run.

(Carl Grody, LISW-S, works with families through Grody Online Family Counseling, which is based in Columbus, Ohio. He has 12 years experience working with children, adolescents, families and couples. He’s a trained group leader in the Incredible Years parenting program, and he’s also the family therapist columnist for Columbus Parent magazine. For an appointment with Carl, call 614-477-5565 or e-mail carlgrody@grodyfamilycounseling.com. To schedule directly online, go to carlgrodylisws.clientsecure.me.)