Archive for Uncategorized

How I Talked About The Boston Marathon with My Child

Last week, I wrote an article called Teaching Hatred Through Sports.  Little did I know about the hatred that would occur yesterday at the Boston Marathon.  Although the entire situation sickens me; I have understood that one of the dead is an 8 year old child.  I cannot pretend to imagine what the family is going through.  At a time where there are few answers to be found; here is how I talked about the situation with my 9 year old son.  There may be a tip you would like to use with your child as well.

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Teacher Rattled by Violent Threat Response

Yesterday, Annie’s Mailbox printed a question posed by a teacher of two seven year old students with “major behavioral issues.”  Both students have threatened to kill her with a gun.  The teacher has gone to her principal and vice principal but no one has spoken to the boys about their behavior.

The link to this disturbing piece can be found at the bottom of this article.  Though I am a fan of their column in general, Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Sugar really missed the mark on this one and I am going to set the record straight.

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Changing the Ratios in Education

For today’s topic, I want to take a broad view of education and slowly knock it down to the nuts and bolts in our homes.  As a former teacher, I’ve seen how things work.  Implementing the ideas I am presenting will give your child a decided advantage over his/her peers.

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Note of Apology

There has been a death in my family.  Therefore, I do not have an article ready.  Thank you for your understanding and I will check in again with you next Friday.

Best wishes to you,

Clayton Paul Thomas

A Note of Christmas Thanks

This post is a note of thanks for everyone who has visited, referred others, and commented on my blog this year.  I hope you have been able to use the parenting tools I have given you to foster a peaceful and loving home.

St. Josephs Children’s Home in Louisville, KY was the place I learned most of the crucial lessons I talk about in my book (Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures) and blog.  St. Joseph’s serves many people.  But, the part I worked in focused on children who had been placed there because their parents had lost their parental rights ( as judged by the courts).  My job was to help rehabilitate the children to the point where they could be placed in a loving foster home or better yet; an adoption setting.

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Guilty Mom Complex

Today’s blog is meant to answer a parenting question from one of my readers. “Barb” asks, “How can I not feel guilty as a mom because I can’t do it all?” She is married, works full time, and has 3 children. She feels she never has the time to accomplish all the things she wants to do in her professional and personal life.

Barb’s story and general question is all too familiar for a lot of us- not just moms. Some of us struggle to put in the time needed at work with the time wanted at home. Keeping the house clean, maintaining a social life, and spending quality time with our children/spouse is hard. Oh, I almost forgot that some of us would like to do more volunteer work in our places of worship or communities. The burden can feel very heavy at times.

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Protecting Children from Monsters

In light of the headlines coming from Penn. State University and the horrific events which appear to have happened, I’d like to relay a quick story and the lesson I learned when it comes to the suspected abuse of children.

I don’t want to assume everyone knows this story so here’s the short version. An assistant coach named Jerry Sandusky is being charged with sexually abusing minors in the locker room of Penn State. These actions happened on several occasions over the course of years. Coach Joe Paterno was notified of what was going on but to what extent isn’t clear. It was enough though for him to report the matter to his athletic director. What happened afterwards is nothing short of a major cover up. The weeks and months ahead though will most likely shed more light on what is already a heinous tragedy. Here is a timeline as to what has happened.

In my opinion, this is a sad time for Paterno because of the legacy he built at Penn State. But, it also reminds me of a story that happened in my teaching career which could have served Paterno well.

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Working with Students on September 11th

Today’s post won’t come to you with the same authoritative tone as my others.  Nothing I learned from the house parents of St. Joseph Children’s Home or from any teacher I have ever worked with could have prepared me in how to work with children on September 11th, 2001.

President George Bush and I had something in common that morning.  My class was being read to when an aide came to me, whispered what happened after the first plane struck the World Trade Center, and asked me to handle it the way I wanted to- similar to the former president. Everyone who reads my blog regularly knows I am a problem solver with parents, teachers, and children.  To be honest though, I’ve never felt more lost that day either before I started working with kids or since.

My options were simple enough.  I could tune in to find out what in the world was going on.  I suspected the risks of exposing 6-7 year olds to this but I also knew something big was happening.  On the other hand, I could go on with my lesson as if nothing happened.  Keep in mind, no one at this point was reporting this was definitely a terrorist attack.

Though I can’t explain my reasoning, I turned the television on.  It wasn’t long after this point that the second plane hit.  Even in all my confusion, I knew the second plane couldn’t have been an accident.  My wife has many friends in New York and my thoughts turned to her: thus taking me even further away from my class (mentally).

The students in my room had reacted in various ways.  Some of them understood something wasn’t right while others didn’t really pay a lot of attention.  Besides the event itself, their faces are the thing still etched in my mind.  A couple of children were laughing but I’m certain they didn’t understand what was truly happening.

I don’t know how long after the buildings came down that it dawned on me that I had a job to do.  I’m not sure how well I taught my lessons the rest of the day.  Perhaps it’s best my mind has erased the memories. Hopefully, I composed myself and did a good job.  Like many others, I was numb.

Maybe it’s because my focus is constantly on children but after I left school that day, I remember driving home and thinking about the kids who lost their parents.  It made me physically ill.  To think that it’s been 10 years is mind blowing.  The same children who were with me that day are now juniors and seniors in high school.

I almost feel silly trying to teach a lesson after sharing these memories with you.  The thing is though that many people come to my site to receive parenting information or a nugget of knowledge.  Therefore, here’s my shot in teaching today’s lesson.

Sometimes, you do things with children without knowing whether it’s the right thing to do or not.  Most of the times, you can reflect back and think about ways you could have done something better.  That reflection will help make you a better parent.

There will be other times though when, after reflecting, you still have no idea if what you did was the correct decision.  My advice to you is to shrug it off knowing that you did your best.

This Friday, I will be back with a more upbeat blog.  Best wishes to you and your loved ones.

The Heart of a Power Struggle

Power struggles in the home usually boil down to a single issue.  Today, I am going to talk about that issue and how you, as a parent, can actually turn power struggles to your advantage.

Doesn’t it just stink when you tell your child to do something and what you get back isn’t what you asked for?  For example, when a child talks back, refuses to follow a direction, argues, screams, or fights, it can be enough to want to make a person pull their hair out. Sometimes, when a child gets older, they can be more manipulative, defiant, or say hurtful things to us.

The single issue power struggles typically boil down to is control.  It starts much earlier in children than you may think.  For example, my 4 year old hates having his hand held in a parking lot.  There is a power struggle between us.  He wants that little bit of independence and isn’t happy when he doesn’t get it.

The first key in handling a power struggle is to know you are the parent and it’s up to you to be in control of yourself and the situation.  One of the worst things a parent can do during any type of power struggle is to lose his/her cool.  In the short term, it can work if, for example, you scare a child into compliance.  Long term though, it’s more risky because over time, the shock factor is reduced or eliminated.

When children have really challenged me over the years, I have frequently made the conscience effort to control my voice.  I’ve always had the confidence that I was going to win the power struggle in the end. What’s the point of losing my cool? Besides, if any child I have worked with could see that their behavior could physically control my response- in essence, I have lost that part of the power struggle.

Another key to winning a power struggle with a child is to be quiet.  Go ahead and let the child have their say.  It’s beneficial for many reasons.   For example, the child may make a good point for you to consider.  But remember, just because a child makes a good point doesn’t mean the power struggle has been lost so relax.

Another reason to let the child have their say is because you are modeling how a power struggle can be handled with civility.  Power struggles tend to get really ugly when both sides are yelling and neither side is listening to the other.  It’s been my experience that when I let the child have their say- not only will I still get what I want in the end but the struggle itself takes much less time.  When I was a teenager, my mother obviously wasn’t privy to my blog.  We had knock down drag out verbal wars that would last for days.  I remember them well and refuse to have the same circumstances with children I work with.

One of the last things that have been a key for me concerning power struggles is that I have a short memory.  I don’t let arguments of the past consume me.  Harboring ill feelings of power struggles of days, months, and years past don’t serve any real purpose.

Towards the beginning of this piece, I referenced the power struggle of holding my 4 year old child’s hand in a parking lot.  I’ve already told you that power struggles typically boil down to control, and I told you I had full confidence I was going to win.  So, here’s how this plays out.  Keep in mind I have used the same general strategies even on tough teenagers.

When my child wants to let go of my hand, I listen clearly and then remind him to be safe in a parking lot by walking and staying close because cars can’t see him.  In essence, I let go but I am still very close.  If one misstep happened, I could grab him immediately.  From there though, I slowly back off.  Nowadays, the struggle doesn’t exist to a great degree because he clearly knows what to do.

The reason I won that power struggle was because I recognized what my child wanted and guided him on a path in order to achieve his goal.  Hypothetically speaking, some parents would have wanted me to win the power struggle by holding on to my child’s hand.  But, why do that unless, of course, he attempts to run away in the parking lot?

This piece, though long, wasn’t nearly long enough to handle all the “what ifs.”   There are so many ways power struggles can occur; I simply cannot cover all the situations.  If you have further questions or comments, please leave a message in the comment box.  If you want a private response, drop me an email at

My next post will be on Tuesday.  It will deal with split second decision making on 9/11, how it was handled with my elementary classroom, and lessons I learned that day.

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Growing Up Versus Getting Older

Good morning to all of you.  The more forceful tone of today’s post stems from several stories I have heard after my bullying post last week.  If you haven’t seen the post, it can be viewed at Many emails were sent to  Instead of responding to each one, I’m going to have to peel the gloves off a bit because there is a point which needs to be driven home.

Bullying on IRFE in March 5, 2007, the first c...

When it comes to bullying, disrespect, and general rudeness of children, let me be very clear.  Just because a child is getting older, that doesn’t mean he/she is growing up. Poor behaviors can be learned from a number of different means.  Neighborhood kids, older siblings, television, and even parents come to mind.

Getting older simply means the child/adult is still breathing.  Therefore, we are all getting older by the second.  By contrast, here’s what growing up means to me.  A child (or even an adult) is maturing and growing into a responsible citizen.  When a person is “growing up” he/she can make a positive impact on society in whatever way they choose.  For example, a 10 year old child who is going to school to learn is growing up.  Contrarily, a 16 year old punk who merely takes space in a classroom and causes trouble for others is only getting older.

There are times when parents dismiss poor behavior in a number of ways.  For example, some may say “My child is going through a phase.”  Others will use the line “They’ll (the children) grow out of it.” Although bullying along with the other behaviors mentioned often has roots in middle school, one of the reasons it persists in high school and beyond is due to the fact it was either not addressed at all or addressed so poorly, the child didn’t get the message.

There are also many behaviors not addressed in very young children which develop over time in aforementioned middle school students.  If you remember nothing else in the post- take this lesson to heart.  Poor behaviors in children are a lot like weeds.  If they are not removed, they will continue to grow until all the beauty around them is strangled.

The “phase argument” from parents is really misguided and over used so allow me to be clear.  Puberty is a phase.  By contrast, poor behaviors are signs of character flaws.  These flaws typically have not been adequately addressed completely by adults in the child’s life for whatever reason.  Many times, these character flaws are corrected with simple parenting or other adult intervention. (a school or church, for example)  Character flaws aren’t evil.  We all have spots in our character which could improve.  Besides, if our children were perfect already, they wouldn’t need us.  But, when we do not do our jobs as parents, these simple character flaws can grow.  Just like weeds, they are more difficult to remove the longer they are allowed to stay in place.

As parents, it’s our job to teach children right from wrong.   I can’t tell you how many character flaws I have corrected in children or how many flaws my mother corrected in me.  I can tell you I did my best to help the kids I worked with because it was important.  Your child does not need you to help them get older.  They can do that on their own.  Your child needs you to help them grow up.  The only question in the end is….. Will you take the time to care?

I will check in with you again on Tuesday.  Until then, take care of yourself and the ones you love.

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