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Category Archives: BOY TALK

Boy-Friendly Classroom Strategies

4 Creative Classroom Strategies That Curtail Behavior “Issues”
boys sitting looking at teacher
As the school year begins, teachers and parents align with the common goal of helping ALL kids be successful. Soon into the year, however, teachers may be frustrated, parents may be overwhelmed.

Having been on “both sides of the block,” here’s my message of hope to you, dear teachers and parents, including some boy-friendly strategies that may make everyone’s lives a bit more sane, calm, and FUN!

Dear Teachers, 

As your school year begins, I know you’re busy and likely overwhelmed with all of the lesson prep, classroom prep, meetings, and students. My hope is you’ll recognize these as easy-to-implement strategies that will actually give you MORE time to teach and LESS time to spend on managing behavior – making yours a calmer, saner, and more FUN class for all! Have a great year. Love, Me.

Dear Parents, 

Your teachers are busy, overwhelmed and excited as they prepare for your child. These simple tips may save them some time and will surely save your student some anxiety. Please share with your teacher in a diplomatic, helpful and kind way. Have a great year. Love, Me.

It is easiest to ride a horse in the direction it is already going. – Chinese Proverb

Your son is the “horse.” When parents and teachers create school environments that support active learning they are helping his ride to become smoother than ever before!

Remember that whatever helps boys, helps many girls, too!


1: BUSY HANDS Allow his hands to be occupied when he has to sit still and listen.

Try these:

  • Squeeze ball or other fidget
  • Origami
  • Doodling (Studies show doodling increases auditory comprehension by 29%.)
  • Pipe cleaners


2: BUSY BODIES Allow movement around the classroom during lessons. Too much sitting compresses the vertebrae, leading to fatigue and even more wiggles.

Try these:

  • Clipboards for doing work on the floor
  • Regular stretch breaks (Google brain breaks for tons of ideas)
  • Get out of seats to get supplies (rather than having everything in the desk)
  • Ankle rotations (Motor movement in the lower limbs activates the brain more quickly than arm movement.)
  • Foam Frisbees – give 30 second frisbee break and allow them to throw
  • Beach Ball toss – give 30 seconds to keep in the air as a team


3: CHANGE THE SPACE Simple classroom adaptations can contain wiggles and allow more comfortable learning for all students:

Try these:

  • Stretchy bands around legs of chairs for feet to swing and push against
  • One-legged stools to encourage balance and focus
  • Stand-up desks – as simple as a paper ream box
  • More physical space for boys (Girls are comfortable six to a table, boys do better with four.)
  • Outdoors! (It has been shown that natural light increases test scores.)


4: ADD TO YOUR LESSON Adding variations to your lessons will accommodate learning and active boys! Be sure to include competition – boys love it and its important that girls get comfortable with it, too.

Try these:

  • Stand up and read
  • Stand up when called upon
  • Rotate tasks from desk-to-desk or centers
  • “Swat the Spot” (with a flyswatter) swat the correct answer on the board; ideal for a math or spelling bee
  • Draw before writing
  • Adapt math word problems to allow high-boy-interest topics: two funny, two scary, two gross

Above all, boys love to laugh!

Make learning fun and active and you’ll soon wonder where all your “behavior issues” have gone!

What we learn with pleasure, we never forget. – anon

These PODCAST BUNDLES give you access to hours of expert interviews on all-things-boys:

Does Your Son’s School Welcome and Celebrate Boys?


If it does, you’ll know it.

If it doesn’t, keep reading.

If it does, you’ll see students working in open spaces with active and inter-active learning being encouraged.

If it does, you’ll know that behavior management doesn’t include taking away recess

If it does, you’ll know teachers are armed with knowledge to understand and celebrate the unique ways that boys learn – so differently than girls.

Start looking here:

  1. What is the ratio of female to male teachers?  Will your son have at least one male teacher before he leaves elementary school?
  2. Who is sent to the principal’s office? How many are boys? What are the misbehaviors? What are the consequences?
  3. How much recess and other outside time is scheduled?
  4. Do classroom teachers give frequent movement breaks?

Boys are in Crisis

A disproportionate number of boys struggle to master basic literacy skills,
sit on the bench outside the principal’s office, get labeled hyperactive,
and receive failing grades.
–K.King, Writing the Playbook

Take 5 minutes to watch this video created by a Gurian Institute certified trainer to highlight the alarming statistics that affect our boys every day.

The following statistics show the failure of our schools to understand and meet the needs of boys.

Early Childhood and Elementary:

Boys are expelled from preschool at five times the rate of girls.
Boys are 60% more likely to be held back in kindergarten than girls.
Boys are almost twice as likely to repeat a grade.
By kindergarten, one in four black boys believes he will fail in school.
Boys make up 70% of special ed. students.
Boys are 4 – 5 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Middle School and High School:

Boys are 30% more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school.
Seventeen year-old boys underperform in reading by 1.5 years of school.
Boys are twice as likely to be suspended as females.
Boys are 4.5 times as likely to be expelled as females.
Black males are 6 times as likely to be suspended as white males.
Athletics is the only extracurricular activity where boy’s participation exceeds girls.

Worried yet?

We are.

Experts from around the globe and here in America are relentlessly advocating for deep changes in how we are raising boys. We need the groundswell of support similar to the one girls experienced in the mid-70’s.

This kind of advocacy begins with you – parents who are raising sons and who don’t believe they have to fit into a system that was largely designed to educate in the way that most girls learn and that does not fit most boys.

With a predominantly female teaching staff (93% of elementary school teachers are female), many schools just don’t get how boys learn. Boys are active and social. They learn in smaller chunk-sizes and move to mastery later than most girls, especially in reading and writing.

What can you do?

You must educate yourself on these issues –

Share gender-friendly information with your school’s teachers and administrators – when you approach this topic in the spirit of collaboration and support, you’ll find a receptive audience.  What teacher doesn’t want to spend less time on behavior management and more time on teaching?!

Ultimately, YOU must be the one to say:

“I want a better way for my son and all of his peers.  Let’s work on this together.”

Together we can make a school that fits both boys and girls and supports them to be their best!

Educating yourself is your best defense!

Bundle #1 “Make It a Boy-Friendly Year!” includes the interview, “What is a Boy-Friendly School? Guidance for making the needed changes.”

CLICK HERE to see all the podcasts included in each of these bundles:


Kid Clutter

by BOY TALK Guest Karen Raymond

“Our studies show that giving children too many toys or toys of the wrong types can actually be doing them harm. They get overwhelmed and cannot concentrate on any one thing long enough to learn from it,” ~Claire Lerner, L.C.S.W-C, Zero to Three

Kid STUFF has been a pretty popular topic swirling around me lately.

Here are a few things I have heard or read:

“Their room is a disaster!”

“My kid’s STUFF is everywhere! They never put away their toys when they are done playing with them.”

“They don’t respect nor do they take care of their belongings.”

Here are a few statistics:

The average size of an American home went up from 1,725 sq ft in 1983 to 2,598 sq ft in 2013.

However, the average size of an American family went down from 3.26 persons/family in 1983 to 3.12 persons/family in 2013.

Therefore, the average square footage per person in a home has increased from 529 sq ft to 832 sq ft. That is over 300 square feet of space more per person to put more STUFF in.

For kids, that means MORE STUFF!!!

  • More dress up clothes
  • More building toys
  • More action figures and dolls
  • More “learning” toys
  • More instruments
  • More books
  • More puzzles
  • More pretend play toys (kitchens, workshops, etc.)
  • More outdoor play toys for inside (trampolines, jumpy houses, little tikes cars, slides, tunnels, etc.)

All given with the intention of providing variety and choices for our little ones and to encourage independence.

Yet, according to a British study published in The Telegraph, children probably play with just 5% or their toys!

And then we go back to the quote at the beginning of this post.

For children under the age of 5, they play less when they have more toys due to overwhelm, distraction, and inability to concentrate on one thing for the amount of time that it takes for them to learn from that toy. Let that marinate for a few minutes.

Let’s examine the complaints again:

Their room is a disaster! – It’s huge and they have a ton of STUFF. They probably have a hard time finding anything and it’s probably completely overwhelming for them. Then they are told to “clean your room!” Where on earth should they start? We can’t even compare to when we were kids because I bet that most of you reading this did not have as much STUFF as your kids now have. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Cleaning up for kids these days looks a whole lot different than it did for us when we were kids.

My kids never put away their toys when they are done playing with them! – Tons of toys = overwhelm and distraction. Especially if they are young, they probably go from one toy to the next as their senses are so overwhelmed they are unable to concentrate on any one toy for a long period of time. Therefore, a trail of toys are littering the living room. It’s a lot easier to put away their favorite doll, a book, and a toy car on the shelf than having to clean up all the toy food items that have been vomited all over the floor.

They don’t respect nor do they take care of their belongings – If there is a constant flow of STUFF coming in, it brings down the value of the STUFF. Basic economics, I guess. A simple case of supply and demand. Demand is high; supply is low; high value. Supply is high; the demand is low; the value is low. It’s as simple as that.

So, next time you start to feel your blood pressure rising in regards to the kid clutter, I invite you to take a pause and imagine yourself at their age but in their current situation.

And then imagine the possibilities of life if this particular issue were just eliminated from your lives.

You don’t feel the need to nag, the child doesn’t feel nagged.

What does life look like to you without you or your child having to deal with all that STUFF?

How does that feel in your body and your heart?

Perhaps you can do yourself and your child a favor by taking the steps to simplify their environment with them!

Learn more at: KEEP IT SIMPLE

You’re invited to join the conversation at our Boys Alive! Facebook group:

Talking to Boys about Sexually Aggressive Girls

Written by our Guest: Jennifer L. W. Fink of Building

I think I pressured a boy into having sex with me. 

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-1-56-56-pmI was 16 at the time. So was he. It was our first date — and my first date, ever — after weeks and months of talking in study hall and passing notes. We went to see a movie (Twins, with Arnold Schwarzenegger). He drove. He brought me home. He parked in my driveway and we kissed with the bright glare of the garage light shining in through the front window.

I didn’t say no, ever. I kissed back and I responded to every single thing he did and I lost my virginity right there, in the front seat of his car, despite the safe sex ad that had emanated from his radio.

A few days later, he passed me a note in the hallway: What happened should have never happened. There was more, but that’s the phrase that’s stuck in my head, even now, 30-some years later.

I was livid. What I thought was the beginning of a relationship was the end. I never spoke to the boy again. And for years, I was angry at him.

Then I had boys.

I started paying attention to the messages, overt and otherwise, that our society sends boys about sex.

And I realized this: The boy probably felt like he couldn’t stop. I mean, there he was, in a car, with a girl who wasn’t saying no. According to practically every message he’d probably ever received, he was obligated to go forward. I mean, c’mon. What kind of guy STOPS or SAYS NO if the girl is willing?

Boys Feel Pressured to Have Sex

Believe it or not, teen boys can be pressured into unwanted sexual situations — and unwanted sexual activity hurts boys every bit as much as it hurts girls.

A study published in 2014 found that 43 percent of high school boys and young college men had had an unwanted sexual experience and of those, 95 percent said a female acquaintance was the aggressor. According to one of the researchers, ” ‘unwanted seduction’ of young men by women is largely overlooked in existing academic research…[but is] a particularly pervasive form of sexual coercion in this study, as well as peer pressure and a victim’s own sense of an obligation.”

Translation: Boys are having sex because they feel pressure from girls, from their friends and from themselves. 

I want to tell you that I didn’t come on to the boy in the car. I think I could tell you that. But another part of me thinks that I may have been the one to reach over and unzip his pants — not really because I wanted to have sex, but because I felt like that’s what was expected; because that seemed to be the next step. Of course, I didn’t tell him that. If that is indeed what I did — if I reached over and unzipped his pants — how could he not interpret that as anything other than a come-on? As pressure to perform?

Thirty-one percent of the boys in the research study said “they were verbally coerced [and] 26 percent described unwanted seduction by sexual behaviors.”

That figure should give anyone pause: nearly 1/3 of surveyed boys reported being the subject of unwanted sexual seduction. 

I’m going to guess the real number might actually be higher.

Boys aren’t always keen on admitting that they’ve been the subject of unwanted sexual attention. How can they be, in a society that essentially tells them they should want (and welcome!) sex – all the time?

Helping Boys Say No (and Save Face)

Unfortunately, sexually aggressive behavior has become increasingly common in our society. One of the researchers involved in the study commented, “I really do believe that girls are more aggressive sexually today than they were ten years ago,” and I have no reason to doubt her. I’ve heard similar comments from educators, school administrators and parents.

The reality is that today’s boys are likely to find themselves the object of strong sexual attention. Some boys will welcome this attention. Some will not. Our job is to help boys learn how to handle this attention.

Step 1: Let boys know it’s OK to say no. Our boys are growing up in a culture that encourages sex. In many corners, having sex is associated with masculinity: If you have sex with women, you’re a man. If you don’t  — especially if the offer is presented to you! — you are definitely less than a man.

Our boys need to know it’s OK to say no. Our children are not getting nuanced messages from pop culture, so they need to hear nuanced messages at home. Kids need to hear that sex is a way for people to show their love — but they also need to hear that it’s possible to love someone without having sex. They need to know that even two people who love each other sometimes choose not to have sex because one person is tired or just doesn’t feel like it.

Our boys need to know that their feelings matter too. We, as a society, spend so much time talking to our boys about girls’ right to consent that sometimes we forget to mention that their feelings matter too. We need to let our boys know that not wanting to is a perfectly OK reason to turn down sexual activity. We need to let our boys know that NO is always a perfectly acceptable answer, no matter what the reason.

Step 2: Talk about reasons to have sex. We spend a lot of time telling our kids why not to have sex. That’s important information that definitely should be part of the larger conversation of sex and sexual health. I’d argue, though, that we also need to talk about good reasons to have sex. Good reasons to have sex include being in a committed relationship, when both parties agree that they want to have sex. Good reasons do not include because she wanted to or because my friend did or everyone will laugh at me if they find out I said no.

Step 3: Talk about sexual aggression and pressure. Boys need to know what sexual aggression is before they can respond appropriately. Talk about the difference between flirting and sexual aggression. Point out examples on TV and in movies and videos.  Reality shows, prime-time TV shows, and music videos include all kinds of examples of sexual aggression. Comment on those scenes. Ask your boys what they think. Ask about the girls they know — do the girls ever come on strong? How do the boys react? How do they feel?

Step 4: Intro white lies. In general, I believe in honesty. But my kids also know that I’m perfectly OK with lies that help them make good choices and save face. They know, for instance, that they can blame me for anything their friends want to do that they don’t want to do. (Invited to party where there’s drinking? It’s perfectly OK to say, “My mom won’t let me out that night!”)

Give boys some “outs” they can use in case of unwanted sexual attention. It’s OK to say, “I don’t want to” — but it’s also OK to say, “I gotta go now. My dad will go crazy if I’m not home in 10 minutes” or “I gotta keep my strength up for the game.” Help the boys in your life brainstorm some possible responses now, because it’s a lot easier to think straight when you’re not in a sexual situation.

Over 30 years later, I realize that the boy in the car with me was just as confused as I was. Neither one of us knew what we were doing. We probably both would have been happier if we’d simply watched the movie together; in hindsight, I don’t think either one of us really wanted to have sex. But we did, and it took me nearly 30 years to let go of the resulting anger and hurt and confusion.

I don’t want my sons — or anyone — to have sex because they feel like that’s what’s expected of them. I want them to know it’s OK to say no.

Educating yourself is your best defense!

Bundle #2 “He’s Growing Up – Quickly” includes more interviews on “the Birds and the Bees” and how to talk with your son about healthy sex – at any age.

CLICK HERE for podcast interview bundles with renowned experts on this topic and more:

Encouraging Emotional Intelligence in Boys

Our guest on BOY TALK (#16), this article is written by Jennifer L. W. Fink of Building

Do you know what emotional intelligence is and why it’s important?

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-1-54-00-pmEmotional intelligence is the ability to identify and respond to emotions (yours, and others’) in healthy, productive ways. You’ve likely already noticed both high and low levels of emotional intelligence in action. Think about it: the friend who started ranting the minute a fellow driver shifts into their lane without proper signaling vs. the friend who responds to personal attacks with empathy and understanding. The kid who melts down when his team loses a game (and blames his teammates) vs. the kid who expresses disappointment in the loss, but doesn’t let if affect his interactions with his family for the rest of the night. Who might even spend some time thinking about what he can do to elevate his level of play so he can better help his team in the next game.

Right about now, you’re probably thinking of some pretty specific examples. You’re probably remembering all of the times your kids did not demonstrate emotional intelligence — and maybe even wondering if emotionally intelligent kids exist in reality, or are yet another Internet fantasy. Let me put your mind at ease: the above example of a kid who melts down after a loss was drawn directly from my life. From recent experience. And I expect to see the same scenario play out at least a few more times. The good news, though, is that emotional intelligence can be developed over time. 

As you know, children do not come into this world with finely honed emotional intelligence. Infants cry — loudly — when you take something they want away from them. Toddlers routinely hit people who inhibit their actions, and throw temper tantrums because they can’t put both feet in the same shoe. As our kids get older, though, their ability to control their emotions improves. (When was the last time you saw a teenager lose it because he can’t get two feet into one shoe?)

A certain degree of emotional development comes with age and maturity, particularly if the child is surrounded by good role models. And some kids are naturally more empathetic and in-tune with their emotions than others are. But emotional intelligence isn’t something you either have or you don’t, and it’s not limited or predetermined by your genes or environment. Unlike IQ, which is relatively fixed, a person’s EQ, or Emotional Intelligence, can improve over time with intervention. 

That’s important because emotional intelligence is linked to everything from interpersonal relationship satisfaction to job performance and career success. According to a study by Forbes, 90% of top career performers scored high in emotional intelligence, and those with a high degree of emotional intelligence earned an average of $29,000 more per year than those with a low degree of emotional intelligence. (Curious how your emotional intelligence stacks up? Try this online emotional intelligence test. It’s not designed for kids, but teens might enjoy it also.)

Boys, in particular, often struggle with emotional intelligence due to cultural norms that suggest it’s less-than-manly to acknowledge or admit emotions. (“Man up!” and “Big boys don’t cry!“) As a parent or educator, there’s a lot you can do to encourage and support the development of emotional intelligence. Here are some ideas and resources:

Acknowledge and name emotions. As adults, we often focus on the effect of a child’s emotions on us, rather than the child’s experience. (Think about it: when your child throws a tantrum in the parking lot, is your first reaction empathy for his frustration, or annoyance and embarrassment?) That’s partly because so many of us grew up learning to shun and avoid emotion, especially strong ones such as anger, sadness and frustration. (Think about this: How did your parents react when you were upset? Even now, do you acknowledge your unpleasant feelings, or try to push them away?)

You can hone a child’s emotional intelligence simply by acknowledging and naming emotions. Here’s what that might look like in action: Say you get some disappointing news at work, or via an email or phone call. Feel free to say, out loud and within your child’s ear shot, Ugh. This is so disappointing. If the washing machine breaks, instead of cursing or hiding your emotions, try saying something like, This is so frustrating! I’m really busy this week and I’m upset and overwhelmed because I’m not sure how I’ll find the time to deal with this. or Ugh! I was saving up money for a vacation, and now I’m sad and disappointed that we have to spend some of it to fix the washing machine. You can do the same thing when your child is upset: Wow, honey, you seem really angry right now.

Expand their emotional vocabulary. According to the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, there are 5 basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, afraid and ashamed. But there are many gradations to those emotions. (Consider the difference between “pleased” and “elated” or “scared” and “terrified.” ) Talking about and using these words can help children better understand and recognize the range of emotional experience. This post includes some fun activities you can use to expand your child’s emotional vocabulary.

Got a tween? Use emojis to talk about emotions. Tweens and teens use these cartoons to express emotions all the time. (Parent tip: Work this one casually into conversation. No teen is going to want to sit down with their parents and do a point-and-name emoji exercise.)

Try the kids’ activities developed by the Emotional Intelligence Institute. This non-profit institute has developed a whole bunch of interactive activities that parents and teachers can use to develop kids’ emotional intelligence. Take a look, even if you don’t plan to use the activities verbatim. A quick glance at their Respect: Behavioral Word Study, for instance, will give you some ideas and talking points for future conversations with your kids.

Brainstorm alternate ways to handle tough situations. Instead of simply punishing your child for misbehavior, ask your child to think about other ways he could have handled the situation. For example, after your son has sat in timeout for hitting his brother (because his brother took his truck), ask your son what he could have done differently. Encourage him to think of two or more alternate responses. (And yes, crazy responses are OK, as long as he gets around to some realistic ones too.) Younger kids (and older ones) may need some prompting. Try something like, “What do you think would have happened if you walked away? If you asked him give it back to you?

Developing emotional intelligence takes time, practice and lots of repetition — but the effort is well worth it.


You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!

If you’d like to chat with me one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at I’m here for you!


Have Faith in Your Boys and Yourself

Our guest for BOY TALK (#16), Jennifer Fink of Building Boys shares this article:

Is your son struggling, in school or in life?

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-1-50-59-pmI’m willing to bet that at least 80% of you are nodding your heads right now. Either your son’s grades are not what they should be, or he’s disorganized, distracted, in trouble all the time and/or would rather play video games than go to school.

I hear these problems from parents of boys all the time. I hear it from friends, from readers and in various articles I read online and in print. What I also hear: parents blaming themselves and their sons.

The #1 thing you need to know about building boys is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. 

The problems you are dealing with in your home and classroom are present in homes and classrooms throughout the world. Boys in America are struggling today. So are boys in Australia, the UK and elsewhere. You, and your boys, are not alone. Which leads me to…

Thing #2 you need to know about building boys: YOU AND YOUR BOY ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. 

Listen, I know you’re not perfect. I’m sure you’ve made some mistakes dealing with the boys in your life; I know I have! (Just ask my boys.) But if you are reading this post, I am confident that you’re the kind of adult who cares deeply. You’re the kind of person who tries, each and everyday, to do the best you can for the boys in your life. So while you may not be perfect, you are not the problem. Whatever is happening is not your fault, no matter how strict or lenient you were with bedtime, screen time and overall discipline.

Your son isn’t at fault either. Yes, he may blow off his homework. Yes, his lack of attention in class may well contribute to his failing grades. And yes, he may be getting in trouble for how he chooses to treat his teachers and classmates. Your son, like you, is not perfect. But neither is he the root cause of the problem. Like all of us, he came into the world with an abundance of strengths and some weaknesses. Your son was not born a “bad person” or “problem child,” and I believe it’s highly unlikely that virtually all boys turn into trouble. What’s happening to your son is happening to many, many other boys, so whatever is happening cannot be entirely your son’s fault, no matter what he does or does not do.

Thing #3 you need to know about building boys: YOU AND YOUR BOY ARE ENOUGH. 

Christina Tynan-Wood’s article, “How to Catch a Falling Son” will sound all -too familiar to most parents of boys. Tynan-Wood’s son, a high school sophomore, was failing in school, despite the fact that he was, by all accounts, a bright boy, and Tynan-Wood was desperate to help him. She reached out to noted author and boy guru Leonard Sax; he told her to move so she could enroll her son in an all-boys school. She reached out to Richard Whitmire, author of Why Boys Fail, who essentially told her that her early-teenage son had no hope of obtaining his dreams. Her son’s high school counselor suggested summer school courses. Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, author of The Homework Trap, suggested limiting homework.

Tynan-Wood developed a plan to help her son catch up, and using the limited-homework time technique, her son made progress. Tynan-Wood eventually found some solace and hope in a Connections Academy counselor who reassure her that her son’s future was not yet written, that many kids find success despite rough starts, especially when those kids have caring parents.

Yet Tynan-Wood writes:

As the parent of a struggling boy, though, it’s not always easy to feel so sanguine. Faced with so many disheartening statistics about failing boys, no parent can afford to sit back and have faith that their care will be enough to pull the kid through.

Those words break my heart. We have so commercialized and institutionalized parenting and education that our parents no longer feel capable of helping and supporting their children!

Years ago, as our oldest sons were nearing preschool age, I overheard one mom — whose 4-yr-old son was still home — say to another mom (whose son was enrolled in 4-yr-old preschool), “I’m sure you son is getting more at preschool than mine is at home.” As I wrote later, “Her comment stopped me cold. This was from a Mom who read to her children. Took them to community events. Was involved in our playgroup. Facilitated her children’s interests. Loved them deeply. And she really, truly believed that preschool was somehow better than her own mothering.”

The same thing is happening to parents who are raising boys. We are so concerned about them, and yet so many of us have simultaneously bought into the not-nearly-dimensional enough ideas of success that society continually feeds us. We believe that success requires good grades in school. We believe that college is the one true way to success. And we are somehow convinced that others — educators and experts — hold the solutions in their hands.

The result? We blame our boys and ourselves, instead of looking at the many ways our schools, societies and institutions are failing our boys. We then look to schools and experts for the solutions. We distrust ourselves and we distrust our boys, instead of doing the one thing we really need to do if we want our sons to succeed.

And what is that one thing?

You need to HAVE FAITH, in yourself and in your boy. You need to once again look at your boy with wonder in your heart; you need to see his strengths and gifts, the ones that were there when he was small and are ever-present to this day. You need to look past your son’s flaws and have faith that within him, he has everything he needs to succeed.

I can hear some of you objecting now: “but he doesn’t work!” “he’s lazy” “all he wants to do is play video games!” All of those things may be true, but it may also be true that he doesn’t work because no one’s ever given him the chance to work at what he really cares about. He might seem lazy because he’s been beaten down by life, because for a decade or longer, all he’s heard from people is that whatever he cares about is not worth caring about. He might play video games because he loves history. Because he loves games. Because he’s a budding storyteller, or because he’s subconsciously prepping for a career as a video game designer.

Let go of the negative judgment, and look at your son. Consciously push away thoughts of his failures, and recall the gifts and potential you saw in him when he was young.

At the same time, remember this: You know your boy better than almost anybody on the planet. You and your son are the true experts when it comes to what he wants and needs. As important as I believe it is to understand the issues facing boys today and to listen to and learn from others, ultimately, the only boy that matters is the one in front of you, and what he needs is, by definition, different than what every other boy needs.

Look at your boy.

Listen to your boy.

Support him and his needs and endeavors.

You will likely find yourself dealing with schools and institutions that don’t understand. Your son will likely be penalized for failing to do homework or for drawing giraffe poop. None of that matters. You cannot protect your boy from a society that fails to understand and appreciate his needs, and I can’t promise you that you or your son won’t be hurt or damaged by these assaults.

I can’t promise you that everything will turn out OK either.

What I can promise you this:

If you love and support your son, and keep the focus on him and his needs, and do your best to advocate for him and his needs, in spite of the conflicting advice you’re certain to hear, you’re doing right by your son.

You’re working to build boys.


You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!

If you’d like to chat with me one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at I’m here for you!


Creating a Homework Haven at Home

Dr. Colleen Carroll of Innovative Reading shares:

Creating a Homework Haven at Home 

Back-to-school season (for our friends in the southern hemisphere) and the return after winter break,  can be a distressing time. While some of the angst around this return to routine makes sense – after all, days get colder and shorter (or warmer..) and we need to get back to tighter schedules and earlier bedtimes – there are also a few things we can do to ease this transition and actually make it an empowering time for kids.

Many kids dread, and even fear homework.

(And, this is me – Janet – chiming in…note that there is a new trend to minimize or eliminate homework in the young grades. See this study.)

Even the word “homework” can spark anxiety in some children (and parents!).

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 2.55.01 PM

This is understandable; as kids get older the homework gets harder and the time spent on it gets longer. However, you can be prepared in advance and lessen anxiety by creating a homework sanctuary of sorts for your child to feel safe, even empowered, as he gets his work done.

The following are my top 5 ways to empower your child at homework time:

  1. Create a homework haven in the house somewhere that’s bright, cheery, and full of all the items he needs to get his work done efficiently, with minimal distractions. Consider the kitchen to be close to a helpful parent, or a bedroom if noise can be a problem.
  2. Don’t let it be obvious that you dread this time too. Children pick up on your emotional state. Instead, be as positive as you can about this learning experience, even when things get tough.
  3. If your child is having a rough time on homework, let the teacher know. There is no reason to struggle for hours over a few problems when really the child just needs more instruction.
  4. Get the hardest subjects done first when she is less tired; trying to tackle the hardest at the end is never a good idea!
  5. Set up an afternoon routine to get homework done before other evening activities whenever possible so it isn’t hanging over your child’s head.

For a simple, child-friendly checklist to organize a homework haven in your home, download my free resource below: How to Create a Homework Haven at Home.  

Access Now!

Kids crave routine; they (and most adults) do best when they know what’s coming next and they can be ready for it. By having a homework routine and a space that is comfortable and efficient, it probably won’t make homework fun but it will make it easier to accomplish and more organized for return to school the next day. This in turn will definitely lessen the anxiety around homework in general and allow your child to focus on some more pleasurable activities each evening, perhaps even a little reading. 


You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!

If you’d like to chat with Janet Allison one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at I’m here for you!

In All Seriousness, Humor Works!

A guest post from Dr. Colleen Carroll of Innovative Reading.

Don’t you just love a good laugh?

Any kind of laugh is awesome, right? I mean, I’ll take a light chuckle, a hearty giggle or a deep belly laugh that leaves me teary-eyed and out of breath any day over being sad and gloomy. Humor in reading is a great way for all of us to find happy!

Scientific research proves the health benefits of laughter, and that it is really good for us! Without getting too medical-ly here, laughter promotes relaxation, stress reduction, socialization, improved communication and creativity, to name just a few benefits. For these reasons and more, people love to laugh and we all should be promoting more of it!

So how does humor help with getting children to read?

Ask any child reading a book why they like it and I guarantee that if it is funny, he will point that out.

I have tested this over and over and every time without fail it happens. Kids tell me that they love funny books and they love books that make them LOL (If your child texts, you know that means laugh out loud). Sometimes those books tell silly stories, or have outrageous characters, or hysterical illustrations. Sometimes they are funny throughout, or just have funny parts sprinkled here and there. The ways a book can be funny are numerous, but the effect is still the same.

They make kids happy, they make kids laugh, they make kids want to keep reading.


Want to test me on this one? Go ahead! Just do a quick Google search on “funny books for kids” and see how many websites pop up with tons of recommendations.

Why? Because there are great books out there that will make you laugh so hard you shoot milk out of your nostrils and we like to share the good stuff when we find it.

For a quick resource that gives you some awesome titles to pick up right now, download:

Dr. Carroll’s Fast 5: Recommended Hysterical Picture Books for Kids of All Ages

As if you needed more reasons to find some funny books to put in front of your child, here are several:

  • NOTHING makes for a better read-aloud than a funny story. Really.
  • When your child has had a hard day at school, a funny book can pull him out of a funk.
  • Some funny stories actually teach lessons, have a moral, or help you drive home a parenting point. Use them accordingly.
  • Some funny stories have absolutely no point to them whatsoever except they are just funny. That is perfectly fine too and makes for lighthearted reading which is a benefit unto itself. 
  • Humor may just be the absolute easiest way to hook a reluctant reader to open a book. Start with funny books if you just don’t know where to start. I promise, you can’t go wrong!
  • Sometimes the illustrations are the funniest part. Use them in a read-aloud to get your child talking about what the illustrator is trying to say through pictures.
  • Authors who use humor are often crafty in their language. Maybe the book is rhyme-y or poetic. Funny language can be a great tool for easily remembering new vocabulary words.

Find more reading suggestions with Dr. Carroll at Innovative

You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!

If you’d like to chat with Janet Allison one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at I’m here for you!

Create a Reader-Friendly Home

Our guest Dr. Colleen Carroll of Innovative Reading shares how to create a reader-friendly home.

Creating nooks for tablets, books and kids cozying up to reading

Look around your home. Go ahead – take a stroll through each room and ask yourself as you wander around, “Does my home invite my child to read?”

reading on rocker boardsAs you do this, be sure to change your lens for the moment. Instead of a parent lens, the one that measures every area for its tidiness, efficiency, and decorative style, view your home instead through the eyes of a child, particularly one that avoids reading.

Now, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my home have areas that are cozy and that a child can curl up and be comfortable?
  • Does my home have quiet places, away from the sounds of a TV, loud conversations, or other noisy distractions?
  • Are there areas my child can read where there are no electronic gadgets? (TV, computer, etc.)
  • Are there cozy areas that include spaces for books and other reading materials to be displayed?
  • Do we keep reading materials out and available for my child to access readily (instead of always “tidying up” and moving reading materials out of site).
  • Do we include words, letters, comics, poems, and other fun sources of writing around in our home?
  • Do we make distractions like video games hard to access while making reading materials easy to reach?
  • Is my child’s bedroom a no TV zone?

If you answered “Yes!” to any of the above questions, you are on your way to creating a reader-friendly environment. Kudos to you – I bet your child is benefitting from this effort by feeling an invitation to read and interact with words.

After the assessment, did you determine that you need to take it up a few reader-friendly notches? Don’t worry! Follow these quick tips on how you can alter just a few things fast and rearrange with ease to get your child wrestling with words and loving it!

Top 10 tips to creating cozy nooks and book havens right at home without spending lots of time or money:

  1. Look for spaces you already have that just need a little tweaking to improve. Is there already a child-sized chair in the corner? Be sure to surround it with books and toss a throw on the arm to up the inviting-ness.
  2. Have an empty basket sitting around? Fill it with books, magazines, comics, graphic novels, printed items off the web and anything else you find that is readable. Put that basket out for your to child trip over (err, I mean find) so it’s super easy to access.
  3. No perfect child chair right now? No problem! Throw some brightly colored pillows on the grown-up easy chair to size it down for kids. If your kids are really little, position a step stool to the side for easy climbing.
  4. Where are the video games and other distracting devices? If they are within easy arms’ reach of your child, get them out of there and into someplace harder to reach. Use a closet, a storage bin, an armoire or anyplace that will take just a little more effort to play them and insist they are returned after each (time-limited) session. Think to yourself what you’d choose if the cookies were always easier to grab than the carrots…
  5. Make your child’s room a TV free zone. Be sure there is a bookcase instead, or at least a stack of books/magazines/readable stuff someplace in view. If your child is younger, decorate the walls with letters and use an alphabet bedspread.  For older children, consider decal words on the wall, a chalkboard paint wall, posters of popular books (and those turned into movies) and a bedspread with words. Bonus points: Every child should have access to magnetic poetry someplace at home!
  6. Be sure that there is a place in the home where your child can read and relax free from too much noise (think TVs, running appliances, etc.). If that is a challenge due to space, try to carve out some minimal noise times when quietness is preserved and your child can associate reading with relaxing and destressing.
  7. Good lighting in a reading area is essential! Invest in a fluorescent lamp or put some bright LED bulbs into a big table lamp and keep it in the reading zone. The more light, the easier it is on everyone’s eyes (and the longer your child will be able to read as well).
  8. Involve your child in decorating the area. Ask him to pick out some posters or artwork he created to hang in the special spot so it is a meaningful place he associates with positivity.
  9. Vary the text collection and keep it interesting. Be sure to rotate the books and magazines regularly so there is always something fresh and new to read. Also make sure that the choices align to your child’s interests so she’ll gravitate to the topics naturally.
  10. If your child prefers devices, keep a Kindle, Nook or other tablet available with reading material at the ready. This is a perfectly acceptable substitute to paper books and for some kids who are tech-inclined, a preferable option.

Try some or all of these ideas today and see how your child adjusts to his new surroundings! You may include him in the entire process to get his buy-in, or do it on the down-low as a surprise and make him feel special.

Grab your “How to Make your Home Reader-Friendly” CHECKLIST from Dr. Carroll here.

You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!







If you’d like to chat with Janet Allison one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at I’m here for you!

3 Surprising Reasons Your ADHD Children Aren’t Cooperative

Margit Crane Luria, ADHD expert shares:

Most people think that the reason ADHD children and teens don’t follow rules is because they’re all mavericks and don’t like authority.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 5.02.06 PMThis is only partially true.

Rules are guides, not controls.

ADHD kids don’t hate rules.

In fact, they would love to be cooperative.

Getting along with your parents feels good. The fact that it may be a struggle does not mean that they’re trying to thwart your efforts. Many parents assume that the point of rules is to have kids behave the way the parents want them to, and so they assume that the rules aren’t working if the kids aren’t obeying. This is actually control, and control creates power struggles. Rules aren’t about controlling kids; rules are guides to behavior. Kids can still refuse to obey or follow the rules/expectations. The trick is to have your consequences built in (In my world, consequences are not punishments; they’re more like results, as in “If you do X, Y happens.” Cause and Effect.

Random Parenting

ADHD kids do not like hypocrisy and random parenting.

In my practice, one of the most common mistakes I see is parents creating random rules. These can be in-the-moment declarations that burst forth from our frustration or anger, like “That’s it! No more computer use during the week!”

Or they may be random in the sense that they just don’t fit your kids or your family. They’re good ideas but not good rules. “Come down for dinner without my prompting you” would be ideal and it would save you time.

But will it actually work?

Also, there are rules that we create for our kids but we don’t follow them ourselves.

To ADHD kids, this is hypocritical and they will dig their heels in. They’ll fight back or shut down. For example, one family had the rule that kids couldn’t yell in the house but when it was dinner time or chore time, the mom always yelled up the stairs to get her children’s attention. I kept telling her to go upstairs instead of yelling, but she refused. What her ADHD children see is that mom is stubborn and controlling and so they become stubborn and resist being controlled.

Are you yelling at or demotivating your ADHD child?

Yelling is a huge DE-motivator. I mean, think about it – did someone yelling at you or nagging you ever inspire you to greatness?

Kids HATE yelling and nagging. It demoralizes them. Kids want to please their parents and knowing that you’re disappointed is painful for them.

Here are some other DE-motivators:

  • Criticism, insults, put-downs, teasing, sarcasm
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Depression or sadness
  • Hunger
  • Exhaustion
  • Physical pain
  • Previous negative experience

Here’s how to tap into ADHD motivation

Remember this: if you want cooperative ADHD kids and teens, you need to create scenarios that promote love, approval, comfort, freedom, and power. Being told what to do and then being yelled at because they didn’t do it is uncomfortable and kids will feel powerless and unloved.

When you create behavior expectations, make sure that you check in with your children. You can actually see stress and sadness in their faces if a new rule is too hard for their developmental level.

ADHD kids are late-bloomers, as you know, and so they may need help or support with rules. One of my clients gets help from his mother when emptying the dishwasher. Obviously he has the ability to do it. It’s not a hard task, but for some reason, this particular task stresses him out. Instead of arguing, day after day, she helps him. It’s not that big a deal and, trust me, you won’t be helping him empty the dishwasher forever!

If your kids are having trouble, ask them, “What would make this more interesting/fun/easy/comfortable?”

Then watch their minds engage and grow!


Learn more about Margit here.

You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!

If you’d like to chat with Janet Allison one-on-one, use this link to schedule a 20-minute complementary phone call or email me at I’m here for you!

A Year of Boy Talk

BOY TALK Nuggets of Wisdom…

Enjoy these words gleaned from our many parenting experts…

Each Boy Talk is on sale this month and includes a Tool Kit, summarizing our conversation and with additional resources and recommendations.  All Boy Talks are here.
BOY TALK #1: How to Get Him Reading and Keep Him Reading
Many boys read later than girls – and don’t consider themselves to be readers. Remind him that reading sports statistics, Minecraft handbooks, lego instructions, encyclopedias, and magic cards is also reading! Many boys ‘read for a purpose’ rather than simply for pleasure.

BOY TALK #2: Boy-Friendly Schools
When you’re looking for a school that “gets” boys, look for: water available at all times, alternative seating options, active lessons, and plenty of outside time.  ‘Alternative reading materials’ – magazines and instruction manuals are a good clue that “boy talk” is spoken here. More practical strategies for home and school are included.

BOY TALK #3: Coping with Disappointment, Loss, and Grief 
Our kids will definitely experience disappointment, loss and grief in their lives – how to you help them with those big emotions? Tune into your own first (name it to tame it) and then tune into your child: Identify his feelings (even if you get it wrong); Give him something physical to do to move back into his body (squeeze a ball, drink water, etc.); Continue to identify his feelings – often what is at the surface isn’t what is really going on. Be patient and go deeper.  This may feel like it takes a lot of time but when a child feels heard and acknowledge, they can more quickly return to cooperation.  Do you ever wonder if it is okay to cry in front of your child? Carole has answers to this question and more.

Boy Talk #4: The Birds and The Bees
A delicate topic – which needs to be talked about early and often, is the topic of sex and healthy relationships. Where do you start?  Amy’s advice: from birth, use correct names for body parts both female and male. (If you haven’t been, start using them now). By about age 5, let children know how babies are made, pregnancy and birth, about different kinds of families, and that sex feels good to grown-up bodies. By third & fourth grade, let them know people have sex for pleasure 99.9% of the time. Always telling them that, “Sex is not for children, it is for later in life, sex is for grown-ups. Your hearts, minds and bodies are not ready for sex.” Find out what your child needs to know in middle school and beyond in this interview.

Boy Talk #5: Peace with Your Preschooler 

Many a parent gets frustrated because their preschooler doesn’t listen to them! Christina offers these reasons:

  1. They need more information. They need some connection and understanding of what is going on.
  2. They need to release some stress. Their bodies are changing and developing rapidly. They are learning so much and there are so many expectations that sometimes they need to have a big release of energy.
  3. They have a basic need that is not being met. You’ve probably checked in on whether they’re hungry or tired, but they may be needing connection, attention, or autonomy.

Try this: Go to him. Take a moment to observe what he is doing. Is he just about to guide his horse over the bridge? Sit with him for a moment and acknowledge where he is, “Your horse is just about to get to the bridge. When he crosses the bridge then it will be time to tie him up and come to dinner.” Tom feels a connection with you. He feels seen by you. He will be much more likely to respond to your request now.

More wisdom from Christina on how to handle big emotions to how to create a ‘sanity saving’ sleep and meal routine.

Boy Talk #6: Jump Into a Book: Reading Tips & Recommendations

Our Holiday edition, this interview and Tool Kit is PACKED with great reading recommendations especially chosen for boys – by a mom/editor who KNOWS boys!  In addition to great titles, she includes these wise tips on how boys prefer to read:

Boys tend to stay in the “Listening” Stage of reading longer. They enjoy hearing the story and don’t necessarily want to be able to read it themselves.

Boys must relate to the central character and the story line in order to stay active and engaged with a book.

Boys tend to prefer short bits of text along with a picture, cartoon, or sketch.

Boys will tend to want to listen while he is doing something with his hands.


Boy Talk #7: Being HAPPY So You Can Raise HAPPY! 

Ever wonder how to balance it all?! We all do and Michelle has shared some practical wisdom in this interview including:

What to do AFTER we mess up…because we will!  We mess up. We judge ourselves – that we aren’t doing something right. We may just be focusing too much on the “Facebook world”… it looks so perfect but in reality, life is messy. At the end of the day, in the middle of that mess, the true testament is that commitment we make to return each and every moment.  We can do that by asking ourselves, “What is the next best choice I can make?”


Boy Talk #8: Tame the Screen Dragon!

Carolyn was worried – her boys were ‘checked out,’ not interacting with each other or with her, choosing screens over outside play – when she realized screens had become the default for everything in her son’s life, she committed to an “Electronics Fast.”  Wondering what electronic obsession looks like? Carolyn said:

• Screen-time trumped everything.

• No outside time.

• Reward for everything. “Let’s go to the park and then you can play with the i-pad.”

• Didn’t want to hang out with friends.

• Didn’t interact with each other.

• Meltdowns if they didn’t have them.

• Revved up but exhausted at the same time.

• Irritable moods.

Any of those sound familiar? Find out how this mom managed to reclaim her sons from the Screen Dragon.


Boy Talk #9: Australia’s Boy-Champion Maggie Dent Shares

Worlds apart but not so different after all. Maggie Dent raised 4 boys and shares her wisdom – both science based and ancient wisdom from Australia’s Aborigines, whom she grew up with. She discusses Resilience and gives the 10 BUILDING BLOCKS for resilient children, the foundational four shared here:

  1. Healthy pregnancy
  2. Quality nutrition – with lots of healthy fats and protein for your growing boy
  3. Nurturing care within the circle of the family especially in the first 5 years
  4. Plenty of play with things that have a heartbeat (yep, no technology)…

For the rest of these building blocks and the bedtime ritual that will have him expressing his love, check out Maggie’s lively conversation!


Boy Talk #10: How Do You Want to Feel Everyday?

LIFE advice from Heather, who DOES NOT mince words! She encourages us to WAKE UP to how we are parenting and create each and every day with that HOW informing our actions, which includes changing our Do-Do-Do list to our Be-Be-Be list.  With her Action and Clarity Challenge, she shows us how to get started by asking, “How do I want to feel every day?” “Are my actions in alignment with how I want to feel?”  Yes, as Heather says: “Parenting is personal growth on steroids!”  Let Heather show you the steps to get going in a positive direction in this conversation.


Boy Talk #11: Tweens and Teens

Tweens and teens present their own special stage of development, challenges, benefits, and stress… Howard tells us being a tween/teen is stressful for the child but also for the parent and the family! How will you handle all the changes coming at you so fast? Understanding the stage of development is the first step, teens are:

  • More reclusive, wanting more alone time
  • Challenging parenting and school authority
  • Choosing peer group over family
  • Developing their own identity
  • Experimenting with new thinking, ideas, and beliefs
  • Experimenting with drugs, risky behavior, and sexuality

How will you approach all these new dynamics? Howard offers reassurance along with practical strategies in this conversation.


Boy Talk #12: Reset Your Child’s Brain by Reversing the Effects of Screen-Time

Dr. Victoria Dunckley explains the symptoms of Electronic Screen Syndrome and gives the Four-Week Plan to remedy it. Do you or your child experience:

  • Melt-downs over minor frustrations?
  • Irritability when asked to get off of screens?
  • Increasing defiance or opposition?
  • Decrease in enjoyment of activities she/he used to enjoy?
  • A diagnosis (ADHD, anxiety) that doesn’t run in your family and doesn’t quite seem to fit?

Find out more about the effects of interactive screen-time on the brain, it’s addictive tendencies, and how to re-set your child’s brain – and re-claim your family, too!

Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain

Dr. Victoria Dunckley will be our guest on the next BOY TALK.  Save your seat for BOY TALK here.

Dr. Dunckley is the author of “Reset Your Child’s Brain, A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time.”

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She shares this article from Psychology Today:

“Taken together, [studies show] internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention, decision making, and cognitivecontrol.”  –research authors summarizing neuro-imaging findings in internet and gaming addiction (Lin & Zhou et al, 2012)

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 7.13.39 AMBut what about kids who aren’t “addicted” per se? Addiction aside, a much broader concern that begs awareness is the risk that screen time is creating subtle damage even in children with “regular” exposure, considering that the average child clocks in more than seven hours a day (Rideout 2010). As a practitioner, I observe that many of the children I see suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyperaroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what I call electronic screen syndrome. These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention—much like the description in the quote above describing damage seen in scans.

Although many parents have a nagging sense that they should do more to limit screen-time, they often question whether there’s enough evidence to justify yanking coveted devices, rationalize that it’s “part of our kids’ culture,” or worry that others—such as a spouse—will undermine their efforts. Digest the information below, even though it might feel uncomfortable, and arm yourself with the truth about the potential damage screen time is capable of imparting—particularly in a young, still-developing brain.

Brain scan research findings in screen addiction: 

Gray matter atrophy: Multiple studies have shown atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in gray matter areas (where “processing” occurs) in internet/gaming addiction (Zhou 2011Yuan 2011Weng 2013,and Weng 2012). Areas affected included the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, such as planning, planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control (“getting stuff done”). Volume loss was also seen in the striatum, which is involved in reward pathways and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses. A finding of particular concern was damage to an area known is the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behavior, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.

Compromised white matter integrity: Research has also demonstrated loss of integrity to the brain’s white matter (Lin 2012Yuan 2011Hong 2013 and Weng 2013). “Spotty” white matter translates into loss of communication within the brain, including connections to and from various lobes of the same hemisphere, links between the right and left hemispheres, and paths between higher (cognitive) and lower (emotional and survival) brain centers. White matter also connects networks from the brain to the body and vice versa. Interrupted connections may slow down signals, “short-circuit” them, or cause them to be erratic (“misfire”).

Reduced cortical thickness: Hong and colleagues found reduced cortical (the outermost part of the brain) thickness in internet-addicted teen boys (Hong 2013), and Yuan et al found reduced cortical thickness in the frontal lobe of online gaming addicts (late adolescent males and females) correlated with impairment of a cognitive task (Yuan 2013).

Impaired cognitive functioning: Imaging studies have found less efficient information processing and reduced impulse inhibition (Dong & Devito 2013), increased sensitivity to rewards and insensitivity to loss (Dong & Devito 2013), and abnormal spontaneous brain activity associated with poor task performance (Yuan 2011).

Cravings and impaired dopamine function: Research on video games have shown dopamine (implicated in reward processing and addiction) is released during gaming (Koepp 1998 and Kuhn 2011) and that craving or urges for gaming produces brain changes that are similar to drug cravings (Ko 2009Han 2011). Other findings in internet addiction include reduced numbers of dopamine receptors and transporters (Kim 2011and Hou 2012).

In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills. Use this research to strengthen your own parental position on screen management, and to convince others to do the same.

For more help on managing screen-time, visit

For more information on how the physiological effects of electronics translate into symptoms and dysfunction–as well as how to reverse such changes–see my new book, Reset Your Child’s Brain. 


See Original Article for References

Children and Anxiety

Our guest on BOY TALK this month is  Howard Hiton, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and passionate advocate for boys.

Howard shares this with us:

Supporting Children in an Age of Increasing Anxiety

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 5.20.37 AM

Remember the three C’s of managing anxiety:

Calm your body–Help your child notice the connection between anxiety and shallow, rapid breathing. Practice breath suspension and other breathing techniques. Spend time in nature. Explore mindfulness practices. Take a bath. Give your kids a massage. Exercise!

Correct your thinking-Consider the beliefs under your anxiety. We can help adolescents by helping them shift their negative thoughts (from: “this is going to be awful!” to: ”this will suck but I’ll be ok.”).

Confront your fears–Help your child face fears in a gradual, systematic way. Ultimately, they need to learn that they can handle and get through the uncomfortable feelings instead of avoiding them.

Control What You Can

  • Improve interpersonal effectiveness.
  • Create demand delays. It is not necessary to respond to every E-message right away.
  • Lower stimulation.
  • Take care of responsibilities and practice good self-care.

Accept What You Cannot Change

Sometimes it is best to accept your anxiety. Working to vanquish your anxious feelings may exacerbate them. Consider the spheres of influence and determine if you are spending too much time in the concern sphere. Help your children to do the same.

Consider Your Schedule

Is the busyness of your family life working?

How can you pace things to be more supportive?

Help your child to look ahead and break down assignments and prioritize them.

Keep perspective, stay objective and maintain connection.

Tease out the parts of the anxiety that are generic and those that are specific to your child.

Consider the world through your children’s eyes. Let your child have their feelings and take care of yours while still sympathizing and showing your children that they can handle their feelings.


Recommended Resources:

Faber, Adele and Mazlish, Elaine. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

Greene, Ross W. The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children

Kellner, Millicent. Staying in Control: Anger Management Skills for Parents of Young Adolescents

Payne, Kim John. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

Sapolsky, Robert. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

Wehrenberg, Margaret. The 10 Best -Ever Anxiety Management Techniques. The Insight Timer App from the App store

Copyright: Howard Hiton MS, LPC •

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On The Days I Don’t Want to Be ‘Conscious’

Introducing Heather Chauvin, who is our guest on April’s BOY TALK.

Save your seat here and join us for an engaging, no-holding-back conversation!

Heather recently wrote about coming home to a quiet house (she has 3 boys) and MAKING A CONSCIOUS DECISION about what to do next… Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 12.22.23 PM

I walked into the house after dropping all three kids off at their Grandparents for Taco Tuesday. This is the night where my husband and I get 3 hours of ‘hello’ time. Where we can have a conversation in our home without interruptions. Eat dinner in silence.

I had 60 minutes until my husband got home.

My mind automatically wanted to lay down, but not because I was tired.

Sleep is my ‘go to’ place. It has been since I was a teen, just as facebook or pinterest might be yours. Our mind’s way of ‘distracting’ us from how we really want to feel.

I had a choice. I could feel it.

I stopped and asked myself, “Heather, how do you want to feel?”

I live my life in alignment with how I want to feel.

I parent in alignment with how I want to feel (and how I would want to feel as a child).

And taking a nap for me on that day was NOT in alignment with my highest good. So I said no to the nap.

I turned on some music.

I put some of my favorite oils in my diffuser.

I made myself a warm cup of tea and I journalled.

I put on some running shoes and I went for a short run.

I made a choice. I said NO to my Go To place. I took my power back. I felt in control.

The tempting place inside all of us that tries so hard to keep us safe (and small).

The silent whisper that can be felt on a cellular level.

Stop listening to THAT voice and start listening to your TRUTH.

I’m writing today to SHOW you change is possible.

And you might not know where to start and that’s OK.

It’s not about rush, rush, rushing to this appointment and that appointment.

It’s about FIRST getting clear on the life you actually WANT to live.

The parent you WANT to be.

Once you’re clear on what you want, then you can take action towards that life.

You can get the APPROPRIATE support that you need in order to become that person for yourself and your child.

The only things getting in the way of the person you want to become and the life you’re living now — is your ability to make a choice.

Choose to take one small step in the direction of how you want to feel.

Check out all of Heather’s resources here.

Save your seat for BOY TALK here.

Boy Talk #8: Taming Screens

Guest Mom and Turn the Tide Parenting Coach Carolyn Colbert joined us for a recent BOY TALK interview. She reveals WHY she decided to take on the media/screen dragon and how she tamed it and brought sanity back to her family!

To save your seat for future BOY TALKs, go here.

Carolyn describes the beginning of her journey:


Have you ever read an article that seemed to jump off the page at you? As if the author has a sneak peek into your life and is speaking to you directly??

I was quickly scrolling through Facebook and stopped in my tracks when the title of a Psychology Today piece seemed to speak to me. Not with a whisper, or a tap, but a 2×4 over the head.Angry boy blowing steam

Written by psychiatrist Victoria Dunckley about the use of electronics:Screentime Is Making Kids Moody, Crazy, and Lazy; 6 Ways electronic screen time makes kids angry, depressed and unmotivated.

My interest turned to concern when I read “Children who are revved up and prone to rages, or (alternatively) apathetic have become disturbingly commonplace. Chronically irritable children are often in a state of abnormally high arousal, and may seem “wired and tired.” That is, they’re agitated but exhausted.”

Hmmmm…sounds familiar.

“Because chronically high arousal levels impact memory and the ability to relate, these kids are also likely to struggle academically and socially. At some point, a child with these symptoms may be given a mental-health diagnosis such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or ADHD, and offered corresponding treatments, including therapy and medication. But often these treatments don’t work very well, and the downward spiral continues.”

My son’s kindergarten teacher mentioned ‘sensory disorder’ during our year-end conference, and we had tried a couple of programs to manage his “restlessness” with limited success. We even had an appointment with a child psychologist to get a formal diagnosis before entering first grade.

I ordered Dunckley’s book Reset Your Child’s Brain and read it in two nights (skipping the sections on teens). After checking nearly every box in the “problem areas of dysfunction & distress table”, I decided to implement her four-week plan, with the promise to “end meltdowns, raise grades, and boost social skills by reversing the effects of electronic screen-time”. An electronic fast to “allow the nervous system to reset.”

This is going to be a wild ride. I’m bracing myself for the worst. The next blog entries will be a daily account of our lives during the fast.
Grab a glass of wine and a front row seat to chaos. ?

Read the rest of Carolyn’s journey at her blog:



Boy Talk #7: We are the Mothers of Our Own Re-Invention

Guest author Michelle Ghilotti of Michelle Ghilotti, International shares her thoughts on having a happy life, so you can RAISE happiness, too. Michelle and I have known each other for years and I’m so happy to introduce you to her and her empowering work.
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She was our guest on BOY TALK  – save your seat for future BOY TALKs here.

From Michelle:


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Are we ever…the Mothers of our own re-invention.

As Mothers and generally as women, we are inherently creative. To that end, we are not only powerful enough to create and birth life but birth our own re-inventions, sometimes over and over and over again.

Think back on your life…you’ve done that.

We are so much more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. And it’s this power that grows exponentially when we feel supported and receive as much as we give.

I feel strongly about asking for what we need and want. How else do we move forward? We can do a lot but we can’t do it all ourselves. As with many of us, however, I learned to ask for what I need, in business / life through a process of discovery (trips/falls/bumps/bruises).

We must ask for what we want in order to continue moving forward toward the highest version of ourselves.

Think of what’s burning in you to create, change or birth? What is the highest version of your business and why haven’t you done it yet?

What could you ask for that would allow you to step into that vision gracefully?

Everything else is already inside of you.

It’s our birthright to be fully-expressed, to create and re-invent ourselves to increase our happiness.

If you need support, seize it. There are loads of coaches and support out there.

If what’s holding you back is confidence or a wall of fear…jump. (the only remedy I’ve found for jump-starting this re-invention process!). I wouldn’t have gotten much done up to this point without jumping (no net).

In the writing of the how to be a Walking Momtra™ book, this theme comes up again and again. I believe this ‘failure en route’ to goals is an empowering theme to also be sharing with our little ones. It’s empowering in its realism.

Tips for re-invention:

• Jump

• Get support

• Realize “failure en-route to your goals” is realistic and only makes you stronger for when you finally get there.

• And, as I always say, start today. Whether it’s a micro-movement (a call or email to get a ball rolling), do it. Put yourself in the game.

Your happiness awaits on the other side.

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This illustration I created with the help of an illustrator commemorates the reverence I have for change and re-invention. In ten years of business, I’ve lived in six different cities and three different countries. I’ve started a business, grown that business, changed the business, had a baby overseas, started anew many times after that, began writing a book and generally have put myself out there in more ways than I sometimes give myself credit for.

Life is good.

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Boy Talk #7: Four Tips to Your Yes

Guest author Michelle Ghilotti of Michelle Ghilotti, International shares her thoughts on having a happy life, so you can RAISE happiness, too. Michelle and I have known each other for years and I’m so happy to introduce you to her and her empowering work.
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She’ll be our guest on BOY TALK this month – save your seat here.

From Michelle:


Ode to you, Creative Heroine…

As a creative woman, I know you want the yes you give in life and business to be an oaky, full-bodied YES.

In fact, you live for the oaky, full-bodied YES. (me too)

As my bookHow to Be a Walking Momtrasays, “Focus on your happiness so you can RAISE happiness.”

Life ticks in a beautiful way if we give the full-bodied YES to Self first.

Throughout the last 14 years in business for myself as well as the last 9.5 years as a mother, giving from this “overflow” is where my greatest happiness and success have come from (sure, there are other contributing factors to happiness and success, however, in keeping myself full or “filled up”, I’ve primed my internal environment to be able to give to the degree I lo-hove to give to others).

It’s this generosity of spirit that has grown my brand and contributed greatly to the equilibrium in my family life.

In short, we are able to contribute to the joy and success of others in a greater way by making sure our cups runneth over…

Personally, I can be a better Mom, Branding and Success Coach (to name just a couple of my titles) by being more in tune with what my body, mind and spirit need to be able to give and give greatly.

When we give to Self first, things feel different, work better and the quality of how we perceive EVERYTHING softens and is enriched.

Everything falls into place.

When we give from the overflowing cup vs. the cup desperate and thirsty for a few drops of tea or water, we are able to affect our brands, businesses, children and other important relationships in a way that truly stretches everyone’s happiness.

Everyone wins when you win.

It’s worth a more consistent try, well, let’s call it a more consistent DO.

How to Give the Oaky, Full-Bodied YES to Self First

1. Make it a must. Make YOU a must.

2. Make this your mantra: I focus on my happiness so I can RAISE happiness (in my family, community and world). Repeat this at least 3x every morning or when you most need it.

3. Clear your weekly calendar of the people or projects that are depleting you. Find that space, that clearing, for what you truly need and love.

4. Start doing the things each week and specifically each morning that truly fill you (you and only you). How we start our day and our week is likely how we end it, so start by diving deeper into you first thing: take the hike, hit that early morning yoga class or do that 10 minutes of meditation. And, if the early morning hours prove to be too difficult, no problem, no need to go into overwhelm. Create time for you each day during the block that serves your life (the important thing is that it happens). How will you savor life (and give to Self) each and every day? What will those ten minutes or hour be filled with?

To your week of the oaky, full-bodied YES. Cheers.

Life is good,
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She’ll be our guest on BOY TALK this month – save your seat here.

Boy Talk #7: Creative Heroine, You

Guest author Michelle Ghilotti of Michelle Ghilotti, International shares her thoughts on having a happy life, so you can RAISE happiness, too. Michelle and I have known each other for years and I’m so happy to introduce you to her and her empowering work.
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She’ll be our guest on BOY TALK this month – save your seat here.

From Michelle:
If you’re a mom, entrepreneur, writer, artist, creator or human, read on…

Everyday leadership.

Creativity is all about moving from problem to solution ~ and more quickly each time ~ so we may express more of who we truly are and *have* within.

In fact, everyday leadership and creativity are *both* about that; expressing who we know ourselves to be on a daily basis regardless if “everyone” likes it, if Facebook is used *for* it or if it’s what is en vogue with family or your industry…

Leadership and creativity don’t care about any of that. They care that you’re interested, really flipping interested in what you’re saying, doing and showing, not at all if you’re interestING. It cares not at ALL that you’re interesting.

Everyday leadership is about creating what we want to be a part of, and all regardless of what life, work, motherhood, romance or health, like that loyal feline, has brought to your doorstep to play with lately.

It’s about being a part of things such as resilience, authentic elegance, understanding, community, empathy, love and the simplest of joys…
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Though we forget sometimes that evolution bred creativity (and all things like it) into all of humanity, we’re all creative heroines. We are each leaders, leading not from the front lines necessarily, but from within, especially from within. A Creative Heroine and Loving Leader leads from the unique light that burns and burns like the midnight oil. The Light, who knows that being broken open, and sometimes over and over again, is exactly where her greatest talents comes from.

We do all of this, we move from problem to solution, exercise our creativity and lead by doing one thing over and over again: loving ourselves. We find ways, strategies, “tools”, we sometimes call them, mantras, bathtubs, gratitude practices, walks, love, runs, mediation, yoga, music and poetry more every day, maybe, so we’re able to waltz to the other side of us with agility, grace.

Pain is human but suffering is optional. I understand it more now than ever. And when I forget, I mantra, bathtub, practice gratitude, walk, love someone hard, run, meditate, yoga, play music, read or write poetry, some more.

Leaders, similar to the creative inside you, don’t don’t dwell, they decide. Creators, like leaders, don’t dance around the subject, they jump straight inside it, so they can more quickly swim out from under it. They keep moving forward because that’s what they keep realizing life is about ~ being part of the solution and not the problem.

You are a Creative Heroine and you will continue to create in life what you want to be a part of. It’s empowering and true. Feels good to hear, I hope. Each day is a clean slate to set into motion what you want and want to be known for and a part of, to expand, to be set free…

Paige Bradley, a sculptor I adore, does some of the most gorgeous work I’ve ever seen and felt. One of her pieces called Expansion shares who I believe the Creative Heroine is and of what letting the light within lead looks like. Of problem to soulful solution. Of you.

When you lay your head down tonight think of this ~> of the creativity and ability you have to lead your life (and in the process, without even really trying, helping many others do the same). Think of all that your light represents. Ask yourself, if I hadn’t experienced this, felt that or loved him/ her, would I be able to illuminate or decorate my life in the same way that I’m able to today?

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Boy Talk #6: If you like Percy Jackson, Read This!

By Guest Author Valarie Budayr, Founder of Jump into a Book

Maybe you’re in the same boat as we are.
We’ve finished all of the Percy Jackson books…now what do we read?
We want more Rick Riordan!

Or perhaps you have an ‘aging’ reader?
Our son is now in high school.
Percy Jackson was such an epic event in his younger years that he is continually searching for books that “grab” him just like Percy Jackson did.
So what does on do after Percy?

First, I suggest The Lost Hero Series which is Percy Jackson-related AND is also written by Rick Riordan.

Percy Jackson Lost Heros

Still needing a little bit more Percy Jackson ? Here are two great big favorite books from our favorite demi-god Percy Jackson.

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods

Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes

Opercy Jacks's Greek Heroes

Another favorite Rick Riordan series is his Red Pyramid Trilogy. We just loved it!

Rick Riordan

Now as we wait for the latest new series from Rick Riordan, on Norse Myths this time. Magnus Chase will be out in October.

Magnus Chase

Until then, here are a few Books Like Percy Jackson for grades 6 and above, covering a wide range of ages and interests. They are ALL series! Happy Reading!

books like Percy Jackson

The Lost Years of Merlin Series by T. A. Barron

Books like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

A young boy with no memory or identity emerges from the sea…and discovers his destiny as the most legendary wizard ever to live. (Grades 6-8)

The Goddess War Series by Kendare Blake

books like Percy JacksonBooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

Goddess Wars Series. Athena and Hermes’ search for the cause of their illnesses leads them to Cassandra who may be key to a war started by Hera and other Olympians who have become corrupt anti-gods determined to destroy their rivals.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

books like Percy Jackson

A twelve-year-old criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl, brings the fairy folk to their knees when he kidnaps one of their own. (Grades 6-8)

(Grades 7-9+)

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

books like Percy jackson

Three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful Gorgon maligned in myth, must reunite and embrace their fates. (Grades 9+)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

books like Percy Jackson

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. (Grade 7 +)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

books like Percy Jackson

Outside the safety of the Glade lies an enormous maze, populated by nightmarish perversions of technology. (Grades 6-10)

The Mortality Doctrine Series by James Dashner

books like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

Mortality Doctrine series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares. (Grades 7+)

City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau

books like Percy Jackson

Books of Ember Series. Lina & Doon must fulfill the prophecy and help everyone in town survive. So what if the townspeople are all trying to kill them? (Grades (8-9+)

Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

books like Percy Jackson

If Jack’s sister had just stayed quiet, they wouldn’t have been captured by Vikings. Little sisters can be so annoying! (Grades 6-9+)

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

books like Percy Jackson

Flinn has lived his entire life inside the gigantic prison known as ‘Incarceron.’ Escape seems impossible…until he meets Claudia, who is trapped in the 17th century by a computer.
(Grades 7-9+)

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

books like Percy jackson

Ranger’s Apprentice Series. 15-year-old Will joins the magic wielding rangers to battle against an evil warlord. (Grades 6-8)

The Paladin Prophecy series by Mark Frost

books like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

A boy who has spent his entire life trying to avoid attention finds himself in the middle of a struggle between titanic forces when he is recruited by an exclusive prep school and followed by sinister agents. (Grades 7+)

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

books like Percy Jackson

Welcome to the Mirrorworld, where the darkest parts of your favorite fairytales are a chilling reality! (Grades 7-10)

Tunnels By Roderick Gordon

books by Percy Jackson

The Colony” has existed unchanged for a century, but it’s no benign time capsule of a bygone era— it is ruled by a cult like overclass, the Styx. And before long—before he can find his father—Will is their prisoner…. (Grades 6-9)

Runemark by Joanne Harris

books like Percy Jackson

In Maddy Smith’s world, order rules. Chaos, old gods, faeries, magic–all of these were supposedly vanquished centuries ago. But Maddy knows that a small bit of magic has survived. (Grades 7+)

Raven’s Gate by Anthony Horowitz

books like Percy Jackson

The Gatekeepers Series. When Matt gets into trouble one time too many, he is sent to live in a far-away village. Is he the only one who can see the evil below the surface? (Grades 8+)

Talon by Julie Kagawa

books like Percy Jackson

Dragons exist and Ember is one of them. Trained to infiltrate the humans, she just wants to have fun in her final summer of freedom before joining the Talon, but destiny has another thing in store for her. (Grades 9+)

Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy

books like Percy Jackson

Skulduggery Pleasant Series. When twelve-year-old Stephanie inherits her weird uncle’s estate, she must join forces with Skulduggery Pleasant, a skeleton mage, to save the world from the Faceless Ones. (Grades 6-8)

The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis

books like Percy Jackson

Seven Wonders Series. Seven pieces of power from Atlantis that disappeared long ago. Cass, Jack, Marco and Aly depend on them to save their lives. (Grades 6-9)

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

books like Percy Jackson

Adelina survived the blood fever, an illness that killed many, but left others with strange supernatural powers. Cast out by her family, she joins a secret society called the Young Elites and discovers her own dangerous abilities. (Grades 8+)

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

books like Percy jackson

When the apothecary is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the sacred
Pharmacopoeia in order to find him and save the world. (Grades 6-8)

A World without Heroes by Brandon Mull

books like Percy jackson

Beyonders Series. Jason and Rachel are pulled into the mysterious, troubled realm of Lyrian. All they want to do is get back to their own world, but they may have to stop evil wizard emperor Surroth first. (Grades 6-8)

Mark of the Thief by Jennifer Nielsen

books by Percy Jackson

When slave-boy Nic is forced to enter a cavern containing lost treasures, he discovers an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods — magic some Romans would kill for. (Grades 6-9)

Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

books like Percy Jackson

Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series. Three guys become owners of the Imaginarium Geographica and open mystical worlds. (Grades 8+)

Divergent by Veronica Roth

books like Percy Jackson

One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous. (Grade 9+)

Magyk by Angie Sage

books like Percy Jackson

Lost as a child, Septimus Heap must reunite with his true family & learn the magyk arts.
(Grades 6-8)

The Alchemist by Michael Scott

books like Percy Jackson

The Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel Series. Two teens are caught up in a battle between ancient alchemists looking for the secret of immortality. (Grades 6-9)

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

books like Percy Jackson

‘The Grimm Fairytales were just stories,’ or so Elizabeth thinks, until she discovers that some of the more famous and magical objects are very, very real! (Grades 6-9)

I.Q. by Roland Smith

books like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jacksonbooks like Percy Jackson

Q and Angela have rock star parents who may know more about the dangerous world of spies and terrorists than they let on… (Grades 6-8)

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

books like Percy Jackson

The Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened… where they train you to be a criminal mastermind. (Grades 6-9)

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

books like Percy Jackson

The Bartimaeus Trilogy. When young magician Nathaniel summons the ancient, powerful, and mischevious djinni Bartimaeus, he gets more than he bargained for! (Grades 6-9)

The Shadow Thief by Anne Ursu

books like Percy Jackson

Cronus Chronicles Trilogy. Charlotte sneaks into battle with a Greek demigod, then gets grounded for it. Still she continues on to fight the malevolent forces of the under-world. Charlotte’s life is tough! (Grades 7-9)

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

World War I is waged between the ‘Darwinists,’ with their fantastic genetically-altered creatures, and the ‘Clankers,’ who pilot giant robots. Aleksander and Deryn are caught in the middle! (Grades 7+)

See any good titles here? Any favorites? Any on your “must read” list? Please share in the comments below!

Best Wishes,
Valarie Budayr

P.S. Some of these links are affiliate links.


Valarie was recently our guest on BOY TALK. Save your seat for future BOY TALK Conversations here.
Missed one? You can download past BOY TALKS, along with a Tool Kit of tips and resources, for a small ticket price – see the full catalog here.

Click here for the Boys Alive! Free Report – “Living with Boys: How to Cope and Connect – HIS Way”

Boy Talk #6: Haunted Histories – Jump Into a Book

Guest Post by Valarie Budayr of Jump Into a Book

Do your kids like ghosts and the idea of a place being haunted?
My kids go through phases on this one and so I pick their scary, ghost type books carefully.

My first goal is to grab something that will have them turning the pages, Haunted Histories: Creepy Castles, Dark Dungeons, and Powerful Palaces ! is such a book. Even the most reluctant reader will embrace this fun book by Marilyn Scott Waters and J.H. Everett.

“Sure to lure reluctant readers.” —School Library Journal

“Reluctant historians may find Virgil’s ghost story appealing.” —Kirkus Reviews

Haunted Histories

Virgil is my new favorite Ghostorian. Taking us on a time tour, Virgil introduces us to the incredible world of castles, dungeons , and palaces. Included are amazing facts of resident ghosts, timely traditions such as how are castles really built, what are the best means of torture, and what are palaces really for as well as having a look at life as a working child and a few grave yard tips.

Happily, this book is creepy but not scary. A perfect read for boys especially ages 8-12, girls will like it, too. This is one of those books which boys will absolutely love!

Excerpt From The Book:

Some kids think that castles in the old days were pink and filled with princesses and ponies. Guess what? Life back then was no fairy tale. I know ghosts who can prove it.

Filled with great amounts of history told in a very entertaining way. I adored this book and we read it in one sitting. I can always tell when a book is a big hit at our house because it just sort of floats from one person’s room to another. And you can hear questions such as; “are you through with that yet?” and “when will you be done?”

About The Authors

JH Everett

J.H. Everett :J.H. Everett is an artist, visual storyteller, writer, and creativity expert. He is currently Senior Partner of EverWitt Productions, LLC. A multimedia studio in Encinitas, CA. J.H. thinks his official title should be “get’s paid to have more fun than he should be allowed to have.” Read more about J.H HERE.



Marilyn Scott Water

Marilyn Scott Waters: Marilyn Scott-Waters loves making things out of paper. Her popular website,, receives 2,000 to 7,000 visitors each day, who have downloaded more than six million of her easy-to-make paper toys. Her goal is to help parents and children spend time together making things. Her first self published book, The Toymaker: Paper Toys That You Can Make Yourself, was a best-selling paper toy book on, sold out two print runs, and was picked up as a series by Sterling Publishing in 2010.



Haunted Histories: “Haunted Histories came out of my desire to help kids experience history closer to the approach and point of view of a professional historian,” says J.H. Everett, who himself has a PhD in history, apart from being a multi-media artist. “History is not just one thing after another in a textbook or dates in a timeline. It is connections, mutations, accidents, trivialities, and everyday life. In short, history is messy. History is about people…History is fun!”

Not only does the book have a great deal of fun embedded in its pages and its images, however, this book also aims to talk up to kids. “The most important thing was to write the best possible book that we could for kids,” says Co-Author/Co-illustrator, Marilyn Scott-Waters, “children deserve our best and highest work.”


Something’s To Do


In the back of Haunted Histories is a timeline. We used this as a gauge as to what was happening in the castles, dungeons , and palaces. Using a continuous strip of paper we placed dates and events. Since this timeline focus’ on buildings, we looked up each castle, dungeon, and palace online and printed out a photo to paste onto our timeline. We also took a moment to read more about each place. The following places were investigated for our timeline.

  • Himeji Castle
  • Krak Chevaliers
  • Tower of London
  • Newgate Prison
  • Castle Neuschwanstein
  • the Bastille
  • Hampton Court
  • Hellbrun
  • Jag Mandir



How about a little castle-creating fun? Here’s a fun craft from InCreations


Cardboard Fort with Escape Chute from What I Made.


Haunted Histories gives us loads of ideas on how to attack a castle. For us, the best way is to use a trebuchet. Here’s a fun and easy design made out of popsicle sticks which will have those castle walls coming down quickly….. or at least in our imaginations they will. For throwing purposes we use marshmallows or cotton balls.

How to Make a Popsicle Stick Catapult


Go To Jail

In the French prison called the Bastille, telling a bad joke could land you in prison plus some not so nice punishments. Gather your family and friends. Everyone is to bring a large collection of jokes. Divide into two teams, toss a coin to see which team goes first, and then start telling those jokes. After each joke is told, those that don’t get laughed at will land the joke teller in “jail”, that is until his team-mate gets a laugh to get him or her out. Remember to try not to laugh, no matter how funny the joke is. :) Good luck with this one. We are a bunch of corn balls that laugh at just about anything, especially really, really stupid jokes. The stupider the better.

Some fun and clean joke sites for kids

101 Kidz Jokes Great and plentiful animal jokes on this one.

Az Kids Net: -Knock-Knock Jokes

Scatty: See if you name has it’s own knock-knock joke. There are literally thousands of great jokes on this site.

What is Gruel ?


I’ve always wanted to know and now Haunted Histories has ended that mystery for us. In work houses and in cruel boarding schools, gruel was served as the one meal of the day. Gruel is a water downed version of porridge made with any grain that was on hand, for example, Rye, wheat, corn, etc., also known as groats. Groats is a combination of grains. For those of you who are really brave here’s our best gruel recipe.

1 tablespoon of groats or oatmeal
2 tablespoons of cold water
1 pint of boiling water

Cooking Instructions
First put the oats, together with the cold water, into a saucepan and mix together until smooth. Then, over this, stirring all the time, pour one pint of boiling water. Now stirring frequently boil for 10 minutes. Serve.

P.S. : If this is a bit too thin for you add more groats or forget this whole idea and make oatmeal.


Create a Coat of Arms: Here is a great site which shares a wonderful wealth of information about the symbols and messages used in a coat of arms. It also provided free templates and other activities to do with your newly designed Coat of Arms.

Things to Do with your Coat of Arms:

  • Create a shield
  • Make a flag to hang from your castle or front door of your home
  • Place it on a sweat shirt or Tee Shirt
  • Make a badge to place on your back-pack

Test Your Haunted Histories Knowledge

Here are some super cool trivia cards made by the creators of Haunted Histories. The online versions are animated but you can print them out as well.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the world of Haunted Histories. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below or share your photos with us on the Jump into a Book Facebook Fan Page.

Best wishes,
Valarie Budayr


Valarie was recently our guest on BOY TALK. Save your seat for future BOY TALK Conversations here.
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