Whiz Kids Day Camp still has openings

By Karen DeBolt | 15th Jul 2011 | Filed under School help, Social Skills

Dear Parents,

Hope your Summer is going great so far! We have been busier than one arm wallpaper hangers around here. Both Kristin and I have been putting together some great activities and other fun surprises for Whiz Kid Day Camp coming up this August. This will be our third day camp for Boys August 1st to 5th and our very first camp for girls only August 15th to 19th! I have done girls groups with other organizations through the years, and I’m excited to be able to bring this to our kids.

That being said, we still have room in both camps! There are two spots in the boys camp and four spots in the girls camp. So if you have been thinking about but aren’t sure if it is right for your family, then email or give me a call and lets talk it over.

These camps are for kids 7-12 years who struggle with social skills. All the details are on the website:


or just give me a call at 503-459-2073 and ask me anything.

All the best to you and your family,

Karen DeBolt, MA
Camp Director



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Defying Defiance

By Karen DeBolt | 14th Jun 2011 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Relationships, School help, Social Skills, Techniques

With the end of the school year drawing to a close, I have been getting lots of parents contacting me regarding their child’s defiance at school. Sometimes this is an ongoing problem, but often it seems to be escalating now or coming up for the first time. This doesn’t really surprise me. Defiance in children is often misunderstood as being about “willful disobedience” or about “trying to drive authority figures crazy” when that is very often not even close to what is going on in the child’s mind.

Allie (not a real child) is a bright and talented 9 year old who is often found starring out the window in the classroom and spinning in fast circles on the playground. Allie often struggles with back talking at home, but does usually doesn’t make a lot of waves at school. This week Allie began to refuse to do things that her teacher or playground attendants requested. She refused to come in from recess with the other children and had to be escorted back to the classroom, then she refused to work on the year end review worksheets that the teacher asked her to do.

What’s going on? 

Allie’s mom and dad were confused about why all the sudden Allie was having trouble at school and they worried that this would carry over to the new school year as well. In the moment, Allie would only answer an informative “I don’t know” with a frown and a shrug when asked about her behavior. Her teachers and parents were very concerned.

Putting on your detective hat 

Defiance can be somewhat complex to untangle at times because the causes are rarely what the adults in the child’s life might think. I find that the most helpful way to think about it is that the child is doing the best that she can in the moment, but is feeling too overwhelmed to do what is asked. This overwhelm can be caused by a myriad of things. Here are some ideas of things your child might say or do to give you some clues.

Anxiety/Perfectionism: “I don’t know how!” “I can’t do it right.” “Its too hard.” “You do it.” “I can’t do it without <the certain color crayon or other supply>”

Sensory Overload: “Its <too loud>, <smells bad>, <that this tag hurts>” Child may hold ears or nose or other sensing organ for protection. Child may bang head, bang into walls(sensory seeking), may shut down, flap hands, or stiffen fingers (sensory defensive)

Emotional: “She did it on purpose!” Uncontrolled emotional outbursts of crying or yelling over things that seem small to others. Holding onto grudges.

Social Skills: May not recognize authority of teachers, parents, etc. Might be upset over a perceived slight or even a righteous bullying experience. Only sees her own point of view and cannot understand another person’s point of view.

Executive functioning: May be overwhelmed with other responsibilities or perceived responsibilities and unable to properly prioritize.

These will hopefully give you some places to start in exploring with your child her reasons for not doing what she has been told to do. As your child becomes more self aware and better able to communicate her needs she will be able to express her reasons for refusing so that problem solving will become easier for both of you. The key is to ask with empathy so that she more likely to communicate with you and then you can begin problem solving.

Now what? 

Once Allie’s parents were able to have calm information gathering session with Allie they found out a few things that they did not know before. Allie had problems with some girls on the playground and she was very upset about that situation, so that is why she was refusing to come in from the playground and return to class where those girls were. Allie’s parents informed the teacher who did some work with Allie and these girls to help them work out their problems.

So Allie was getting hit from many sides at once which went a long way towards her “defiance.” Allie was having strong emotions regarding the problem with her classmates on the playground. Allie was also feeling that she was not able to do the work in the class room perfectly due to her upset, so she refused to do that as well.

Can you see how punishing Allie for “defiance” would not be helpful in changing her behavior? Through understanding and problem solving, you will be able to help your child to learn how to communicate her needs and problem solve rather than just shutting down and yelling “NO!”

This will take some work, but in the long run you will have a stronger relationship with your child and your child will become skilled at problem solving and self advocating which is bound to build self esteem as well.


Its a big win for both of you!


Sounds great? or think I’m all wet? Let me know by leaving a comment.




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Cure impulsivity with pickles

By Karen DeBolt | 30th Mar 2011 | Filed under Parenting, School help, Social Skills, Techniques

The young hunter notices movement in the brush and immediately goes after the game that made the movement. This is a person who is most likely to bring home food for his family that day. That quick acting movement without a lot of thinking or planning made him successful, and chances are, he was a leader in his tribe as well.

So take those very sought after and helpful traits and put them into today’s world, and it gets a lot more complicated–especially for kids. Noticing every movement through out the room, hearing the smallest whisper, immediately blurting out an answer or getting out of your seat to go after something without asking first. This is a recipe for big problems for a child in school. He will not be seen as a leader, sadly, but as a behavior problem.

Impulsivity is driven by the emotional centers of our brain. So it follows that having trouble with tolerating frustration also will cause more impulsive behaviors. That feeling of “I want that” is strong and so the impulse to grab it is strong as well. Afterwards, when the rational mind catches up then it might actually feel bad for grabbing something from another child’s hands or putting something in a pocket that doesn’t belong to you. Then the impulse for self-preservation kicks in because the trouble is about to start! All of this behavior is driven by emotion and not by rational logical thought.

So how do we get our kids who struggle with impulsivity to slow down and let their rational brains make a more reasoned choice?

Make up a funny word

So I’m laying in bed the other morning thinking about this very topic. I could imagine myself saying some kind of funny word like “Pickle” or something as a way to slow down the action and engage rational thinking. The laughter would disrupt the “I want” emotion.

Then I thought of “Pecadillo!” which is a funny kind of word and means mistake. I thought about how easy it would be to mispronounce that word on purpose. I realized that this would work even better because then the kids would be laughing at my silly mispronunciation and correcting me which would also slow down that impulse.

That would give me the opportunity to use specific praise to say, “Thank you so much for helping me out, and I notice that you made a great choice to stop what you were doing there. Way to GO!” (high five)

So by using their own natural tendency to laugh at silly sounding words and to want to correct things that don’t sound right, you can help your kid to begin to slow down and think about things. Over time, they will be able to slow their own impulses, but until then you can help them to strengthen those muscles.

So go talk to your kids and have them come up with some funny words that you can all use to slow the action and take a laughter break. What funny words did your family come up with?

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Organizing for better grades

By Karen DeBolt | 7th Nov 2010 | Filed under School help

School is in full swing now. The honeymoon is long over, and by now you are starting to get reports from your child’s teacher that homework is not turned in or his backpack looks like a bomb went off in it or maybe that big project or paper was not completed because you didn’t know about it until 10 minutes before bedtime the night before it was due. To top it all off, he has lost two jackets, a lunchbox, and who knows how many take home papers. Sound familiar?

Organization is not something that comes naturally to everyone. Kids who are chronically disorganized may be getting lower grades that are not because they are not smart or don’t know the material, but because they never turned in the homework or waited until that last second to slam something together.

Some ideas that I have come up with lately for coaching clients:

To help children with their routine at the end of their school day, create a luggage tag with a listing of all the items that your child needs to bring home and put it on the backpack. For example, the list might say Jacket, Lunchbox, and library books. You could also have different versions that remind the child about where to go if his schedule changes from day to day. So you could have a tag that says “Bus Day” or “Meet Grandpa at the curb” or “Go to after school care” A visual reminder like this means that your child only has to remember one thing: look at the tag. For some kids this will be challenging enough! Notice each time that he or she remembers to check the tag, then at the end of the week earn a fun activity with you or a prize from your prize box.

If take home papers are not making it home or signed papers are not making it to school, then it is time to create a new system. Two ideas might be a clear sleeve in the binder for each subject which would hold homework or signed papers home and would also hold papers to come home. Open the binder and there’s the clear sleeve to remind your child to do something with whatever is inside. Alternatively, a folder with two pockets—one side for home and one side for school which is used for all subjects.

For even more ideas, I highly recommend the book Organizing the disorganized child: Simple strategies to succeed in school by Martin L. Kutscher and Marcella Moran. They have a quiz where you can learn your child’s organizational style, and then they give ideas for working with each style. So you know which is the best backpack, binder, planner, etc for your child’s particular organizing style. Its a quick read and very worthwhile. Check it out here

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