Happily Chatty Toddlers Who Start to Stutter


It’s terribly worrying, but not at all uncommon, for children who start talking early to experience a period of stuttering sometime between 18 months and 4 years of age. It can start all at once, and usually ends just as quickly a few days, weeks, or months later.

What’s Happening?

With some toddlers, the stuttering (also called stammering) is mild—a few f-f-f-false starts every few sentences. With others, it’s more severe, happening in most sentences, preventing effective communication, and leading to the child’s speaking less frequently.

Some little ones show signs of anxiety about the stuttering, blinking their eyes rapidly, raising the pitch of the voice, or looking worried. Being tired, excited, worried, angry, or upset usually makes stuttering worse.

For little ones with very active brains, their thoughts and ideas can be racing ahead of their physical ability to make the words. Or as one mom wrote, “Intelligent kids’ brains work better than their mouths.”

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, stuttering occurs in five to ten percent of all children, most of whom outgrow it. It can occur when a toddler’s desire to speak exceeds their speech and language abilities. When this happens, toddlers can begin to stutter until their spoken language skills have caught up.

And as speech-language pathologist Patricia McAleer-Hamaguchi wrote, “When your child is in the midst of a great jump in his language skills, it’s natural he should have difficulty putting his sentences together in a fluent way. His brain is like a computer, desperately trying to pull up the right words in the right order. While the computer is searching, his mouth may go into a pause (translated: repeat) mode.”

When a child who’s previously been happily chatty begins to stutter, many parents blame themselves or worry about other aspects of the child’s life. If that’s you, stop looking for someone or something to blame. Stuttering in toddlers is very rarely caused by environmental stressors. Instead, it is usually a transient phase in the development of language skills. The child who was previously a great talker will most probably become that again before too long.

What You Can Do if Your Toddler Stutters

  1. Wait and see. Because many children go through a stuttering phase while learning to talk, most experts recommend waiting until your child is 3 before taking action.
  2. Be patient and listen. When your child stumbles in trying to talk, maintain normal eye contact and wait calmly for them to finish. Don’t provide words or finish their sentences. If you’re not available to talk, let them know when you’ll have time, and then follow through.
  3. Avoid advice like taking a deep breath, slowing down, or starting over. You don’t want to feed the problem by increasing your toddler’s self-consciousness.
  1. Channel Mr Rogers. Talk to your child in soft, slow, relaxed tones. If you speak quickly, your child may rush to keep up with you.
  2. Smile your encouragement. Keep a pleasant, relaxed expression on your face when your child is talking.
  3. Repeat the sentence. Once your child has finished, repeat the sentence fluently so they know you understand, and so they can hear it fluently said.
  4. Make time for full individual attention. Set aside time each day for pleasant, stress-free conversation with just this child (as well as any others you have).
  5. Ask one question at a time. Keep your communication short, simple, and positive.
  6. Slow down the pace of your toddler’s life. Ensure as calm and unhurried an atmosphere as possible.
  7. Provide activities that don’t require talking. At times when the stuttering is particularly noticeable, look for something your toddler can do that doesn’t require conversation. This can be drawing, reading, dancing, outdoor play, or other nonverbal play activities.
  8. Acknowledge the problem supportively, with kindness. From time to time, say something like, “You have so many important things to tell me that it can be hard for you to say them all!”, or “Sometimes talking is difficult for everybody,” or “I love how you keep working to tell me, even when it’s hard,” or “Your big brother (or mother, or whoever) was a bumpy talker when he was little, and now look at him!”
  9. Review familiar stories, nursery rhymes, and songs. Encourage your child to tell you stories they know well. Sing simple familiar songs and rhymes with them. These usually come more fluently than unstructured speech.

Get a professional opinion. If your child’s really struggling and the stuttering hasn’t improved within three to six months or by the age of three, speak to your doctor about a referral to a speech therapist.
Resources on stuttering and other parenting concerns:

Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids, by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster

Being Smart about Gifted Education, by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster

“Stuttering,” by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

“Stuttering,” by Baby Center Advice

“How can I tell if my child has a stuttering problem?” by Patricia McAleer-Hamaguchi

“Stuttering,” by KidsHealth

“I am concerned because my 3-year-old has started to stutter,” by Zero to Three

“Stammering in preschool children—How parents can help,” by The British Stammering Association


You can see this and other blogs by Dona Matthews at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/going-beyond-intelligence







How Much Homework is Too Much? 12-Step Pushback for Parents of Little Kids



Helping Young Kids Deal with Stress


Recent Blogs at Psychology Today and The Creativity Post

Dona MatthewsFor recent blogs by Dona Matthews, go to Going Beyond Intelligence at Psychology Today

joanne (2)For recent blogs by Joanne Foster, go to Fostering Kids’ Success at The Creativity Post

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worried little girl

Go to Going Beyond Intelligence to see Dona’s blogs on topics of interest to parents, including

and more!

Smooth Transitions During Times of Change


The beginning of the school year means new classrooms, friends, programs, expectations, and more. Here are some tips to help parents recognize and address the complexities of change, setting the tone for successful outcomes for their children.

Published at The Creativity Post – Aug. 24th, 2015

Parents cannot possibly anticipate all the changes that occur in a child’s life. Change might be expected or unexpected, big or little, painstakingly slow or lightning fast. Sometimes close friends move away, a new sibling arrives, or family problems arise. It helps if parents think about the transitions occurring within their child’s world—along with potential implications.

School-related change may involve new teachers, a switch from public school to homeschooling, relocation to a different neighborhood, or transfer to a specialized program. For children, these kinds of changes can be worrisome, pleasant, motivating—or no big deal.

Chat with kids about the reasons for a change, what will likely occur (academically, emotionally, or socially), and how to chart a sensible course of action. If you think a change may be unsettling for your child, discuss ways to make it happen smoothly. Get creative! Perhaps it’s possible to adjust the extent, pace, or nature of the process. Children who feel comfortable about a change are better able to handle it.

Most changes can be managed well with preparation and guidance. We all have times of uncertainty when we lack confidence about our capabilities, or are concerned about what might happen, or question how (or if) to proceed. Help kids appreciate that as they get older they will continue to develop a better understanding of what they can do well, what they need to work really hard at, and when they have to make the best of a situation by finding ways to deal with it.

Parents can help children develop adaptability and resilience during times of change. Here are six tips:

1.) Knowledge is empowering. Take careful stock of the change, and share information about it with your child. Better yet, teach her how to acquire her own knowledge about the situation.

2.) Reflection is constructive. Think about the implications of the change, including potential risks or benefits. Take into account your child’s comfort level, and help him understand his feelings.

3.) Support systems can lighten the load. Check out support services at school and within the community, including people involved in planning and implementing changes, and any others who might provide assistance.

4.) Complexities can be simplified. Can the situation be altered to be more accommodating of your child’s individual needs? Do you foresee any adjustment problems that can be offset?

5.) The unexpected is inevitable. Pay attention to unexpected factors and outside influences. Encourage your child to do the same, and to be flexible. Change might offer new possibilities!

6.) Professional help is available. Seek professional advice if it becomes apparent that your child needs increased support or coping strategies. For example, if she can’t sleep, won’t eat, loses interest in friends, or experiences some other unusual problem, this may indicate a need for assistance.

Children can learn to size up a change, and decide what and whom they can rely upon when adjusting to it. Parents can revisit the six reference points to help kids surmount difficulties, feel more confident, and sustain positive momentum throughout the year.


For additional information:
Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination by Joanne Foster (Great Potential Press, 2015).

Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (House of Anansi, 2014)

Make It a Happy Start to School: Our Top Ten Secrets by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (See our blog)

Helping Kids Thrive in Middle School and High School by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster (See our blog)

For articles and blogs on this topic and more visit http://www.beyondintelligence.net

This article appears at: http://www.creativitypost.com/education/smooth_transitions_during_times_of_change1

Four Ways To Help Kids Address Their Mess (With Less Stress!)

boy with arms crossedWhen kids’ clutter gets out of hand, what can parents do, and what should they say?

Kids often CAN but WON’T do things – like tidying up their rooms– and often CAN and DO come up with reasonable explanations for avoiding tasks. Perhaps they’re taking their time weighing options, or planning, or reflecting on the process. Or maybe they’re overwhelmed or uncertain where or how to begin.
Here are four ways kids may justify their actions (or inaction), when it comes to cleaning up their clutter, along with some suggestions and reasoning for parents who aren’t quite sure how to respond.

Example #1:

Child: “My room is a mess but I LIKE it like that.”

Response: “Okay. YOU have to live in it. Please make sure there are no crawling things, or health hazards, and that your mess doesn’t filter through the house where the rest of us are.”

Reasoning: Kids have to learn consequences—sooner or later. If your child can’t find clean clothes to wear, or the bedroom floor is getting crusty, or the bed feels and smells more like a dump than a place of rest, then he’ll probably eventually start thinking about clean up possibilities. Offer to provide what’s necessary, like garbage bags, organizing bins, cleansers, air freshener, a laundry hamper, and so on – and maybe a hand if you’re so inclined. (As in assistance, and perhaps applause.) Don’t admonish. Do encourage. (For more on consequences and how to ensure that they’re reasonable, see the related article listed below by parenting coach Marcilie Smith Boyle.)

Example #2:

Child: “I can’t tidy my room because I’m busy. I’ve too many other things to do..”

Response: “It’s great that you’re taking on responsibility. What ONE clean up activity can you add to your list of things to do today please?”

Reasoning: Don’t push too hard to get everything straightened up all at once. One step at a time will create progress. It helps if tasks seem manageable, and aren’t too tedious. Reinforce effort that your child does put forth. And, remember to use the words “please’ and “thank you.” They can be impactful. Positive outcomes don’t just happen, they come about as a result of action and accountability—starting out with a single proactive contribution or step in the right direction, which can lead to feelings of accomplishment, and the impetus to harness momentum.

Example #3:

Child: “I’ll clean up my room when I feel like it, not because YOU order me to.”

Response: “I’m not ordering. I’m not scolding. I’m suggesting. It’s your room, your choice. But maybe we can chat?”

Reasoning: Don’t get drawn into a confrontation or power struggle. It’s counter-productive. De-escalate tension and finger-pointing by staying calm and trying to appeal to reason. Nobody likes to be ordered about, and your child may feel you’re being too demanding. You can talk about that. But keep it short and to the point. For example, you might say you don’t want to be unreasonable, you simply prefer to live in a home that’s relatively neat, and would like that to be respected, in the same way that you respect your child’s preference for certain foods, clothes, and extracurricular activities. If a calm candid chat doesn’t work then you may have to settle for a clean house with one messy room for a while. Take a deep breath and close the door.

Example #4:

Child: “Your desk is not so tidy. I shouldn’t have to straighten up my mess if you don’t clean up yours!”

Response: “You’re right. I’ll try and deal with it. Let’s each set aside some time to tackle our spaces, then maybe we can do something fun together during a break.”

Reasoning: Kids look to their parents to set an example, and you can’t expect them to be neat if they see you’re sloppy or take little pride in your own living or work space. It may seem like they’re being oppositional, but be honest with yourself—is there truth to their claim? When parents demonstrate a willingness to improve their own organization skills and efficiency, it can turn a negatively charged situation into a productive one. And, offering to do something enjoyable together works as incentive and provides opportunity to spend quality time with one another.

For more reasons why kids put things off, and what to do about it, see Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination (Great Potential Press, 2015). You’ll find over 250 suggestions for parents. And, here are links to a few more articles that relate to the reasoning I’ve suggested here.

Related Articles:

 – Struggling To Come Up With “The Right” Consequences? Try This! by Marciie Smith Boyle


 – What I Did When My Children Refused To Make Their Beds: Choosing My Battles by Sara Dimerman


 – Get Those Kids To Pitch In! Tips To Get Some Kid Help by Elizabeth Sturm Hanatuke


 – Clean Bedrooms—It Can Happen At Your House – Amy McCready’s Positive Parenting Solutions


– Encouraging Children to Participate in Household Chores by Ariadne Brill, Positive Parenting Connection



By Joanne Foster, EdD.

Joanne Foster is coauthor (with Dona Mathews) of Being Smart about Gifted Education, 2nd Edition (Great Potential Press, 2009) and Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (Anansi Press, 2014). Dr. Foster also wrote Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination (Great Potential Press, 2015).



http://www.facebook.com/notnowmaybelaterbook   not-now-maybe-later-cover-book-page


Young Children and Game-Playing: Ten Suggestions for Parents and Care-Givers

child building

Kids lead very busy lives. There are so many books to read, places to go, people to see, things to do, and games to play.

Games help to fuel children’s creativity–and vice versa.

Here are ten suggestions for parents, babysitters, camp counsellors, and other care-givers to consider when thinking about games for young children:

  1. Keep it safe. Children should feel comfortable within their environment. A safe and properly supervised setting is necessary for free-spirited play, and also allows adults to step back a bit and let children work things out for themselves—and then feel a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Encourage both independent play as well as interaction. Sometimes kids like to be on their own. However, connecting with others can lead to wonderful opportunities for learning and discovery, help children develop relationships, and give them a chance to practice important skills like sharing, listening, and taking turns.
  3. Make it fun. Don’t be fussy. Get creative! Involve the senses. Let play be unstructured, and if possible take the activity outdoors so everyone gets some fresh air.
  4. Boredom is okay. It lets children figure out what they want to do next, and what interests them. Don’t feel you have to fill a child’s every waking moment with activities.
  5. Keep a bin with lots of stuff handy. Arts and crafts supplies, dress up clothes, boxes, blocks, books, and what ever else might capture children’s imaginations and enable them to create their own games.
  6. Give children time and space. Don’t pressure children into adhering to time frames that short-circuit their game-playing. When it’s time to wrap things up reassure them that they can still continue whatever they’re doing another time.
  7. Respect children’s preferences. If they’re not interested in a particular game, set it aside. Don’t force kids to play a certain game just because you like it. Perhaps it will be more appealing another day. Talk together about other options.
  8. Make it developmentally appropriate. That is, not too simple as to be a drag, and not too complicated as to be overly challenging or to cause consternation. However, it’s okay if kids confront setbacks along the way because that’s how they learn resilience. Even the simplest board games are designed to show children that they can recoup if they hit a snag or move in the wrong direction.
  9. It’s not about winning. It’s about the pleasure of participating in something that is enjoyable, and potentially a learning experience.
  10. Cultivate curiosity. Harness spontaneity, including seizing the moment and trying something different or innovative, and let children take the lead and show what they’d like to do. For example, it may be something technological (fine in moderation) or something totally silly, or cerebral, or artsy, or low-key, or somewhat rough-and-tumble.

Above all, be supportive—of children’s choices, interests, abilities, and creative impulses.

For more information see Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive  Kids by Dona Matthews, PhD and Joanne Foster, EdD (House of Anansi, 2014) and visit www.beyondintelligence.net.

Links to related articles that focus on play and child development:

Help Children Develop Their Talents and Creativity Via Play – by Dona Matthews


Six Ways to Protect Our Child’s Play Time – by Andrea Nair


Stressed Out in America: Five Reasons to Let Your Kids Play – by Katie Hurley






Ten Strategies to Help Kids Who Procrastinate


Many very capable children procrastinate. They may choose not to do chores or homework or clean up their rooms, or they may avoid something else altogether. It’s not that they can’t—it’s that they won’t. And it can drive parents crazy.
In Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination, I discuss reasons why children put things off, what parents and teachers can do about it, and how they can help children and teens develop a sense of industry. Of course, every person is unique, and every set of circumstances is different. However, as a starting point to helping kids get down to business at home or at school, here are ten strategies to try. (And, many of these can be adapted to apply to adult procrastinators, too!)

1. Keep goals manageable, meaningful, and attainable. Clarify expectations, and celebrate small achievements. Finding pleasure in reaching goals can be motivating, leading to fulfillment, excitement, and pride.
2. Talk with (not to) children about why effort is gratifying. For example, it’s instrumental in building strengths. Encourage kids to reflect upon how they feel when they’re successful, and how they can apply their know-how next time they confront a challenge.
3. Teach kids about a growth mindset. Help them appreciate that accomplishment is a step-by-step process that demands time, perseverance, and resilience. Model this pathway to productivity in your own daily life.
4. Encourage children to plan ahead. For instance, they can list the steps involved in what they’re going to do, gauge how much time they’ll need, and acquire in advance whatever materials they might need. They can also try to anticipate obstacles in order to be better prepared to deal with them.
5. Reinforce children’s attempts to overcome their procrastination tendencies. Focus on the initiative and the process, not on the end result. The best kind of feedback is genuine, direct, constructive, and immediate.
6. Offer assistance as necessary. This might be at the outset of a task (when kids may first procrastinate), part way through (if they slow down), or toward the end (when they may need a little boost).
7. Rely on routines. They can be calming. Routines help a person feel organized and in control of what’s happening, and able to set a suitable pace. Strive for balance by leaving ample opportunity for breaks, relaxation, exercise, and play.
8. Help children and teens recognize their capabilities and limitations. Be attuned to their successes and their concerns. Help them develop good study habits and time management skills, and to recognize times of day when they work best—when they’re most energetic, and less likely to be interrupted or distracted.
9. Pick your battles. Not all procrastination is bad, and not all tasks are pressing. Be circumspect about what to ignore, and when to be patient. Don’t get caught up in power struggles. Sometimes kids just have to face the consequences of their actions—or inaction.
10. Sorry is not a strategy. Apologies for recurring procrastination quickly wear thin. Being repentant is best indicated by specific action that remedies the situation. Convey confidence in children’s abilities.
For more ideas about how to understand, manage, and prevent procrastination tendencies see Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination (Great Potential Press, Jan. 2015).




Books by Dona Matthews, PhD and Joanne Foster, EdD:

Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (House of Anansi Press, 2014)

Being Smart about Gifted Education, 2nd Edition (Great Potential Press, 2009)

Website – www.beyondintelligence.net


Summertime Can Be Easy, and Happily Productive Too!

girl with carrots

Some parents look toward summer with happy anticipation, building a packed schedule of family activities and outdoor fun. Others wonder how on earth they’re going to keep their kids occupied over the long slow weeks ahead. No matter which camp you’re in–or if you’re somewhere in between and hope to balance times of activity and relaxation–there are ideas and attitudes that can make the summertime happily productive. For everyone!

The Basics

1. Make plans with your kids. Ask them how they’d like to spend their summer. (This gets them thinking about the summer months, and helps them take some ownership over how they spend their time.) Do what you can, within reason, to accommodate at least a few of their suggestions.

2. Focus on imagination and free unstructured play.  Especially for kids whose school year schedule is packed with serious stuff, summer should nurture a sense of freedom and enable them to exercise their creativity.

3. Leave time for boredom. Avoid filling your child’s every waking minute with cultural, athletic, or intellectual enrichment. Summer is a great time for kids to experience enough boredom that they learn how to convert listless feelings of nothing-to-do into opportunities to try different things and to discover what they’re interested in.

4.  Play outside. There’s no better time than summer to take advantage of natural settings. Too many kids spend too little time outdoors, in spite of the proven physical, emotional, social, and cognitive benefits

5. Turn it off! Limit your children’s time with technology. They need an electronics-free environment to unwind, explore new ideas, take pleasure in unstructured time, hang out with friends and family, and relax.

Some Summertime Ideas for Your Kids

Although we’ve organized the following suggestions by age, with a bit of modification and creative thinking many of these activities can work for kids of different ages and with varying interests.

Approximately 1 to 5

  • Imaginative play can happen anywhere—building sandcastles, splashing in pools or at water-tables, or running through sprinklers or homemade mazes on the grass.
  • Blow, chase, and catch bubbles.
  • Find and decorate a secret hideout in a corner of the house, backyard, or neighborhood park.
  • Help plant and maintain a garden.
  • Make collections – of stones, insects, flowers, leaves, or other items of interest.

Approximately 4 to 8

  • Create decorations or activities for the next family get-together.
  • Sort through books and toys and donate unused items.
  • Fill a jar with activity ideas written on pieces of paper, ready to provide inspiration as needed.
  • Visit a favourite corner of a park at different times of the day, in different kinds of weather, on different days of the week. Create an observations journal, recording what you see, hear, smell, and feel.
  • Set up activity boxes for craft materials, art supplies, drama productions, puppet shows, or other areas of interest.

Approximately 7 to 11

  • Pursue a new hobby such as photography, chess, or geology. Find an expert to help you, or find how-to guides online and at libraries.
  • Read a book. Write a book. Review a book and submit your review to a magazine.
  • Start a newsletter. Invite others to join in its creation, publication and distribution.
  • Go camping. Check out the constellations in the night sky. Sing songs and tell stories around a campfire with family members and friends.
  • Plan a trip, real or virtual. It could be to a distant place, or to somewhere closer—a beach, a walking trail, or a farm.

Approximately 10 to 15

  • Using online resources or a local expert, embark on learning something that interests you: how to draw cartoons, build something (perhaps a dog house), or become a whiz at baking or card tricks.
  • Volunteer at a food bank, a seniors home, or a summer day camp for kids in your neighbourhood.
  • Collaborate with family members on big household projects that no one has time for in their usual busy schedules Build a bookshelf, reorganize the kitchen, or straighten up the garage.

Secrets for Making Summertime Easy and Happily Productive

By making some plans with your kids, but also leaving time free for imagination and boredom, you can increase the chances of this being a good summer, one you look back on with pleasure through the winter. Try to establish a healthy balance of activities, remembering to set technology aside sometimes and to participate in outdoor activities.

For more:

Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids: www.beyondintelligence.net

‘Why Boredom Is Good for Kids: Ten Reasons Boredom Is Summertime’s Gift,’ by Dona Matthews: http://www.parents-space.com/why-boredom-is-good-for-kids-10-reasons-boredom-is-summertimes-gift/

‘One Hundred Great Boredom Busters: What to Do when Your Child Says I’m Bored,’ by Dona Matthews: http://www.parents-space.com/100-great-boredom-busters-what-to-do-when-your-child-says-im-bored/

‘Play Outside! Twelve Ways to Health, Happiness, Intelligence, and Creativity, and to Environmental Sustainability,’ by Dona Matthews: http://donamatthews.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/play-outside-twelve-ways-to-health-happiness-intelligence-and-creativity-and-to-environmental-sustainability/