Dear Dr. Sylvia

Parents Confused By Varying Advice

May, 2016



I have 8-year-old twin boys. Twin A is usually very easy going, but Twin B is a bright child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD — Hyperactive type). He is very challenging for us and has many anger and behavioral issues and low self-esteem. His highs are very high, and his lows are very low. He can be mean, and he feels like everyone hates him. 
We have typically parented as you advise in the V of Love [See the sidebar.], but we have seen occupational therapists, doctors, and psychologists who have told us otherwise when it comes to Twin B. He argues continuously about things he doesn’t want to do, like math facts for homework, but the professionals we see say that he should be allowed to move on to something else. We want to raise a productive, independent, responsible adult. What do we do? Twin B is ruling our life.



First, you should know that two boys close in age are usually different to raise. When they are twins, it can make it doubly hard, and conflicting advice from professionals can certainly add to the trickiness. I’d like to say that you should just stick with my advice; but because I don’t know your children, I know that won’t be the answer you need. Perhaps you could find a psychologist who is familiar with my approach to parenting.

Of course, no two psychologists are the same, nor are two children. If you develop regular study routines for your children and help them to understand that after their work is done they can look forward to some family fun, that may help your son manage his homework time. Hardly any children love to do math facts, but I usually explain that they are exercise for the brain and can help to make you smarter. Also, there is research that found that children who learn math facts well are more likely to take advanced math classes in later years. Perhaps you could add some small reward like stickers or prizes to encourage your son to manage to get through the less exciting parts of learning.

Finally, I do think it’s important that you’re comfortable with the approach your psychologist is using. You can interview a psychologist in your first session so that you can determine your comfort level with his or her approach before you introduce your child into the situation. Working hard to be united with your children’s father is also very important. Once your children know what to expect on a daily and weekly basis, they are more likely to comply. However, I must say that parenting is not really as easy as just following a recipe.

Hopefully, the articles on my website or newsletters can help you as well. 

Take Charge; Don't Over-empower Your Children

Your children require leadership and limits to feel secure. Envision the letter V in “Love.” When children are small, they’re at the base of the V with few choices, little freedom, and small responsibilities that match their small size. As they mature, they should have more choices, more freedom, and more responsibilities.

Freedom and responsibility should increase concurrently. Although limits remain, more freedom is provided. Children will feel trusted and healthfully empowered. If you reverse that V like this, Л, and children are given too many early choices and freedoms, they will believe they should have all the choices. They will resent rules and responsibilities and feel as if you’re stealing their freedom when you don’t give them a choice or you try to set reasonable limits. They will seek instant gratification, total power, and expect to be treated as adults before they’re ready to handle the responsibilities of their over-empowerment. In adolescence, ordinary expectations of responsibility will cause them to become angry, depressed, and rebellious. In plain English, they will act like “spoiled brats.”

From “Foundational Principles of Parenting,” at

Dr Sylvia RimmDr. Sylvia Rimm is a child psychologist and clinical professor at Case University School of Medicine, author, newspaper and magazine columnist, and radio/TV personality. For free newsletters entitled How to Parent So Children Will Learn, Teaching Healthy Competition, Improving Your Child's Performance in the Second Half of the Year, ADHD, and/or Teaching Good Study Habits, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for each newsletter and a note with your topic request to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094. Read Dr. Rimm’s Articles for Parents and Teachers and submit family questions online at All questions are answered.

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