Archive for: August 2013

Ten terrific books to empower parents

 By Erin Nguyen, Children’s Department, Knox County Public Library



Aug2013Book1The Everyday Parenting Toolkit: The Kazdin Method for Easy, Step-by-Step, Lasting Change for You and Your Child
by Alan E. Kazdin and Carlo Rotella
Yale University professor and child psychologist Kazdin shares with parents his proven method for nurturing well-behaved children and provides a wealth of concrete examples and useful strategies for success. Read more →

The real thing

The miracle of becoming parents in mid-life

By Anu Celly Narula, Ph. D.

Aug2013-AnuOpEdWe thought we had lost the chances, but we continued to nurture the dream up against some intimidating odds. The strength of our belief in the power of prayers and the might of medicine backed up our desire to bring children into our lives. Our nine year old marriage was beautiful, but the “real thing” was missing. It was the very same dream that we had discussed on that magical evening when we first met each other, across the span of continents. We had gotten married in a jiffy, almost in a fairy tale fashion, just a week after meeting each other. What brought us together in an “arranged love” match typical to our native country was not just the commonality of our humble beginnings, or our career graphs in diverse disciplines, but our desire to have a family. Read more →

Calling all parents

Parent-Child Agreements help set the back-to-school rules for cell phone usage

by Jack Brundige, Director of Sales for U.S. Cellular in Tennessee


Aug2013USCellularAs children head back to school this month, some students may be carrying a new cell phone for the first time. Mobile phones provide security, access to educational technology and more, but they also add responsibility for students and challenge parents to ensure that kids are using their phones courteously and safely.

How do parents talk to kids about the new responsibility of using a cell phone? Through a recent customer survey, U.S. Cellular discovered that 91 percent of parents either already set or plan to set mobile phone usage guidelines for their children, and 63 percent indicated they would find it helpful to have a tool to help guide their ability to supervise children’s usage and behavior with their cell phones. Read more →

Are your kids getting too much screen time?

Excessive screen time is linked to childhood obesity

by Ashley Ebert, Exercise Physiologist


Aug2013-FtSandersScreen time, lack of sleep, decreased physical activity and increased appetite are all factors associated with the obesity epidemic worldwide. Screen time has enabled us to lead sedentary lifestyles, which can contribute to other medical problems, specifically obesity. Kids will see 5,000-10,000 food ads in a year, most of which are fast food ads. Watching these ads may cause kids (and adults) to have cravings that can eventually lead to obesity in the long run. However, parents can have a huge and positive impact on kids’ health by supervising what they are watching, being a good role model, scheduling and enforcing screen times every day and incorporating daily active activities. Read more →

If at first you do succeed…

Little accomplishments can add up to big success

By Mike O’Hern, Center Director of Mathnasium of West Knoxville


“The most motivating thing in the world is success. A victory gives the motivation for the next battle.”

So you’ve been weight training for five years now, you’ve taken a breather over the summer, and it’s time to get back to it. At the beginning of your sixth year you should be able to bench press 250 pounds. Now go do it. Oh, you can’t? Try again. In fact, try again – multiple times – each and every day from August 12 until May 21. And, by the way, no, you may not practice with smaller weights. Still can’t do it? Well get ready, because next year you’ll be required to bench 300!

I don’t know about you, but if I went to the gym and was required to try to lift something way more than I could possibly lift, I wouldn’t stay motivated for a day, much less and entire school year. But this is what is happening to so many of today’s students. They are expected to do math that they don’t understand, day after day, and we try to motivate them with grades, treats, or whatever we think will do the trick. No one will be motivated for long if they are expected to accomplish the impossible, and if you’ve been slipping since second grade, your fifth grade math is truly all but impossible.

The most motivating thing in the world is success. A victory gives the motivation for the next battle. Math is no different. Working some math at the student’s level (the student’s level, not the level at which they are expected to be) gives some victories that will motivate them to give that school math another shot. I have seen this countless times at my learning center. We give our new student problems that are on their level and start to move them forward, and within a month their math grade at school improves. A month is not long enough for them to get caught up on all of the math they haven’t mastered over the years, but having the right materials in front of that student builds confidence, which in turn causes them to be motivated to try hard and ask questions at school.

Bear in mind that we’re not talking about “easy math” here. We’re talking about a real workout – we want the level where it will cause a real sweat, but is achievable. It’s a balancing act: Too easy and they know it’s not helping, too hard and they continue to be shut down.

Your best opportunity get this started is in the first three weeks (give or take) of school. They will likely be doing some review from the previous year, so you have a chance to get that motivation rolling before the new material hits. Then keep it rolling. Two or three times per week spend some time on the foundations that keep them encouraged (and just happen to be closing the gap as well), then they’ll need less help on today’s material because they won’t feel defeated.

This is what I’ve seen for years now when working with students. A two-pronged approach where we build a curriculum to meet your student right where he or she is, and augment with help on today’s work as needed. It does wonders for your student’s self-confidence and motivation while building a strong foundation that will serve him or her well for years to come.

Mike O’Hern, Center Director of Mathnasium of West Knoxville, earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1988. He pursued graduate studies in Materials Science & Engineering while on the Research Staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Mike has had a life-long love of mathematics and teaching, and feels that math is not about learning to be ready for the next math class – it’s about learning to think.

How the Knoxville Symphony Reaches East Tennessee Students


by Rachel Dellinger, KSO Communications Director
Photos courtesy Knoxville Symphony Orchestra

Did you know Knoxville houses the oldest continuously operating symphony orchestra in the Southeast? Established in 1935, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra (KSO) is led by Maestro Lucas Richman and is currently entering its 78th season. The KSO’s mission is to maintain a nationally recognized regional orchestra that serves the people of East Tennessee by upholding the highest standards of excellence in its musical performances and educational programs. Two unique programs designed for students include the Young People’s Concerts and the Very Young People’s Concerts. The KSO also visits schools, libraries and public events such as the Children’s Festival of Reading and annually reaches over 30,000 students. The KSO participates in Penny for Arts, a program designed to give every child in Knox County an opportunity to attend arts and culture events FOR FREE. Keep reading to find out more! Read more →

…and speaking of public speaking

Fear and confidence in public speaking

By Michael K. Smith, Ph.D.



“The fear of appearing foolish can only be alleviated through guided practice in rewarding contexts.”

Walker Percy, in his Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, describes a prevalent fear: “A recent poll asked people what they feared most. A majority of respondents agreed in ranking one fear above all others, above fear of sickness, accidents, crime, war, even death. It is the fear of speaking before a group, stage fright.” Why is speaking before a group so frightening? “Is it because you fear a total failure of performance such as never happened in the history of the world, so that not one word will come to your mind and world chaos will follow?” Percy exaggerates so that the reader will reflect on his or her own feelings about public speaking. Is this skill of public speaking so important? Can we just avoid this fearful event? I do not believe that we can but we do need to be aware of strategies that build confidence.

Many situations require adults to present their ideas to others. Workers could be asked to discuss their solutions to a company’s problem. Students in university classes are often required to make a class presentation on their original projects. Adults, in many social and church events, may be asked to give their opinions, to speak their minds. Interestingly, speaking skills are also a part of the new Common Core standards. For instance, Grade 8 students should be able to “present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-known details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.” Furthermore, students should be able to “adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks.”

What can parents and teachers do to help students develop these speaking skills? All skills require proper practice to develop mastery and confidence. Parents can be an encouraging audience as their children rehearse any presentations required at school. Parents could set aside a few minutes at home weekly to have their children talk about their interests and activities. Teachers can construct classroom exercises that encourage students to speak in various contexts, from reciting a poem to reading a story to talking about a nonfiction topic.

This summer, my oldest son participated in a science internship at Oak Ridge. He researched various activities that attempted to teach Java computer programming to middle school students. To end the summer, he was required to present his findings to other interns and scientists. In the weeks before, he organized his talk, made a PowerPoint, and practiced a lot. As parents, we listened to several rehearsals. He was both excited and nervous as the scheduled day approached. All this effort paid off when the actual talk went smoothly. This success will hopefully build confidence toward future public speaking engagements.

The fear of appearing foolish can only be alleviated through guided practice in rewarding contexts. As the new school year starts, parents and teachers should look for opportunities to help students master public speaking. The rewards are immense as these future citizens learn to speak their minds, a skill essential in any democracy.


Michael K. Smith, Ph.D., is owner of TESTPREP EXPERTS ( ) which prepares students for standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT. He is also a consultant to Discovery Education Assessment. He can reached at

Challenge your child with the six tasks

by Barry Van Over, President of Premier Martial Arts International



 “Anyone who is in a leadership position knows the importance of learning how to persevere despite obstacles, to be kind on a regular basis and to be a team player.”

Most parents who involve their children in extracurricular sports and activities are looking for ways to complement or strengthen their children’s talents and abilities. It is the desire of every parent that, if they expose their children to quality role models and positive esteem building activities, then they will become well-rounded individuals.

Since time is always limited and not every activity will build esteem, sportsmanship, leadership and compassion as quickly or efficiently as one might want, there are resources that parents can use right from home. These simple exercises are a way to build character, confidence and responsibility quickly and easily. Another great feature of this program is that it can be upsized or downsized to fit the age and ability of your child. This program is called the six tasks.

The six tasks is a journaling system for children (and yes adults can do it too) that is simple and powerful. Let’s start by looking at the six tasks in their entirety:

  1. Kindness: 50 random acts of kindness

  2. Teamwork: 50 home helps

  3. Perseverance: 1000 repetitions of a skill building activity

  4. Self Discipline: 7 days of down to earth healthy eating- no junk food

  5. Knowledge: 5 letters to family members and read 2 books

  6. Leadership: teach or coach 3 session on a well known skill

To implement the six tasks in your home involves a little bit of work. You need to clearly explain why you are involving your family in the six tasks, who is accountable for what (parents of small children should journal the child’s progress on a chart or diary) and when you would like to see the task accomplished. Then set them free, but remind them of their responsibility to complete the tasks within a reasonable time. Asking your child what kind things they did today for others at the dinner table and then writing them down later is a wonderful way to track your child’s progress. It is also a great way to ‘stir the pot’ and get some kids talking and relating.

Some tasks like the random acts of kindness will flow for your child, while having the self discipline and not touching any junk food may be difficult for the entire family (you may want to break that down into chunks to make sure the whole family doesn’t rebel) it is important to note that nothing of great importance comes without cost.

The cost of perseverance may seem high when first learning a new skill such as repeating a simple scale on an instrument like a piano or flute; but if done over and over thousands of times, learning new scores will become easier. The player will gain confidence and will, in time, be better suited to perform than a player who fiddles with the scales but never builds any sense of mastery.

These tasks were designed to challenge children to work hard on themselves and to contribute. Anyone who is in a leadership position knows the importance of learning how to persevere despite obstacles, to be kind on a regular basis and to be a team player. Please email me your questions and results- I know this program works and that the results will be rock solid!



Barry Van Over is the owner and president of Premier Martial Arts International, of which there are currently over 80 location nationwide. Mr. Van Over has two locations in the West Knoxville area and been empowering families lives through the martial arts in the Knoxville community for over 20 years. Mr. Van Over and his local studios can be reached at

The Nature Journal: A year-round family activity


by Caleb Carlton, Teacher Naturalist at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont


Back to school means, for parents and students alike, the onset of a whirlwind. Let’s face it, even the thought of the modern-day school year is overwhelming. Students are scheduled to the limits, while parents struggle to balance professional demands and experiencing life with their children. Even when everybody’s home, there’s homework, television, smart phones, and pure exhaustion to detract from family time.


Journaling helps capture memorable experiences discovered in nature.
Photo by: Amy Wilson

It’s easy to arrive at the Thanksgiving break and wonder what happened to September, October and November, and, more worrisome, what your children have been up to throughout the Fall. The challenge is, then, to foster meaningful and consistent relationships with the ones you love the most in the midst of hectic schedules and tired minds. Read more →

To heal, we must remember

Psychological healing for parents

By Kathryn Rea Smith, PH.D.


Photo by Kasandra Atwood.

It is often said that parents get to re-experience childhood through their children. Our own memories of both the good times and the hardships are resurrected as our children meet developmental milestones and advance from one grade to the next. My sons are now 10 and 13 and will be in the fifth and eighth grade respectively. I have fond memories from these years in my life. In fifth grade I had a group of great friends and a teacher who encouraged my interest in writing. In eighth grade I had the chance to conduct a major research project about a crime spree in our community, a topic which foreshadowed the gratifying work I do today as a forensic psychologist. As my sons progress through the school year, I may recall additional positive memories from my fifth and eighth grade years.

The year my older son entered sixth grade was a different story altogether. I found myself anxious and afraid he would have a difficult time and could not shake my sense of dread. When I was in sixth grade, my family moved from Pennsylvania to Georgia, and I was devastated to leave my friends. With my “Yankee” brand of sarcastic humor, I stood out as a misfit in my new school—my peers in Georgia did not know what to make of me, and I experienced the pain of rejection for the first time. Memories from that school year were powerfully stirred by the mere fact of my son being in the grade I was in when those events occurred. Once I realized that the anxiety had to do with my past experience, and not my son’s life, I could see my fears were misplaced. I worked on my own issues, and my son went on to have a pretty good year both socially and academically.


“Once I realized that the anxiety had to do with my past experience, and not my son’s life, I could see my fears were misplaced.”


Another example shows how the development of psychological symptoms in a parent can be related to having a child of a certain age. My friend began having panic attacks when his son entered the first grade. The attacks seemed to come from left field. I asked “What was happening in your life when you were in the first grade?” He told me of having become very ill and being sent to live with relatives because his mother had a new baby plus a set of twin toddlers to care for. He recovered from the illness, but the relatives kept him permanently; thus, the first grade marked the end of his life with his parents and younger siblings. Through his identification with his child, he was re-experiencing the emotions associated with that powerful loss in his early life. Once he realized the historical context of his anxiety, the panic attacks subsided, and he was able to mourn his past loss and move on emotionally.

One of the benefits of being a parent is having opportunities to work through unresolved events from our past. Our identification with our children evokes memories and emotions that were hitherto inaccessible. For parents who suffered abuse, trauma, or significant losses in childhood, having children approach the age at which these events occurred may trigger painful memories of those times. Even though it is difficult and disruptive to experience these strong emotions, it is at the same time an invitation to heal psychologically and become more integrated emotionally. To heal, we must remember. Our emotions are not meant to be freeze dried and stored away, but rather to be reconstituted, expressed and released and to impart deeper meaning and understanding to our lives.

As the school year begins, we might take time for reflection, asking “What was going on in my life when I was my child’s age?” We do this for the sake of our children so as not to project our own anxieties onto them. We also do it for ourselves, because we, too, are deserving of greater psychological health and wholeness.



Kathryn Rea Smith, Ph.D. is a private practice psychologist specializing in psychological assessment and parenting consultation. Dr. Smith can be reached at