Analysis Paralysis

image from upload.wikimedia.org

"During World War II, Winston Churchill, after hearing that the landing craft designers were spending the majority of their time arguing over design changes, sent this message: "The maxim 'Nothing avails but perfection' may be spelt shorter: 'Paralysis.'"

Yesterday LACBA hosted a webinar with a panel of family court judges on Alternative Dispute Resolution now the courts for the most part are temporarily closed. In discussing the dynamics of settlement (and negotiating generally) one of the judges referred to the concept of analysis paralysis from behavioral economics that impairs rationale decision making choices. Is is a perspective that really applies to any situation where we make difficult decisions in life. For more https://lnkd.in/die54_R.




Parents who are sharing custody of their children should treat this crisis as an opportunity to co-parent and work together to do what is in their children’s best interests and safe for their families, rather than taking advantage of the other parent. Here are four guidelines for parents sharing custody during the crisis.


Comply with all CDC and local and state guidelines for staying safe and healthy. If any family members show symptoms of the virus such as coughing and high temperature, they should follow local health orders and quarantine. It goes without saying that in this situation the usual parenting plan should be suspended until everyone is safe and healthy. However, we know from experience as family lawyers that some parents still selfishly insist on “their time” even when their children have a fever and are too sick to be transported. Remember that time can always be made up. Parents should be reasonable and exercise compassion and common sense. It is important for parents to keep each other informed about any symptoms of contagious illness of a parent, children or other household member.


You can be informed and stay calm at the same time. While children are resilient, protect them from your anxieties and fears. Don’t leave the news on 24/7. Provide them with age-appropriate information. For children and adults alike, the pandemic of 2020 will leave lasting memories. Hopefully those memories will be of families pulling together.


This crisis is an opportunity to co-parent. In many jurisdictions, there are orders from the family court administration that custody orders remain in full force as if school remains in session. [Click her to read here the standing Order from Ventura County Family Court]. The idea is that parenting plans should, as a rule, not be changed. Generally, if there are two healthy households there is no reason why custody exchanges should not take place as normal as long as the custody exchanges are safe and comply with local health orders. There may be circumstances that mandate a change, for example, if an Order requires a custody exchange in an enclosed public place that would violate a local or state order. There may also have to be adjustments if an existing order requires supervised visitation.  If parents agree to make a temporary change to their parenting plan, they should reduce it to a written agreement.  Parents should note that for the duration of the crisis, most Court systems are closed or operating on a limited basis. If there is a dispute, parents may have to resort to other forms of dispute resolution such as mediation or private judging.


Everyone’s lives have been disrupted. Stay in place orders, the closure of schools and public places and increased financial burdens on families will require parents to be flexible and make accommodations. Parents should act with compassion and in the best interests of their children. Parents should communicate with each to discuss whether they need to make changes. Would it be a good idea to have more virtual visitation using platforms like Zoom or facetime? If children are home from school, should they follow a parenting plan which is more similar to a vacation schedule? What accommodations should be made for financial hardships suffered by parents paying or receiving support. Any such adjustments should be reduced to a written agreement and, preferably, filed with the Court.  Family court judges expect reasonable accommodations in highly unusual circumstances. After this is all over, judges may make decisions about your parenting plan based on how you acted in this crisis.

© 2020  Warren R. Shiell.  Warren R Shiell is a Los Angeles Divorce and Family Law attorney.  This is for informational purposes only and shall not constitute legal advice. For more information visit www.la-familylaw.com

Air Talk Discussion on NPR: Platonic Co-Parenting: A Helping Hand With Your Biological Clock

Co-parenting sites like Modamily and PollenTree offer matching services where users can find potential parental partners.

According to the Wall Street Journal, co-parenting sites, such as Modamily and PollenTree, offer matching services where users can find potential parental partners to raise a child with. Users are encouraged to vet and become extensively acquainted with one another to find a partner (or more than one) who is equally committed to raising a child without necessarily the expectation of romantic love or sex. The co-parenting trend and the nascent industry around it is largely made up of professionals who thought they might be ready for children by their early 30’s, but kept pushing that plan back, says Modamily founder Ivan Fatovic. LGBTQ and straight adults approaching 40 years old who still want to be parents, but need a hand with child rearing and don’t want to risk putting a child through divorce, are turning to this idea to start families, Fatovic says.NPR Link

Fresh Air 'Boys & Sex' Reveals That Young Men Feel 'Cut Off From Their Hearts'

Author Peggy Orenstein knows that talking to your son about sex isn't easy: "I know for a lot of parents, you would rather poke yourself in the eye with a fork than speak directly to your son about sex — and probably he would rather poke himself in the eye with a fork as well," she says.

But we don't have "the luxury" to continue avoiding this conversation, she says. "If we don't talk to our kids, the media is going to educate them for us, and we are not going to love the result."

Orenstein spent 25 years chronicling the lives of adolescent and teen girls and never really expected to focus on boys. But then came the #MeToo movement, and Orenstein, whose previous books include Girls & Sex and Cinderella Ate My Daughter, decided it was time to engage young men in conversations about gender and intimacy.

Her new book, Boys & Sex, is based on extensive interviews with more than 100 college and college-bound boys and young men of diverse backgrounds between the ages of 16 and 22.

Close up low section of two girls sitting side by sidehttps://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/29/472211301/girls-sex-and-the-importance-of-talking-to-young-women-about-pleasure

How (Not) to Argue with Gifted Children

From About Parenting - read more

Gifted children, especially the verbally gifted ones, are often compared to lawyers: they argue as if they are in court. The case they are usually arguing is their own. They argue about rules, about punishment, discipline, bedtime, dinner. Basically, they'll argue about nearly anything they don't like or they want to avoid. Although a gifted child can make excellent arguments, it's important for parents to make sure they remain in charge.

No matter how bright a child is, he or she is still a child, and children, even the gifted ones, need guidance. They need rules and they need consequences when they break those rules. Gifted children should never be excused from bad behavior because they make a good case for having broken a rule. If children can talk their way out of the consequences for bad behavior, they, not their parents, end up being in control.

Tips for Maintaining Control -- or How to Keep from Arguing with Your Gifted Child

  1. Make the Rules Clear.
    If you have to deal with a little lawyer, you'll have to start thinking like one. That means that you need to anticipate that your child will find any loophole you have left in a rule. For example, if you tell your child that it's time for bed and you later find him playing -- in bed -- you can be sure your child found the loophole. You did not say he couldn't play. You only said it was time for bed. Your child needs to know ahead of time what it means when you say it's time for bed.
    1. Make the Consequences for Breaking the Rules Clear.
      A gifted child may have to concede that he has broken a rule, but he can still argue over the consequences. He may think the rule was unfair or the punishment is unfair, and with gifted kids, issues of fairness are not simply matters of debate. They often have a deep sense of justice. Fairness is less of an problem, however, if the consequences for breaking the rule are clear from the beginning.
    2. Avoid Negotiating Consequences After a Rule is Broken.
      Some gifted children can argue a case so well that their parents concede and negotiate a new consequence. Negotiating after the rule is broken is almost as bad as eliminating the consequence altogether. You may actually agree with your child, but negotiating consequences needs to be done before rules are broken, not after. That means that if a child had questions about a rule and its consequences or didn't agree with either of them, he or she should have asked at the time the rule was laid out. This is another reason for making the rules, and the consequences for breaking them, clear from the beginning.
    3. Don't Argue Back.
      This is a hard tip to follow because it is easy to get pulled into a debate. Parents of gifted children can't help at times being impressed with the ability of their young child to reason things out and present a good, logical argument. These parents may also want to answer all of their child's questions, for example, "Why should I have to go to bed before it's dark when....?" However, the best response at this point is to say something like, "You knew it was bedtime, but you refused to go. We can talk about a different bedtime tomorrow, but you still will not be able to watch your Bill Nye the Science Guy video tomorrow because you knew that is the punishment for not going to bed when you're supposed to."
    4. Increase the Consequence if Your Child Continues to Argue.
      Give your child a chance to stop the arguing by giving a warning first. For example, you might say, "If you argue with me again, you won't be able to watch Bill Nye for two days." If your child continues to argue, let him know he's lost his Bill Nye privileges for two days and if he argues again, it will be three days. Gifted kids are bright enough to know they need to stop arguing.
    5. Be Consistent and Follow Through with Consequences.
      It does no good to take away privileges if it is done in word only. Gifted kids will see that weakness and exploit it! The next time they want to argue, they'll go ahead and argue, regardless of your threats, because they will have seen that your threats are empty ones.
    6. Make Consequences Reasonable and Enforceable.
      It's not very useful to tell a four-year-old child that she won't be able to have friends over for three months. That is much too long, assuming you manage to enforce it for that long. Gifted children can usually find something else to do to replace whatever privilege you have taken away, so its loss becomes meaningless.
    7. These tips work best when parents use them from the start. However, they will work even with older children, but the older the child is, the longer it will take for these strategies to work. Consistency is the key. If you give in and argue, you basically have to go back to square one. Actually, you end up at square -five because when you give in, you've reinforced the idea that arguing works!

      By all means enjoy your child's wonderful reasoning ability. Just don't let it control your family life.

New York Times: In Interrogations, Teenagers Are Too Young to Know Better

Read article: New York Times By Jan Hoffman

In Interrogations, Teenagers Are Too Young to Know Better

October 13, 2014 4:49 pmOctober 13, 2014 4:49 pm
Credit Brian Stauffer

Even when police interrogators left the room, cameras kept recording the teenage suspects. Some paced. Several curled up and slept. One sobbed loudly, hitting his head against the wall, berating himself. Two boys, left alone together, discussed their offense, joking.

What none did, however, was exercise his constitutional rights. It was not clear whether the youths even understood them.

Therefore none had a lawyer at his side. None left, though all were free to do so, and none remained silent. Some 37 percent made full confessions, and 31 percent made incriminating statements.

These were among the observations in a recent study of 57 videotaped interrogations of teenagers, ages 13 to 17, from 17 police departments around the country. The research, published in Law and Human Behavior, adds to accumulating evidence that teenagers are psychologically vulnerable at the gateway to the criminal justice system. Youths, some researchers say, merit special protections.

According to federal statistics, nearly 1.5 million teenagers were arrested in 2011, the last year for which data was collected.

“If kids are making these poor decisions because their development is not complete, then to penalize them with long-term legal consequences is unfair,” said the study’s author, Hayley M.D. Cleary, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescents and the law.

Research about adolescents during interrogations is usually drawn from laboratory experiments, surveys or court records. Only a few researchers have had access to actual encounters, typically from one state. Dr. Cleary’s study is the first to examine interrogations from a variety of jurisdictions. The sample, however, is small and limited to agencies that willingly provided videos.


One reason the researchers focused on interrogations is that jurors find confessions highly persuasive. But the validity of a juvenile’s confession can be questionable. Was it given voluntarily, with the teenager really grasping the consequences of admitting the crime? Was it true?

Teenagers, studies show, are not developmentally ready to make critical decisions that have long-term impacts.

“Adolescents are more oriented to the present, so they are less likely than adults to be thinking about the future consequences of what they’re saying,” said Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University who writes about teenagers in the justice system and was not involved in this study.

Teenagers, he added, are also less likely than adults to know that the police can lie during interrogations.

“The police often promise kids things in the present. ‘If you just tell me you did it, you can go see your mom,’ ” he continued. “And because the brain’s reward systems are hypersensitive during adolescence, that immediate reward of confessing will trump the thinking of, ‘What will happen when I come back to court in a month?’ ”

Moreover, research shows that teenagers aged 15 and younger will unwittingly comply with authority figures. They are very suggestible, so that during an interrogation, they are more likely than adults to change their answers in response to interviewers.

In Dr. Cleary’s study, the average age of the juveniles, almost all boys, was about 15. In nearly every interview, the door was shut to the interrogation room, with the suspect sitting in a corner and the interrogator between the youth and the door.

In half the cases, the interrogator had a visible weapon. In 16 percent, the suspects were handcuffed or in leg shackles.

The interrogations were frequently interrupted, with other interviewers coming and going. The teenager often was left alone. One interrogator came and went 19 times.

Dr. Cleary speculated that interruptions could heighten a suspect’s anxiety but they could also afford him mental breaks.

A significant concern about interrogations of juveniles has been their limited capacity to comprehend rights such as the Miranda warnings.

Dr. Steinberg once asked a 12-year-old about the right to remain silent. In his new book, “Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence,” he recounts how the boy, who recognized the Miranda warnings from watching “Law & Order,” replied: “It means that you don’t have to say anything until the police officer asks you a question.” Some jurisdictions require that parents be present for interrogations of teenagers. In Dr. Cleary’s study, only 12 suspects were accompanied by parents during portions of the interviews, whose duration ranged from six minutes to five hours, with the average about 45 minutes.

But if parents are not legally savvy, their presence may not serve young suspects well.

In the videos, five parents remained largely silent. Some lectured their children and then questioned them, taking on the interrogator’s role. A few parents urged their children to come clean, inadvertently sealing their fate.

Parents have conflicting roles, Dr. Cleary said. “They want to defend their children against accusations of wrongdoing. But we also socialize children to obey the law and tell the truth.

“Some parents might have felt compelled to use the situation as a teachable moment, or they might have felt their parenting skills were being threatened.” Dr. Cleary said. “It’s not fair to put parents in that situation, particularly without a lawyer.”But how do parents balance encouraging children to respect authority against the harm that can befall them by speaking with interrogators?

Dr. Steinberg suggests that parents tell teenagers: “If you’re being questioned by police because they think you’ve done something bad, say you need to talk to your parents first.” Parents can decide whether to call a lawyer.

Citing recent research, the American Psychological Association has called for widespread protections for suspects, including teenagers, during interrogations. The recommendations include limiting the length of interviews; videotaping them in their entirety; assuring that teenagers are always accompanied by a lawyer; and that interviewers be trained to reduce the risk of eliciting false confessions from impressionable suspects such as youths.

This spring, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a law enforcement coalition, along with the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, developed online training for those who interview adolescents. Drawing from developmental research, the program instructs officers to explain Miranda warnings in language teenagers will understand and not to make false promises of leniency, because of youths’ proclivity toward gullibility.

“We want to avoid involuntary or false confessions from juveniles,” said John Firman, director of research for the association. “The ultimate goal is to get accurate information from them. And if you don’t understand juvenile brain development, the likelihood is that you’ll get bad information.”


Los Angeles Divorce and Custody

Global Parenting Habits That Haven't Caught On In The U.S.

NPR: by Emily Lodish



Children play outside at a day care center in Norway. Kids play outdoors, and take naps, even when it's extremely cold.i         i

            Children play outside at a day care center in Norway. Kids play outdoors, and take naps, even when it's extremely cold.  Children play outside at a day care center in Norway. Kids play outdoors, and take naps, even when it's extremely cold.

Children play outside at a day care center in Norway. Kids play outdoors, and take naps, even when it's extremely cold.

         If there's one thing Tiger Mothers have in common with those bringing up Bébé, it's that they both show us just how varied parenting styles can be.

Argentine parents let their kids stay up until all hours; Japanese parents let 7-year-olds ride the subway by themselves; and Danish parents leave their kids sleeping in a stroller on the curb while they go inside to shop or eat.

Some global parenting styles might make American parents cringe, but others sure could use a close study. Vietnamese mothers, for instance, get their kids out of diapers by 9 months.

Read on for a sampling of parenting lessons from around the world:

1. In Norway, kids nap outside even in subzero temperatures

In Norway, childhood is very institutionalized. When a kid turns 1 year old, he or she starts going to Barnehage (Norwegian for "children's garden"), which is basically state-subsidized day care.

Parents pay a few hundred dollars a month and their kids are taken care of from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Toddlers spend a ton of time outside at Barnehage, even in extremely cold temperatures. It's not uncommon to see kids bundled up outside during a Scandinavian winter, taking a nap in their strollers.

Even with the obvious benefits provided by the government in Norway, some parents complain about the lack of creativity in people's approaches to parenting.

One American mother adjusting to raising kids in Norway wrote:

"There's a sense that there's just one right way to do things. And everyone does it that way. In America there are different parenting styles — co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc. Here there is just one way, more or less: all kids go to bed at 7, all attend the same style of preschool, all wear boots, all eat the same lunch ... that's the Norwegian way."

2. Vietnamese parents potty-train their babies by 9 months

Here's a good one. In Vietnam, mom and dads teach their babies to pee at the sound of a whistle. Kind of like Pavlov with his salivating dogs. Except this is moms and dads with peeing babies. The Chinese do it too, apparently. Parents start by noticing when their baby starts peeing and making a little whistle sound. Soon enough, the baby starts to associate the whistle with peeing and voila!

Think this sounds a little odd? Or a little like someone is conflating a kid with a pet schnauzer? Well, researchers say Vietnamese babies are usually out of diapers by 9 months. What do you think now?

3. Traditionally, Kisii people in Kenya avoid looking their babies in the eye

Kisii, or Gussii, moms in Kenya carry their babies everywhere, but they don't indulge a baby's cooing. Rather, when their babies start babbling, moms avert their eyes.

It's likely to sound harsh to a Western sensibility, but within the context of Kisii culture, it makes more sense. Eye contact is an act bestowed with a lot of power. It's like saying, "You're in charge," which isn't the message parents want to send their kids. Researchers say Kisii kids are less attention-seeking as a result.

Babies in their strollers are parked outside a cafe in Copenhagen, a common sight in Denmark.

            Babies in their strollers are parked outside a cafe in Copenhagen, a common sight in Denmark.                                                                      

4. Danish parents leave their kids on the curb while they go shopping

In Denmark, writes Mei-Ling Hopgood in How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, "children are frequently left outside to get frisk luft, or fresh air — something parents think is essential for health and hearty development — while caregivers dine and shop."

As you might imagine, this idea sends shivers down the spines of many parents in the United States. In New York, a couple (one of whom was Danish) was arrested for leaving their child outside a BBQ restaurant while they went inside to eat.

"I was just in Denmark and that's exactly what they do," Mariom Adler, a New Yorker out walking with her 2-year-old son, told the New York Times. "We would see babies all over unattended. We were stunned, frankly. But Denmark also struck us as exceptionally civilized."

5. In the Polynesian Islands, children take care of children

We're not talking any old big brother baby-sitting little sister here. We're talking organized kid collective.

Hopgood writes in her book that adults take the lead in caring for babies in Polynesia, but as soon as a child can walk, he or she is turned over to the care of other children.

"Preschool-aged children learned to calm babies," she wrote, "and toddlers became self-reliant because they were taught that that was the only way they could hang out with the big kids."

Jane and James Ritchie, a husband-and-wife anthropology team, observed a similar phenomenon over decades in New Zealand and the Polynesian Islands. But they don't think it would fly in the United States.

"Indeed in Western societies, the degree of child caretaking that seems to apply in most of Polynesia would probably be regarded as child neglect and viewed with some horror," they wrote in Growing Up in Polynesia.

A child waits for the subway to arrive in Tokyo. Kids under 10 are often allowed to take the train by themselves.i         i

            A child waits for the subway to arrive in Tokyo. Kids under 10 are often allowed to take the train by themselves.                                                                     estudiante/Flickr                                                       

A child waits for the subway to arrive in Tokyo. Kids under 10 are often allowed to take the train by themselves.

A child waits for the subway to arrive in Tokyo. Kids under 10 are often allowed to take the train by themselves.

6. Japanese parents let their kids go out by themselves

Parents in Japan allow their kids a lot of independence after a certain age. It isn't uncommon for 7-year-olds and even 4-year-olds to ride the subway by themselves.

Christine Gross-Loh, author of Parenting Without Borders, lives in Japan for part of each year, and when she's there she lets her kids run errands without her, taking the subway and wandering around town as they may. But she wouldn't dare do the same back in the United States.

"If I let them out on their own like that in the U.S., I wouldn't just get strange looks," she told TED. "Somebody would call Child Protective Services."

7. Spanish kids stay up late!

Spanish families are focused on the social and interpersonal aspects of child development, according to Sara Harkness, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut.

The idea of a child going to bed at 6:30 p.m. is totally alien to Spanish parents, Harkness told TED.

"They were horrified at the concept," she said. "Their kids were going to bed at 10 p.m." so they could participate in family life in the evenings. The same is true in Argentina, according to Hopgood.

8. Aka pygmy fathers win the award

For the Aka people in central Africa, the male and female roles are virtually interchangeable. While the women hunt, the men mind the children. And vice versa.

Therein lies the rub, according to professor Barry Hewlett, an American anthropologist. "There's a level of flexibility that's virtually unknown in our society," Hewlett told The Guardian. "Aka fathers will slip into roles usually occupied by mothers without a second thought and without, more importantly, any loss of status — there's no stigma involved in the different jobs."

This flexibility, apparently, extends to men suckling their children. Ever wonder why men have nipples? That's why.

A child eats vegetable soup in Lyon, France. Many French parents expect their kids to eat sophisticated adult dishes at a young age.i         i

            A child eats vegetable soup in Lyon, France. Many French parents expect their kids to eat sophisticated adult dishes at a young age.                             A child eats vegetable soup in Lyon, France. Many French parents expect their kids to eat sophisticated adult dishes at a young age.

A child eats vegetable soup in Lyon, France. Many French parents expect their kids to eat sophisticated adult dishes at a young age.

9. French kids eat everything

Set mealtimes; no snacking whatsoever; the expectation that if you try something enough times, you'll like it. These are among the "food rules" in France that are taken as given. The result is French kids who eat what adults eat, from foie gras to stinky cheese. Tell that to my nephew.

Editor's note on Aug. 26: GlobalPost is one of several news outlets that provide content to NPR.org. While producing this story, GlobalPost neglected to give credit to Cracked.com for its earlier reporting and included a subhead — "Vietnamese moms train their babies to pee on command" — that was identical to a line written by Cracked.com. That subhead has been rewritten.

Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer


Thank you to Dr. Michelle Nitka – Child psychologist and author of Coping With Preschool Panic the Los Angeles Guide to Private Preschools allowing us to use her article for our blog. Dr. Nitka also provides advice on school applications in the Los Angeles area. For more information check her website http://preschoolguide.com/


Never mind college. How do you get your kids into preschool? Choosing a preschool, and being chosen, has come to feel like a competitive sport.  Several recent articles and news shows have fanned the flames of parental panic.  In the last year or two Nightline aired a segment entitled “Inside the Cutthroat Preschool Wars”, the San Francisco Chronicle headlined with “Preschool Wait Puts Parents In Panic” and The New York Times ran an article entitled “In Baby Boomlet, Preschool Derby Is the Fiercest Yet.”    Even without articles and news shows like these, the process of applying to preschool  is enough to push parents of hearty constitutions to the edge. 

But it does not have to be this way.  Despite what some overachieving parents think, admission to the “right” preschool will not set your child on the road to Harvard.  What is vastly more important is to finding the preschool that fits your child and your family.  Given that the preschool search often begins when a child is not even a year old many parents may well ask, “How do I know who he is yet?   He can scarcely eat without drooling!”  It is important therefore to pay attention not only to your child’s needs but also to your own.  The following tips will hopefully start you in the right direction.


 1)      Do you want your child in a half-day program or a full-day program?  How much flexibility do you need in terms of number of days your child is in school and hours your child is in school?

2)      How far do you want to drive?  There are many outstanding preschool programs,  and unless you have a pathological desire to listen to Barney or Elmo during long car rides, the closer the better. 

3)      How much do you want to spend on preschool? Don’t forget hidden costs like the annual fund drive, capital campaigns, endowment funds, galas, etc.  They all have different names but add up to the same thing – you are writing checks which can add thousands of dollars to your tuition.

4)      What is the educational philosophy you are most comfortable with (remembering of course that you are looking for the best fit for your child)?  There are lots of choices out there, including but not limited to traditional academic, developmental, cooperative, Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and Waldorf. 

5)      Would you consider sending your child to a preschool affiliated with a church or a temple?  Remember that just because a preschool is affiliated with a religious institution does not necessary mean it is a religious preschool.   If you are interested in a preschool affiliated with a church or temple, joining the congregation can give you an advantage in the admissions process.

6)      Is diversity important to you, and if so, what kind of diversity is important to you?  Some schools are founded on the idea of having a diverse student body, while others are extremely homogeneous.

7)      Does your child have any special needs that might affect whether a preschool is a good fit?   Some preschool directors are exceptional at working with and including children with special needs, while others seem to regard it as a burden.

8)      How much parent participation do you want to see in the preschool?  What are the opportunities for parent involvement, and what are the expectations?  There are some preschools, for example cooperative nursery schools, that by definition require a good deal of parent participation.  If you have a very inflexible work schedule this may not be a good choice.  On the other hand for a parent who has quit their job to be involved in their child’s early education, a school with little to no parent involvement might be quite frustrating.

9)      What is the school’s policy on toilet training? Some preschools have a very strict requirement that a child must be toilet trained to start preschool while others are far more lenient and realize that peer modeling will probably accomplish the task rather rapidly.  

10)  After preschool do you plan to send your child to public or private school?  There are some preschools where everyone will graduate and attend private elementary schools. Those directors typically help their families with this application process and are very well versed in it. On the other hand, there are many excellent preschools where no one continues on to private school. 

11)  Apply to the toddler program of the preschool you are interested in.  Many preschools have toddler programs that start when the child is about 18 months old. Toddler programs generally meet once a week and the parent stays with the child.  These programs are an excellent way of getting to know a preschool program.  Although it is not a guarantee, many preschools acknowledge that attending their toddler program does afford the child an advantage in terms of admission to the  preschool.

 Finally, try to remember that although these first decisions regarding your child’s education are important, no preschool can ever replace you.  There are no golden tickets – no preschool will guarantee success.  It is far more important to be a loving, involved, present parent.

 Los Angeles Pre-schools

Los Angeles Cutsody Lawyer




How to Help Your Toddler With Custody Transitions

The instability and uncertainty of a divorce can hamper a toddler’s need for routine.  When parents separate, new rituals and routines need to be created to foster a child’s sense of security and family.

Anyone who has had children will remember the terrible twos: the domineering behavior, inflexibility, stubbornness, extreme emotions, indecision, and the need for things to be done just in a certain way.  Characteristic behavior of toddlers is well described by the authors of the classic child development study Child Behavior: The Classic Child Care Manual from the Gessel Institute of Human Development.  A child at two and a half years old gives orders and wants exactly what they want when they want it.  If a toddler decides "Mommy do it" they will not accept Daddy as a substitute. If they decide "me do it" then no-one is allowed to help them no matter how difficult the task.  In Child Behavior the authors describe this phase as one of "disequilibrium" where toddlers find it very difficult to adapt to change, and crave structured domestic routines. These rituals make toddlers feel safe and secure. The rigid sequences of events and rituals can be as elaborate and impenetrable as a Japanese tea ceremony.  

It is important in the context of divorce that a very young child’s inclination toward ritual and routine should not automatically be misinterpreted as a preference for one parent over another.  In fact, divorce is an opportunity for both parents to help the toddler to create new rituals and routines to ease transitions and give the toddler a sense of comfort and stability.

Crankiness, irritability, defiance, signs of regression, clinginess toward one parent, and physical resistance to the other parent are common patterns displayed by toddlers when parents separate.  In their book, In The Name of The Child, Janet Johnston and Vivienne Roseby describe how parents can develop collaborative strategies to ease transitions between parent's households using rituals and routines.  (read more


For more information on child custody please call Law Offices of Warren R. Shiell - Certified Family Law Specialist at (310)247-9913 or visit our website LA Family Law or visit our FAQs on Child Custody

New Rules on Children Testifying in Custody cases in California

 Cal. Rules of Court, rule 5.250, 1/1/2012

RULE PROVIDES: "(a) This rule is intended to implement [Fam. Code §3042]. Children's participation in family law matters must be considered on a case-by-case basis. No statutory mandate, rule, or practice requires children to participate in court or prohibits them from doing so. When a child wishes to participate, the court should find a balance between protecting the child, the statutory duty to consider the wishes of and input from the child, and the probative value of the child's input while ensuring all parties' due process rights to challenge evidence relied upon by the court in making custody decisions.

(b) (1) The following persons must inform the court if they have information indicating that a child in a custody or visitation (parenting time) matter wishes to address the court: (A) A minor's counsel; (B) An evaluator; (C) An investigator; and (D) A child custody recommending counselor who provides recommendations to the judge under Family Code section 3183.

(2) The following persons may inform the court if they have information indicating that a child wishes to address the court: (A) A party; and (B) A party's attorney.

(3) In the absence of information indicating a child wishes to address the court, the judicial officer may inquire whether the child wishes to do so.

(c) [Guidelines to determine whether addressing the court is in the child's best interest]

(d) [Guidelines for receiving testimony and other information]

(e) [Responsibilities of court-connected or appointed professionals]

(f) [Methods of providing information to parents and supporting children]

(g) [Education and training]

NOTES: Advisory Committee Comment: Rule 5.250 does not apply to probate guardianships except as and to the extent that the rule is incorporated or expressly made applicable by a rule of court in title 7 of the California Rules of Court.

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Breastfeeding As An Issue In Custody Proceedings

Thank you to John Hardings Blog for this :

Kate M. Baxter-Kauf has published an article in the Richmond Journal of Law and Public Interest dealing with breastfeeding as an issue in child custody cases.  According to the abstract, the article explores the relationship between breastfeeding in custody proceedings and the supposedly discredited common law coverture and tender years doctrines. It argues that the case of custody disputes highlights the contradictory nature of family law through the relationship between parental autonomy, the privatization of dependency, and the judicially determined appropriateness of maternal relationships.

Please click here for more information.


What's Behind A Temper Tantrum? Scientists Deconstruct The Screams

Anatomy Of A Tantrum

Source: YouTube (by permission), iStockphoto.com

Credit: NPR

Children's temper tantrums are widely seen as many things: the cause of profound helplessness among parents; a source of dread for airline passengers stuck next to a young family; a nightmare for teachers. But until recently, they had not been considered a legitimate subject for science.

Now research suggests that, beneath all the screams and kicking and shouting, lies a phenomenon that is entirely amenable to scientific dissection. Tantrums turn out to have a pattern and rhythm to them. Once understood, researchers say, this pattern can help parents, teachers and even hapless bystanders respond more effectively to temper tantrums — and help clinicians tell the difference between ordinary tantrums, which are a normal part of a child's development, and those that may be warning signals of an underlying disorder.

The key to a new theory of tantrums lies in a detailed analysis of the sounds that toddlers make during tantrums. In a new paper published in the journal Emotion, scientists found that different toddler sounds – or "vocalizations" – emerge and fade in a definite rhythm in the course of a tantrum.

"We have the most quantitative theory of tantrums that has ever been developed in the history of humankind," said study co-author Michael Potegal of the University of Minnesota, half in jest and half seriously.


The first challenge was to collect tantrum sounds, says co-author James A. Green of the University of Connecticut.

"We developed a onesie that toddlers can wear that has a high-quality wireless microphone sewn into it," Green said. "Parents put this onesie on the child and press a go button."

The wireless microphone fed into a recorder that ran for several hours. If the toddler had a meltdown during that period, the researchers obtained a high-quality audio recording. Over time, Green and Potegal said they collected more than a hundred tantrums in high-fidelity audio.

The scientists then analyzed the audio. They found that different tantrum sounds had very distinct audio signatures. When the sounds were laid down on a graph, the researchers found that different sounds emerged and faded in a definite pattern. Unsurprisingly, sounds like yelling and screaming usually came together.

"Screaming and yelling and kicking often go together," Potegal said. "Throwing things and pulling and pushing things tend to go together. Combinations of crying, whining, falling to the floor and seeking comfort — and these also hang together."

But where one age-old theory of tantrums might suggest that meltdowns begin in anger (yells and screams) and end in sadness (cries and whimpers), Potegal found that the two emotions were more deeply intertwined.

"The impression that tantrums have two stages is incorrect," Potegal said. "In fact, the anger and the sadness are more or less simultaneous."

Understanding that tantrums have a rhythm can not only help parents know when to intervene, but also give them a sense of control.

Green and Potegal found that sad sounds tended to occur throughout tantrums. Superimposed on them were sharp peaks of yelling and screaming: anger.

The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible, Potegal said, was to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger, the scientists said, was to do nothing. Of course, that isn't easy for parents or caregivers to do.

"When I'm advising people about anger, I say, 'There's an anger trap,"' Potegal said.

Even asking questions can prolong the anger — and the tantrum.

That's what parents Noemi and David Doudna of Sunnyvale, Calif., found. Their daughter Katrina once had a meltdown at dinnertime because she wanted to sit at one corner of the dining table. Problem was, the table didn't have any corners – it was round. When David Doudna asked Katrina where she wanted to sit, the tantrum only intensified.

"You know, when children are at the peak of anger and they're screaming and they're kicking, probably asking questions might prolong that period of anger," said Green. "It's difficult for them to process information. And to respond to a question that the parent is asking them may be just adding more information into the system than they can really cope with."

In a video of the tantrum that Noemi Doudna posted on YouTube, Katrina's tantrum intensified to screaming, followed by the child throwing herself to the floor and pushing a chair against a wall.

"Tantrums tend to often have this flow where the buildup is often quite quick to a peak of anger," Green said.

Understanding that tantrums have a rhythm can not only help parents know when to intervene, but also give them a sense of control, Green said.

That's because, when looked at scientifically, tantrums are no different than thunderstorms or other natural phenomena. Studying them as scientific subjects rather than experiencing them like parents can cause the tantrums to stop feeling traumatic and even become interesting.

"When we're walking down the street or see a child having a tantrum, I comment on the child's technique," Potegal said. "[I] mutter to my family, 'Good data,' and they all laugh."

Noemi Doudna said she now looks back on Katrina's tantrums and sees the humor in them.

Katrina often demanded things that made no sense in the course of tantrums, Noemi Doudna said. She once said, "'I don't want my feet. Take my feet off. I don't want my feet. I don't want my feet!'"

When nothing calmed the child down, Noemi Doudna added, "I once teased her — which turned out to be a big mistake — I once said, 'Well, OK, let's go get some scissors and take care of your feet.'"

Her daughter's response, Noemi Doudna recalled, was a shriek: "Nooooo!!"


Obesity Fuels Custody Fights

The Wall Street Journal reports: The nation's waistline is expanding, and so too is the role of obesity in child-custody battles in the U.S. Family-law practitioners and legal experts say mothers and fathers in custody lawsuits are increasingly hurling accusations at each other about the nutrition and obesity of their children, largely in attempts to persuade judges that their kids are getting less-than-optimal care in the hands of ex- and soon-to-be-ex-spouses. Read the entire article

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How much praise should we give our kids



The same day that I read the above report in the Onion, I was listening to this wonderful show on NPR involving a discussion with Carol Dweck, a professor of Psychology at the StanfordDepartment of Pscychology.  Her research, real this time, found that kids who were given kudos for their effort (you tried really hard) as opposed to their sense of self (you are really smart) had higher self-esteem and were more motivated.  She has some interesting thoughts on the 7th grade wall about smart kids who coast through school up to that point and find that they have to suddenly work harder to learn.  Listen to the show.Professor Dweck also has a great site and all her articles can be downloaded as PDF's.  Go to her site.




Hypertexting and family law

I recently heard this accusation from an attorney in a custody case. "Your client is crazy, she's sending 20 texts a day to my client. She is harassing him and trying to micromanage custody." So I did a little digging. It turns out that this is how the two young parents communicated before they separated and its probably how they will continue to communicate in the future. He sends just as many texts. Then I did a little more research and was astonished to find out the statistics on texting between young teens and adults.  The Nielsen Co. analyzed cell phone bills of 60,000 subscribers at the request of The Wall Street Journal. Nielsen's study contrasts with another done recently that finds text messaging to be on the rise, but not to the same degree. The average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives a whopping 3,339 text messages a month, and adults' use of text messaging is starting to climb -- although to nowhere near the levels of American teens. Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, in its research, said that teen texting averages 50 messages a day -- compared to the 100 a day average cited by Nielsen. the Pew reports found "Adults who text typically send and receive a median of 10 texts a day; teens who text send and receive a median of 50 texts per day," Pew said, adding that a very small number -- 5 percent of adult texters send "more than 200 text messages a day or more than 6,000 texts a month. Fully 15 percent of teens 12-17, and 18 percent of adults 18 to 24 text message more than 200 messages a day, while just 3 percent of adults 25 to 29 do the same." I have read elsewhere reports that 10 % of adults between 18-25 thought it was OK to text while having sex. Seriously. From a legal viewpoint this raises numerous concerns. I've read that Judges complain about jurors texting during the trial ( at least they were not texting and having sex during the trial). As a family lawyer it is of concern because in a custody case you always want to advice a parent not to do anything (especially if it leaves a trail) that indicates pathological behaviour. So where does this leave the lawyer who complained about my client's excessive texting. Perhaps it says more about how out of touch that lawyer is with the modern world. After all, she is just getting around to using email.




Study Finds Every Style Of Parenting Produces Disturbed, Miserable Adults

Great satire from the Onion


SANTA ROSA, CA—A study released by the California Parenting Institute Tuesday shows that every style of parenting inevitably causes children to grow into profoundly unhappy adults. "Our research suggests that while overprotective parenting ultimately produces adults unprepared to contend with life's difficulties, highly permissive parenting leads to feelings of bitterness and isolation throughout adulthood," lead researcher Daniel Porter said. "And, interestingly, we found that anything between those two extremes is equally damaging, always resulting in an adult who suffers from some debilitating combination of unpreparedness and isolation. Despite great variance in parenting styles across populations, the end product is always the same: a profoundly flawed and joyless human being." The study did find, however, that adults often achieve temporary happiness when they have children of their own to perpetuate the cycle of human misery.



Children of Divorce Struggle More With Math and Social Skills

A new study confirms the well known fact that divorce can be hard on kids in many ways: socially, academically, and emotionally.

According to new research published Thursday in theAmerican Sociological Review. children whose parents divorce perform worse in math and have poorer social skills, and they struggle more with anxiety, loneliness, sadness, and poor self-esteem than their peers whose parents are not divorced. They are also more likely to have trouble making friends and maintaining those friendships, expressing emotions positively, and getting along with other kids who are different from them.

The study examined data from a study of children who entered kindergarten in 1998 through the time those students were in fifth grade, and focused specifically on 142 children in homes where the parents had separated during the time the children were between the first and third grades.

In mathematics performance, children from divorced homes were 12% less advanced than children from intact homes. Interestingly, the same result was not found for reading scores.

Hyun Sik Kim, the study's author and a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said one of the conclusions that can be drawn from the study is that it is important to intervene early on for a child whose parents are going through a divorce.

The study also suggested that the primary factor that determines how a child will be affected by a divorce is the level of conflict in the home. Some children whose parents were going through an amicable divorce did not show extraordinary signs of struggle, but some children in homes with parents who were unhappily married performed at the same level as those from divorced homes.

It seems indisputable that divorce can be difficult on children. Ideally, all children would grow up in stable homes with loving parents who remain together. But even where divorce is inevitable, much can be done to make that transition easier on the children.

 Source: TIME, "Children of Divorce Struggle More With Math and Social Skills," Bonnie Rochman, 2 Jun 2011.


Divorce And The Special Needs Child

Huffingtonpost.com has an article on divorce and the special needs child:

Divorce is always difficult for the children, but what happens when the parents about to split have a child with special needs? According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders has grown to 1 in 110 children today, while another CDC study indicates that 1 in 10 children aged 4 - 17 has been diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Combine these sobering statistics with the ever-rising divorce rates and you have a perfect storm of people navigating the very rocky waters of divorce with the added pressure of needing to effectively co-parent a child with special needs long after their marriage is over.  Read this article.

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Japan Joins International Child Custody Pact

In response to international concern over Japan becoming a haven for child abductions, Japan has approved plans to join the International Child Custody Pact.  Read this article on Huffingtonpost.com -

TOKYO — Japan's Cabinet approved a plan to join a global child custody treaty Friday, amid foreign pressure on Tokyo to revise policies some say allow Japanese mothers to too easily take their children away from foreign fathers.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Cabinet endorsed the move, which would spur changes in Japanese laws to bring them in line with the 1980 Hague Convention on international abduction, said Yusuke Asakura, an official at the Cabinet Office.

Japan is the only Group of Seven nation that hasn't signed the Hague pact. Asakura said the Cabinet plan must be approved by parliament for it to take effect, and it could face resistance there.

The United States, Britain, France and other countries have repeatedly urged Japan to join the convention.  See the rest of the article.

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