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Ask HN: Educating a child who is severely behind
53 points by jwdunne on May 28, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 48 comments
I am in a relationship with a lady who has a 3 year old son. I've grown to love him like he's my own child.

It's clear that he's behind in terms of development due to lack of attention in the first two years of his life, for reasons I don't completely blame his mother but reasons I don't feel are appropriate to disclose.

I'm currently focusing on helping his speech and potty training as a priority, with helping in other areas and being a general father figure. I believe my efforts have paid off because I've been told his rate of development has been remarkable since I became involved.

I was just wondering if anybody who has a child or has studied this area has any extra ideas for my to try? Are there any techniques or methods I can employ to help his development along further?

I'm asking here because this is hacker news and its going to take a seriously effective and elegant hack to get this kid where he needs to be a d further. I can't stand to see a clearly intelligent child locked behind a wall of impeded speech and behaviours typical to a 1 year old.

I eventually want to to teach him the wonders of computers and how to tell them what to do. It will be very hard if we can't communicate effectively.

Don't look for hacks. Look for ways to instill healthy habits and skills that he can use for the rest of his life. I'm glad you brought up potty training and speech, because those are both great examples.

For speech, I recommend having conversations with him as you would an adult, and try to keep eye contact often enough that he sees your mouth as you speak. Don't hound him on mis pronunciations but feel free to correct him as you would a friend who is trying to learn English. Be as sensitive as you would be toward a friend if he gets frustrated or ashamed.

For potty training, he'll need a solid week at home with a toilet he is comfortable going in. Don't take him somewhere unless you can bring the toilet with you. I've brought it in the car before :O . Keep him naked or in regular underwear and be clear what the goal is. sometimes a treat after going in the potty works well. Someone will have to run him to the bathroom at times.

For whatever he likes (dinosaurs, animals, trucks), work on the names of different types. Flash cards work well : http://www.amazon.com/Animals-All-Kinds-Flash-Cards/dp/09382... . My daughter loves going through those while eating - she asks for them and we treat them like a reward for eating her food by herself (one bite, one card). She happens to not really like food.

Get good nutrition going immediately. Vegetables, fruit, and everything else you eat (stomache, allergy and spice issues permitting). Don't start juice if he isn't used to it, and water it down if he is.

Get the mom on the same page. And, remember, he's not your son. If you are going to treat him as your son, do what you can to make that official so that the risks of losing him are reduced. Marry, adopt, whatever. Or be cognizant to distance yourself a bit and be like an uncle.

I'm just a dad, not an expert. Ask away and let me know if anything sounds off. Where are you located?

Good luck :) . Thanks for making the world bettah.

And, there is no rush. Do not rush. The goal is to create a happy, healthy and capable person - not an impressive 5 year old. This is coming from someone who's wife spends most of her time educating and caring for his kids, who are therefore advanced relative to peers: it's not that important.

It IS important for kids to have caretakers who give them attention, opportunity to be capable for life and economy, and a happy and stimulating environment.

Working towards these things with your kid is literally more important than these things making your kid more developed.

Also: don't smoke or perform other bad habits around him. Nail biting, drinking, getting angry, gossiping, etc. These are negative habits that will rub off.

We fretted over potty training when my son was two. His daycare[1] said, "We take them all through it together in the two-and-a-half year old class." What the hell was wrong with them? Some of his peers were using the potty at 18 months!

Dissecting this now, how far behind can a two year old be? Not very far if at all. The severe outliers are two years behind - unable to hold up their heads. Most everyone is in the middle on just about everything - there's a normal range.

Now twelve, my son has been fully potty trained for many years. The important things in his two year old class were singing and laughing and playing and getting along with other kids and strategies for dealing with the times when things didn't go his way.

My son dropped his bar of soap in the five year old musical! He wasn't moved up to the U11 soccer team when he was nine! He got a B in sixth grade math this spring!

Music or sports or academics every parent is a fool, and comparing one's children to other children is a fool's game. I do it, still and know I'm being a fool and I do it anyway.

[1] Oh eM Gee! Daycare? What the hell is wrong with us? How could we do this. He'll probably get a B in Sixth Grade math because he blew off his homework and be ruined for life!

"The goal is to create a happy, healthy and capable person - not an impressive 5 year old" I totally agree with this. This is a life long project. What you are looking for has to come from within, it can't be imposed from without.

If I could/had to do it all over again I would be keeping these things in mind: Pressure is bad. It's probably easier than you think to makes kids afraid to try. Keep him away from computers/TV as long as possible. Imagination is a pale and shabby thing beside them. Books build a different mind.

I would also echo the nutrition thing. I would suggest maybe a shake for breakfast with a variety of fresh/frozen fruit and some Vega One: http://myvega.com/product/vega-one-nutritional-shake/ Take a good look at the nutritional content. Hopefully that will be a habit that will sustain the kids nutritional needs while he goes through the dreaded "I'm only eating white bread and dry pasta" phase.

Good luck.

Don't look for hacks.

This is almost always good advice, but I think it bears repeating as the crux of this extremely insightful post. And honestly: HN is NOT the place to look for this. I think you're lucky to have someone like kvnn responding up top but you're likely to soon be mired in god knows what.

Go be a dad. Do it the way dads have done it forever: Off the cuff, the best they know how. He'll benefit a lot more from your honest attempts and interaction than anyone else's poor attempts at Best Practices for Other People.

Good luck, and as an adoptee, I thank you for being a good dad to a kid who needs one!

Perhaps I am wrong for seeking hacks or word it as such. I guess what I was asking for is clever andgood advice from a community I know from first hand experience is full of smart people, some of which I'm banking on them having children.

Truth is I'm young and I've never been in this position before. I've also missed out on those first two years with no idea of the damage done.

Thanks to both of you for taking the time to give me advice. It means a tonne. I think I'm getting a bit frustrated as would anyone in my position.

@kvnn I am from Manchester, UK :)


Asking questions like "what flavour of juice do you want?" will encourage a reply of "apple" or "orange" rather than a monosyllabic yes/no.

Being ok with whatever the closest approximation of that word you're going to get is and then repeating back the correct pronunciation (as mentioned in another comment) makes this a lot less stressful than it sounds.

If the kid's mother is the primary source of unconditional cuddles, considering becoming the primary source of respect. When I was in a similar sounding situation, the desire to be "daddy's big boy" was a powerful motivating factor for getting him to stretch his abilities.

Also, though ... the fact you care enough to have started this at all suggests that the parenting circuits have kicked in (or ... whatever you want to call it; let's just say I know the "oh shit, I appear to feel like a parent ... ok, wow, this is amazing also I AM SCARED AS HELL OF DOING IT WRONG" feeling) and that combined with a little common sense will go a LONG way.

If you've already "been told his rate of development has been remarkable since (you) became involved" ... you may be micro-optimising something that's already proceeding pretty efficiently already.

I've also seen suggestions[citation needed, sorry] that when offering kids a choice, narrowing it down to just two or three things can help them start getting used to making decisions without being completely overwhelmed by the options (e.g. if you're at the grocery store and you decide to give him the opportunity for some input into the purchases, ask, "do you want to get apple or orange juice?" rather than taking him to the juice aisle and saying "what kind of juice do you want?")

The reality is that you do not have the knowledge skills and abilities to determine the developmental status of the child. Nor do you have the expertise to formulate a developmental plan should their be one. You're just a guy with a girl and a rugrat.

A child is not a lawnmower engine. Children don't get damaged and repaired. They grow up, each as their own snowflake.

Everyone doesn't get frustrated to the point of pathologizing their child's development. Growing up needs to happen all around.

Good luck.

No but social services do have the knowledge, skills and abilities and they have determined he has the mindset of a 1 year old. This is why I know he is severely behind, not just because I've decided he is severely behind.

I'm not saying he is like a lawnmower engine and I didn't mean it this way. I'm trying to find better ways on how to educate him and help him grow. This doesn't mean I'm doing so at the expense of loving him and giving him a good upbringing. In fact, it's the opposite. He isn't going to develop in the way that I'd like if he has a less than great childhood.

People do get frustrated when they see a child they love so damaged and feel powerless to do anything about it.

Thanks for your advice, I really appreciate it, but a part of me feels that you have misunderstood what I meant and my intentions.

First, accept my apology for not asking more questions before jumping to a negative conclusion. Internet habits die hard.

I went through architecture studios with a quadriplegic. Tim crashed a motorcycle while studying fine art as an undergrad. He could move his head. Holding a pencil in his teeth, he could sketch more quickly and beautifully than most of the class. By kindness, there would be a sketchbook within his reach.

My advice as a parent is that feelings of frustration and unfulfilled expectations can form a barrier to being in and savoring your moments with him. Life is not about what someone can't do, but what they can.

It's no problem at all, I should have been specific about how I've come to know such details about his development :) I'm not an expert and this is new water for me.

Thanks for your advice and taking the time to help me out, it's much appreciated. I do understand your point and looking at things I can see how my focus and frustrations may have gotten in the way.

Hacks are elegant and clever ways to save time and energy.

I don't think that's possible with some things, like raising a child, where there's just a lot of steady work to be done. Changing diapers, cleaning up barf, spending time at the park, etc... and simply "being there".

I recommend this book: "Happiest Toddler on the Block: How to Eliminate Tantrums and Raise a Patient, Respectful and Cooperative One- to Four-year-old" by Harvey Karp.

The book actually has plenty of "tricks". Contrary to what I have read in this page I found (and this is the point of Dr Karps' books) that there are plenty of tricks that are absolutely not intuitive.

For example to avoid a tantrum you repeat to the child what he actually wants ("Jimmy wants to eat more cake") then explain shortly why he cannot and propose something else. I found this works surprisingly well. Just the fact that the child hears what he wants from your mouth seems to make a big difference.

I'll probably check it out, thanks. Raising kids can be very unintuitive from my experience - I'm extremely lucky to have a very skilled mother for a wife (who is more scientific than intuitive).

> I can't stand to see a clearly intelligent child locked behind a wall of impeded speech and behaviours typical to a 1 year old.

Kids are different, each and every one of them. If all he does is not go to the potty and you have to work at understanding him then things may not be as bad as they seem and a 'crash program' to advance the child to match his peers may not be what's called for. I've seen kids that were potty trained later than this and I know at least several children that are clever but hard to understand at that age and nobody thinks of them as 'behind in terms of development'.

There is no set schedule here, if you are really worried about this - and it seems that you are - you might want to check with local professionals to see if he's really as behind as you think and if a crash program to remedy this is what is called for or a more sedate pace slightly above normal until things are in line again.

As with others here: HN is not the right place to look for advice on this, we're not exactly childcare professionals (even if some of us are dads and moms). My 'qualifications' are that I'm a father of three tri-lingual children and that at the age of three they all seemed to be behind a bit in terms of speech development because of that.

The most important thing to take away from this thread is the 'there is no rush' bit, I second that wholeheartedly, better a happy child that's a bit behind than a frustrated child trying to make up because of pressure.

Much good luck!

I work with children with special needs. There are lots of things you can do in everyday interactions with your child. When he speaks to you, articulate back what you think he said clearly as a role model for him. Wherever possible, try and help him be as independent as possible. If I had a pound for everytime things are done for children, when it's completely within their means to do a task independently (e.g. getting dressed etc.) After a long time of being dependent on an adult, children give up and wait for things to be done for them and they can become very passive and almost 'lazy'.

When it comes to toilet training, make it as stress free as possible and offer rewards (whatever he really likes). Make sure that he knows what he has to do for the reward and try and make the completion of it as realistic for him as possible (i.e. don't make it near impossible for him to try- obvious, I know but the amount of times I've seen children given something that I think is difficult for me).

Also, if possible, get a professional involved - start with a General Practitioner if you're not sure, but you can also go to an educational psychologist who should assess and then give you recommendations of what your child needs to make further progress. Sometimes these can be simple adaptations to what you're already doing (we do lots of adaptations in the school where I work to remove barriers to learning).

Other than that, good luck - raising a child is one of the hardest jobs you can do.

"After a long time of being dependent on an adult, children give up and wait for things to be done for them and they can become very passive and almost 'lazy'."

The obvious HN analogy is anyone who's ever observed users vs IT. "You mean you spent 15 minutes opening a ticket with IT to get them to put paper in the printer? Seriously?"

After the fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania, it was discovered that there were terrifying orphanages full of kids who had had almost no human contact for years and were in bad shape as a result. My aunt volunteered to go to Romania to help save as many of these kids as possible.

The relevant news for you is that kids who were only three at the time rescuers arrived almost all recovered without lasting harm. The thing that saved them was LOTS of daily human interaction.

Talk to that boy as much as you can. Hold him, sing to him (singing skill is optional), play with his hands, play "piggies" with his toes, work on naming parts of his face, play "head, shoulders, knees, and toes," play with blocks, talk about colors, have one of you make a funny face and the other one has to copy it then switch roles, and so on. (Don't read too much into it if he's really bad at some of these games. My sons had no developmental problems, and yet I could not BELIEVE how badly they did on some simple mental games: "See this green card, Buddy? It's green, isn't it?" "Yes." "What color is it?" "I don't know, Dada." "This color is green, okay?" "Okay." "So, what color is this GREEN card?" "I don't know, Dada." Yes, believe it or not, this is totally normal.)

Be a little careful not to overstimulate him with too much noise, wild motion, etc., because that can be hard for him to process until he's older, but lots of calm, happy, silly, giggly talking and playing should (slowly) bring him back to the path he would have been on without the early lack of attention.

Also, as others have suggested, do involve doctors in this to the extent you can. There might be more to the story than lack of attention, and "many eyes" are better for debugging problems early, right?

About speech: model correct words, but don't force corrections. So when he says "yewwow worrwy" you say "Yes! That's right! Yellow Lorry!"

Use that sing-song voice. Some people say it's annoying and stupid, but children do react to it. (Don't have the sources to hand, sorry.)

Offer him choices. Don't say "Would you like a drink?" but say "Do you want milk? Or do you want water?" to encourage him to say stuff.

If he's babbling that's good, you want to encourage any noise making.

About the other stuff: investigate "attachment parenting". Poor attachment in early life can have serious effects. You want to try to fix this.

Really, just spend time loving the child and interacting.

There are some programmes designed to help with poor behaviour. Webster-Stratton is one. It gets some criticism because of the way it's marketed.

It might be worth asking some questions on the parenting stack exchange. I seem to remember some people there did work in this area.

> when he says "yewwow worrwy" you say "Yes! That's right! Yellow Lorry!"

Yes, I was looking through this thread for this. It's counter-intuitive, but I really believe it's best to nod and encourage any behavior that is headed in the right direction. I learned this trick from a foreign language teacher.

The thing to understand is that he IS saying "yellow lorry". His muscles are simply not developed enough for it to sound correct. But if you tell him, "no, yellow lorry", he'll get frustrated because HE IS saying it to the best of his ability.

This applies more to an older child, but maybe it will help you.

Usually a older child can catch up, because the older child learns faster than a younger one. This is good - but it has one problem: If the catching up child skips basic practice and drills, he may still know the material (i.e. he caught up), but he's missing something.

For example teaching an older child the times table - he'll be able to learn it easily. But without the constant drills and practice he won't know the numbers off the top of his head as quickly as another child.

This can harm him (his learning) later in life. So my message is don't skip the drills! In your case you don't really need to drill potty training or speaking, since this is something everyone does constantly anyway.

But if you notice anyplace where he knows the material, but is just not as fast, and smooth, at it as he should be, then give him extra practice in it.

My stepfather did this, unconditionally taking on two young boys that were not his own. Give him your time and your love. He'll learn greedily if you don't push him. All children want to please their parents. He needs to make mistakes and let him take risks. Praise him for trying, rather than scolding him for failing. Every child is different.

The one thing I've learned from parenting is that you have to 'pivot' constantly. You have to adapt to child's brain that is constantly developing and adapting itself.

Enjoy yourself, leave your work at work. Young children are incredibly adept at picking up tiny signals. They know if you are tired and don't want to play with them or read them a story before bedtime. They will punish you for it!

It's a great thing that you are doing, making a positive impact on someones life is something you don't often get a chance to do. I think you'll be surprised how quickly infants do pick things up, but everyone learns at a different rate, so don't worry if he's behind in some things, there's plenty of time to catch up.

I think one of the best things you can do is talk with him, kids pick up language really easily, and it's a great way to learn. Spend time talking more as equals than as parent/child. It's sometimes a difficult balance to get, you need to have authority at times, but at other times it's better to be a friend.

Socalising with other kids is also important. So while putting in daycare may seem like you are avoiding taking care of him, it's really important for his development that he interacts with friends his own age.

Kids (and I guess anyone) can be remarkably sensitive too, so make sure he feels safe at home and has some stability. Talk about this too as sometimes kids get thoughts in their heads that would be better talked about than left for them to dwell on.

And don't worry about things to much, everyone learns this one on the job, you seem to care a lot, so I'm sure you'll do fine. And have fun with him, kids are a great way to relax (sometimes), and also an excuse to do things you wouldn't normally do.

My only experience is in the US, you didn't mention a country.

Check with your health insurance to see if they cover short term rehab. If they do (my insurance when I was a grad student did, but it varies by state) they will cover some months of speach and/or occupational therapy (OT always sounds weird to me dealing with kids, but it deals with a bunch of sensory and processing issues).

Anyone with speech issues I would recommend a good hearing test (from an audiologist, not the doctors office). This is how we found my daughter is hearing impaired.

In the US, children with delays are eligible for some services from the public school system. Depending on the district, this will likely be a long wait with some screenings and paperwork, but we got several years of speech and language therapy from very qualified people.

Finally, don't forget a pediatrician. They will be able to give you recommendations of local contacts that can help.

This is not something to be a hero and go it alone, get help.

I found some interesting views in this book http://www.amazon.com/Brain-Rules-Baby-Raise-Smart/dp/098326... - there is an associated website which might include some of the content. http://www.brainrules.net/. One interesting point the author makes is the importance of teaching children to identify non-verbal cues and cites studies showing that young children who are taught sign language (and are not hearing impaired) have a higher probability of success in later life. The following pdf could also give you some ideas http://www.dgmt.co.za/files/2013/05/More-than-Counting_web.p... - aimed specifically at math development between 0 and 5 years.

I see you're in the UK. I would suggest going to the child's GP, raise your concerns about speech and language delay and ask for a referral to speech and language therapy. If you have other concerns, raise them with your GP as well and you may get other referrals. You'll have to have the child's guardian involved obviously, and depending on procedures, there may be a visit from a social worker to get a sense of the child's needs. That might sound scary but it isn't really. [Note: I live in Ireland but the process is very similar to the best of my knowledge]

Your role here is as a de-facto parent. You clearly care about the boy and you should focus on that - you have a huge role to play, but you are not a language therapist/child psychologist/occupational therapist. Your job is to get the little guy the services he needs and be prepared to be stubborn and insistent that he gets them. And there will be lots of "homework" to do that will keep you busy once you get that.

Early intervention is key, so getting into the system and getting access to the necessary services is your top priority. Accept any and every appointment that comes your way. Also, you need to be in it for the long haul - my experience is that it's a case of incremental progress over long periods rather than giant leaps. You may at some point feel that this is over the the top, or that his issues aren't that bad compared to other kids that you encounter. Forget that thought immediately.

Like others here, I would not generally suggest looking for hacks. But one thing that really works is probably something you're doing already - playing. Let the child lead, talk constantly to describe what they are doing and occasionally ask questions. That's a very basic description that should get you going, and once you get access to the services you need, you may be able to find out more (some sort of parenting course for kids with needs is usually part of the process).

Finally, just keep doing what you're doing, but also look out for yourself in all this. Good luck!

"Your job is to get the little guy the services he needs and be prepared to be stubborn and insistent that he gets them."

My personal experience is the entire medical community seems to have an avoidance issue WRT food allergies. Oh who knows some kids are just like that. Thats just how some kids are, why don't you wait and see if he catches up. I'm sure that's not the case. Well some kids just develop at a different rate mentally and physically than others. They'd rather MRI my son for suspected stomach cancer than test for allergy antibodies (or was it just xray? It was awhile ago). Seriously. They had us all in suspected cancer mode before they broke down and tried allergy testing.

Eventually, after much arguing, the pediatrician ordered a blood test, referred him to a gastroenterologist, who did some crazy stomach wall tissue biopsy after draining about a quart for innumerable blood tests, and finally, they're like "yeah, he's severely allergic to gluten per both biopsy and blood tests, so stop eating that". And casein and soy.

I found it remarkable how hard you have to push to get tests done for a diagnosis like that. I believe in for profit industry, follow the money. The worst medical scenario for the patient or the parents is probably cancer or something awful like that. The worst medical scenario for the doctors and adminstrators is an illness that is treated by a "simple" diet change and requires no expensive pills, no expensive followups, no expensive surgery, diagnosis wasn't too expensive other than the tissue biopsy work... that's why you have to fight fight fight to even get tested because that diagnosis is a nightmare scenario for the docs.

The point of all this is his development rate skyrocketed once we got him proper food, and he's pretty near caught up to his peers, which is cool. So you'll have to fight extremely hard to test for food allergies, but it might (or might not) pay off. (edited to add there may be other financial nightmare scenarios for doctors which are hard to get tested. Hmm, how about vision testing? Can't learn to read if you can't see the page, but if you can avoid getting the kid glasses you can milk that cow for money for a long time WRT special needs reading classes and such. My daughter had that problem.)

This is a very good point. Our guy turned out to have similar food allergies. The soy one is a nightmare, because soy and soy derivatives seem to be in just about everything. But if he does have any allergies, there are lots of alternatives and a dietician would be able to help.

Also OP, the other test I would recommend (though hopefully, the team you're dealing with will do it as more or less a first step) is a hearing test. He may have glue-ear or similar common childhood hearing issues without showing any symptoms (i.e. earache). Even a small percentage drop in hearing at that age can have an impact.

And if the poor guy does have food allergies as mentioned, that would exacerbate the problem (basically, hay-fever like symptoms causing his nose to become blocked and therefore his ears).

By the way, these may sound like a really big deal but they are not. All this things are easily fixable. They're also incredibly common.

"just about everything."

Yeah tell me about it, I've been living it for about half a decade and its in almost everything heavily processed. In the "real food" aisles, other than raw soybeans and tofu and some soy "milks" (and soy milk is getting pretty far away from "real food") its pretty easy to avoid soy. If it comes in a box and/or maybe a bag its nearly impossible to avoid soy, wheat, or casein (milk).

Which leads to "hmm, sounds like we're about to live the Paleo diet" which at least on HN leads to ridiculous responses against it, about God intelligently designing us to evolve over the last couple decades to live exclusively on "hot pockets", candy bars, and high fructose corn syrup and cooking at home should be illegal and/or only for rich people and/or only for poor people or perhaps both at the same time but definitely not for us, therefore trying to avoid junk food is a religious sin and ethically immoral and anti-american and everyone should eat as much fake food as possible, err, and well lets ignore the allergy people they can just go curl up and die somewhere. Ah, paraphrasing a bit from a slightly biased perspective.

Lets just say my family eats a heck of a lot of salads with a side of a little roasted, baked, steamed, or grilled meat. Last night was big spinach salad with some kinda vinaigrette and (admittedly non-paleo) sliced seasoned baked potatoes (I think dill and rosemary?) and some overly spicy bbq flavored homemade baked chicken. Want to cut back on meat consumption? Spice the heck out of it till you can't stomach more than a couple oz. You can eat paleo pretty cheaply and healthily if you want, or you can use it as an "excuse" to eat nothing but 32 oz of grilled beef tenderloin each night and then complain.

You should check these sub-reddits:

http://www.reddit.com/r/Parenting/ http://www.reddit.com/r/raisingKids

There are more subject specific sub-reddits. You can find the list on the right side panel in the above links.

There's also a StackExchange[1], but I don't know how good it is.

[1]: http://parenting.stackexchange.com/

I'm not a speech therapist or anything like that, but I'm a father of a 4 year old with an autism spectrum disorder. So, take my words with a grain of salt.

Regarding speech, I think the most important thing is being patient. No rush, avoid putting the kid under any kind of pressure. I'm saying this as someone who had done the opposite and is now sure it only made things worse. But you should probably try different approaches. Some prefer highly structured approaches, like ABA. I hate ABA because it's like training a dog. Besides, it made no positive impact on my child (it was probably negative). Yes, she did learn a couple of new words, but she doesn't use any of them in the "real world". Every single word she uses actively she learned while playing, exploring, listening to us, you know, doing all the small, everyday things. Also, I too have a book recommendation -- I have just read "It Takes Two To Talk" (look it up on Amazon -- unfortunately it doesn't appear to have the "look/search inside" functionality available. I can give you some more details when I get back home, email me if you're interested) and I suggest you to take a look. It's very simple, practical and essentially, common sense (most of the other books on the topic I've read aren't exactly like that). But it'll save you so much time. You'll be up to speed in two days, instead of, say, 6 months. There's another book on the same topic I heard was great, but the title escapes me right now :( I ordered it a couple of days ago, so I guess I'm going to know the title again really soon :)

Regarding potty training, what worked for us is: first, it's absolutely crucial the kid is at home all the time for this to work. So, no kindergarten. Second, whatever your specific approach is (I suggest you watch the kid's body signs and always have the potty available :), do it for one week. If it doesn't work, stop. Wait for a month or two, then try again (possibly using some other approach). When the kid is ready it'll just happen.

Please keep in mind that I'm no childcare professional. Also, there are many conflicting approaches. For example, I'm sure someone will tell you, for example, that ABA is great. And maybe it really is, for some kids. I guess you'll have to experiment a lot. Good luck! And don't rush. Just don't rush.

Tread carefully. You are in a relationship with someone who really is the new parent, and whilst you may act like a father figure, and have ambitions, don't get that confused with who's child it is. I only say this, because the last thing you need is resentment to build up because you might be able to do something that the real parent was not able to do.

I'm sure you have talked this all over with the parent, and like you say there were mitigating circumstances, but it is the other person who has the right to the decision-making. Just keep that in mind that's all.

In your spare moments for reading, I think you will really like this newly published book on child development:


Child development is very complicated to understand, but delightful to observe. (I am the father of four children, one now fully grown and living independently.)

This list of books on language development of children, one of your concerns,


is a bit old, but quite useful for parents.

Talk to him a lot and ask questions with follow up why, where, when, etc. Also the more you expose him to, the more he learns, take him yo see a real train, a real truck, etc and explain what it is. Most importantly show love and give them fun. I love playing sports with my boys or just wrestling around. Every sat and sun we go for a 1 - 2 hr trip on a red wagon in the park, they throw sticks, rocks, etc. KISS

Relax about the potty training. Frequent reminders, sticker chart, and bigger milestone rewards are all you need. Kids are on their on timeline with this, and any anxiety you have around it won't help. Regarding speech, repeat back clearly what the boy says to you. A speech therapist helps. It is a long, gradual process. Facilitated play (i.e., guided by adult) with peers is huge.

Oh... One last thing, there is nothing better for a child than a little brother or sister; so get to work. 😊

It sounds like you're going to be a great Dad!

Perhaps not a hack, but I recommend reading the book, "How Children Succeed" - here's an extract: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5721868

And I wish you all the best!

One word: love

Just a little caution: If you are not going to stay with this child for life, then please be very careful of his emotions.

Loss of attachment is really really really hard on children.

I fully intend on being there for him for the rest of his life and me and his mother are deeply in love. We are hoping to get married some time next year :)

I thought that once; then she and I broke up and I haven't seen the kid since (sadly). So it goes.

I don't, honestly, think that possible outcome is something worth dewelling on; once you start feeling like a parent, the whole 'apply love' thing is entirely unavoidable.

But please do remember that "I fully intend" may at some point make contact with a reality hostile to your intentions, and at least consider the possibility you may one day need a plan Z.

She is my childhood sweetheart and we have been through an awful lot together. She has stood by me in times when I didn't even care or stand by myself, when I felt disgusting and unloved (I suffer from a mood disorder which produced psychotic symptoms at its peak). She was there when even some family refused to be there.

To be poetic, my love for her transcends that of anything I'be ever known or witnessed. It seems we are stronger than my parents and her parents and they have been together for around 20 - 25 years each. We are 100% dedicated to each other and the thought if not being with her makes me physically sick.

It sounds like you have a significantly lower than average chance of needing a plan Z. That wasn't really my point.

"Having an appropriate will" is another form of having a plan Z; reality is not fair, not kind, and not your friend.

(trying to steer clear of doomsaying but there's an underlying "no matter how reliable your RAID array is an offsite backup is still a good idea" point I'm trying to make here :)

Sorry to sound cynical, but toddlers and pre-schoolers are easily the most confounding, frustrating creatures on the planet. They are experts at exposing your dark corners and jangling your nerves. You will not be feeling or thinking 'love' at that point. If you are looking for single word remedies, then 'tolerance', or 'patience' are closer to the mark.

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