facebook
twitter

needayoutubeicon donate

Dr. Gilboa's Never A Dull Moment by debigilboa
Encouragement from a Family Doctor and Mom of Four: Learning to enjoy the hard work of parenting, and offering suggestions on how you can too. Send parenting questions to Dr. Gilboa questions through: deborahgilboamd.com/category/ask-dr-g/
May 09, 2011 | 5496 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

view as list
Mother & 7yo Son Power Struggle
by debigilboa
May 28, 2012 | 372 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

My seven year old son has been really working against us – “no” to doing homework before play, “no” to eating dinner before dessert – everything you can possibly imagine and this is also happening in public places. He is also big into calling me names now that he’s figured out how to truly get my attention. What happens inevitably afterwards, is that there will be an hour’s worth of him challenging me and then we both take some time to decompress and distance ourselves from each other (in the form of a “time out”) to get perspective. During our little “talk,” afterwards he articulates himself so eloquently and understands why he behaved the way he did only by then I am quite exhausted. How to survive (and thrive) this challenging stage? Any tips and advice?

Dorit, in PA

Consequences, empathy and detachment. Repeat.

Consequences. Your son may not call you names without swift and noteworthy consequences. I don’t care how eloquently he can articulate his reasons for doing this, he needs to find a more articulate and eloquent and, above all respectful, way to express his frustration with you.

When he’s not in trouble, you (and your parenting partner if you have one) and your son sit down and you say: “There is no name calling in our family. If you do this again ever, the punishment will be ______.  If you do it again after that, the consequences will get more severe.  Do you understand?”  You can have a long conversation about love and respect and communication or a very short one. Then write down the agreement along with the consequences, and everyone signs it. Hang it where you will all see it often.

Empathy. It is great that he can make you understand how he feels. Help him see that he likes it when you understand and can empathize with his feelings.  Help him express his feelings rather than saying “No.”  Saying no doesn’t move his goals any closer, it just gets him in trouble. Teach him to help you have empathy for his situation.

Detachment. Separate a little from his bad behavior. He is not challenging you because he doesn’t love you. He is challenging you because he wants to be in charge of his moment-to-moment life.  That is an understandable desire (empathy, right?) but not a reasonable one for a 7 year old. He needn’t exhaust you. You have the power in the relationship. His name-calling should get him in trouble but don’t let it impact your self-esteem.  He is throwing the 7 year old version of a tantrum, and it has very little to do with you.

If you react strongly he will do it again and again. Stay cool and stand your ground. If you want to thrive you’re going to have to take your drama out of it.  When he sees that his bad behavior gets him very little emotional reaction but does get him unpleasant consequences, he will try something else.

Repeat.  Once you have eliminated the name-calling you can start on the “No!” behavior.  Same principles apply.

This may take a while! Find a place of calm and strength when he behaves this way.  And if that doesn’t work, fake it.

***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

MRSA Prevention in Student Athletes
by debigilboa
May 21, 2012 | 424 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

How can I best protect my child athlete from staph infection?

Dave, in PA

In a word? Wash.

Here is a quick overview of “staph” infections.

There are a lot of staphylococcus bacteria, but the one you’re asking about is CA-MRSA. That is community acquired Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. More than half of MRSA is caught in health care settings, but a growing percentage is acquired in the community.  It is spread by contact.

MRSA causes red bumps and boils, that can progress to a more serious infection if you ignore them. If attended to, they don’t usually cause any long term problems for people who are otherwise healthy.

How exactly is MRSA spread? Skin to skin contact, or skin to surface contact. Spread is faster if someone has cuts or scrapes on the skin that contacts the bacteria.

Where do kids catch it? Usually in locker rooms, gyms, by sharing clothes or sports equipment or body contact.

Why can kids catch it more often than adults? Cleanliness and contact are the biggest reasons!

How can MRSA transmission be prevented?

  1. Athletes should shower after practices and games. Regular soap and water work well!
  2. Wash all uniforms and practice clothes after each wearing.
  3. Athletes should try not to share equipment that touches their skin.
  4. Equipment that is shared (weight benches, goalie gear, etc) should be wiped down and sprayed with antibacterial spray between uses.
  5. Have kids sit on their towels on locker room benches.
  6. Cover cuts and scrapes before practice or game.

How do you get child athletes to actually DO this stuff? It has to come from the coaches. Email this to your child’s coach (not just trying to get more followers here people, I swear). Middle and high school students are unlikely to make this change unless the whole team does it. In a sports culture if the coach tells you to sit on your towel, you sit on your towel.  If she says to wipe down the weight bench when you finish, you do it. If the trainer says nobody plays with an open cut, then that’s the rule. If, however, one kid tries to make these changes, they will get social pressure to stop. Go to the top with this, and prevent a MRSA outbreak on your child’s team!



***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

My Class Clown Won't Shut Up!
by debigilboa
May 14, 2012 | 371 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Hi Dr. G, My 4 year old boy is an amazingly smart, social, fun kid who LOVES to entertain and be the center of attention. Now that he is in Pre-K, his teacher is having a really hard time getting him to listen in class because he is always trying to be funny for his classmates. I’ve read through your site, and I think your assessment of “impulse control” is spot on for him. Do you have any suggestions for working with him on control? As a side note, his teacher really partners with my husband and I so that there is complete consistency between what he experiences at school and at home…but we’re running out of ideas! We obviously don’t want to stifle his fun loving spirit, but we really want him to be consistently respectful of authority (without throwing a huge tantrum, if that’s possible!). Any advice you can lend would be so very appreciated. Thanks!

Anonymous, in IL

Impulse control is hard! At least, that’s my own excuse and I’m sticking to it. ;)

How can you teach your son to control his impulses more often? I have three suggestions:

1. Sign him up for a martial art. Karate, eskrima, tae kwon do, visit a few dojos in your area and talk to the sensei (teacher) about the curriculum. Many martial arts programs focus on teaching character and values. Make sure that their values match yours, and ask what they do specifically to teach impulse control. This is a central focus of most martial arts and your son will get great lessons in ways to control himself. If he thinks the uniform and skills are cool, you’ll be well on your way to encouraging him to want to control himself. This works even better if one or both parents take classes at the same dojo. That way he will see that you really do value this, and you will have the language and skills to reinforce what he is learning.

2. Pick one goal at a time and make a contract with your son. “First, sweet-child-of-ours, we are going to work on not talking when an adult is talking.” Give him a nonverbal signal that he may use when he wants to interrupt. At school this is probably raising his hand. At home, we have taught our boys to lay a hand on a grown-up’s forearm. If I’m talking and one of my sons does this, I can look at him to acknowledge him and still finish my thought. Make it clear that this is the expectation. Start with praise when he remembers and make some clear (but not very harsh) consequences for when he forgets.

3. Notice all the times he DOES control his impulses already! If he calls you from his bed but doesn’t get out of bed, notice that out loud. If he yells but doesn’t hit, mention it. If he interrupts but then waits when you tell him to wait, thank him for that part later. Link impulse control to being a big boy! All kids want to be seen as more mature, and this is a really mature skill he is trying to learn.

Don’t forget to tell him all the things you love about his personality even while you are working to improve his control. These are not mixed messages, and will serve to hold up his spirit while you mold his behavior.

Anyone else have a kid who works hard to control his or her impulses?

***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

The Working Parent Hotspot: Transitioning Home After Work
by debigilboa
May 07, 2012 | 367 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Heard you today at Sears. Thanks for the prez-n-tation! My question: I have a 5 year old and a 3 1/2 year old. Of course the older always bewilders me more, cuz I have never had one….You sorta touched on this, but transition home is my hot spot, he pulls out all the tricks. Picks fights, whines, even though Im there 100%. I really do walk in a drop everything and my hubby makes dinner. I am actually very good at completely dropping work before I even get home. Is he just looking for me to fill the bank account? Is he looking for his level of “Ok, my Mom is here for me 100% for real, now I can chill out”. Thats my gut, but sometimes before I know it he is whining because the sky is blue and I’ve lost all sympathy for him, and I have become someone I hate, angry and intolerant. How do I work my way around the “kid trap?”. The I’m going to get a negative interaction out of you before you can create a positive one………..make sense????

Val in IL

Well, it sure makes sense to him! You are right, of course. He needs reaction from you, and the bigger, louder, more interesting the reaction, the better! Sure you’re paying attention to him already, but he has your attention 100% in his face if he is pushing your buttons.

Additionally, he is tired, he was “good” all day for teacher or babysitter or grandma. He’s kinda hungry, and has bedtime staring him in the face.

He’s not doing this with deliberation, Val. However, he doesn’t have to run this show.

You have such a great approach to after-work parenting. Don’t let him drain that out of you. He is not old enough for a big conversation about his “attitude” when you get home. So let’s tackle one behavior that is ruining the play time for you (and therefore for him, even if he doesn’t realize it), and fix that. Then, if there is another frustration, you’ll feel really empowered to take care of that one next.

It sounds like his whining is the thing that bugs you the most. Whining is crazy annoying! This weekend at dinner, mention that you are creating a “No Whining Rule” for the whole family. No whined requests will be honored. Anytime one of your kids whines, repeat back the request or sentence without whining.

Like this:

Him: “Mommy, but the skyyyyy is bluuueee!”

You: “Mommy, but the sky is blue.”

Him: “Mommy, the sky is bluuee.”

You: “Good try! Mommy, the sky is blue.”

Him: “Mommy, the sky is blue.”

You: “Great job!”

If all else fails, have him whisper it. Here’s a secret: It is impossible to whisper and whine at the same time.

If this doesn’t work for him, create a “Whining Zone” in the pantry or basement or garage or someplace small without toys that you don’t go often. Everywhere else in the house and the car there is no whining. Anyone who needs to whine can head to the whining zone. Put up a sign.

You can even make a game out of this, take him and his sister into the pantry and whine your heart out – you’ll all end up laughing.

P.S. I have a video here about getting kids to stop whining. Check it out and tell me what you think?

Let me know how this all goes! Anyone else have tricks and tips for managing the work to home transition?

***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Weight Loss and Kids
by debigilboa
Apr 30, 2012 | 370 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I would appreciate an entry about weight loss for kids. My 11 year old son is overweight. Thanks and I enjoy your posts.

Lori, in (state not provided)

Hi Lori. I’m sorry that you and your son are dealing with this tough issue. Without knowing more specifics about your situation, I will give you some general guidelines. All of these are assuming that your son is overweight and not morbidly obese, an important question to ask your doctor or the school nurse if you have one.

As a rule, overweight kids and tweens should not be encouraged to lose weight. They should be encouraged to change their lifestyles to be much healthier, and that should help them maintain their current weights until they have a chance to grow taller. This lets height catch up to weight without starting a cycle of dieting to lose weight and then eating “normally” again and probably gaining weight. Don’t talk to your child much about weight. Focus on health – yours as well as his.

Here are some proven weight management tools. Pick the ones you aren’t already doing and implement them, one at a time, into your family’s routine.

1. No soda, and very little juice. Kids should have no more than 8 oz of sweetened drinks per day, and none of it should be soda. Stop buying it, even for the grownups at home.

2. Eat breakfast. Every day, hungry or not. It seems weird to teach a child who is overeating to eat when he isn’t hungry, but skipping breakfast is bad for his learning and his weight.

3. Supervised dinner. Eat dinner together, or at the least with a supervising adult in the room with your son and the food every night. 50% of his plate should have vegetables, 25% starch and 25% protein.

4. Seconds? If your son wants seconds on something, it is usually on the starch. That is because this is the food that our saliva converts into sugar so it tastes great! If he wants seconds on something he needs to a) finish all the food he has (no seconds on pasta if there is still broccoli or fish on his plate) and b) wait 15 minutes at the table. This is to give him a chance to feel if he is full. Don’t leave the food on the table, leave it on the counter so a person has to get up from the table for seconds. And if you’re taking seconds of a starch you must take seconds of vegetables as well.

5. Eat out no more than once per week.

6. Watch no more than 2 hours of screen time (TV, video games, computer), with the exception of actual homework, in any day.

7. Vigorous physical activity at least one hour every day.

There are a lot of emotional issues and family issues that come up around food and weight. If you have a question pertaining to any of that mess, I hope you’ll write back to me!

Anyone else have some tips for establishing healthy habits in tweens?

***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Tiny Lead Exposure: Worth the Worry?
by debigilboa
Apr 23, 2012 | 404 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Mini-Me’s very own suitcase that we bought this summer has been recalled because of lead content in the design on the surface of the case. She’s four, and she might be devastated when I tell her it has to be returned. Is it really that big of a deal? We have checked our tap water, we generally avoid toys that have paint that can chip, and we wash our hands before eating (most of the time). What would be the path of exposure with this kind of item and is it really necessary to eliminate every single lead exposure risk in our lives?



- Krysten from Cali

So there is a medical question here and a parenting question.

Medical issue first.

You will never find a doctor (myself included) that can bring herself to say “Go ahead and keep that known lead exposure in your child’s life.” We’re just not wired that way. That said, tiny amounts of lead exposure in a child who’s grown out of the oral phase (meaning a kid who doesn’t put everything in her mouth anymore) may not add up to a noticeable effect. You know your child, the item and how much she may or may not ingest – it is ok to leaven the scare culture around us with some common sense.

Two words of caution about my words of decreasing caution: 1. Do you have younger kids? If so, ditch the suitcase. 2. Are you willing to put a four- or five-year-old through another lead test? That is blood work and most kids resist it pretty loudly.

Now the parenting issue.

If you can afford to replace the suitcase, this is a pretty low-cost way to teach some resilience. Sometimes possessions are lost or taken away, not because we’ve done something wrong, just because there is a good reason. Your daughter can get some practice in managing her disappointment, and you get to know that the lead exposures you’re not aware of are not being compounded by a lead exposure you are aware of.

How do you teach your kids to manage their own disappointments? Any examples out there?

***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Divorce and a Preteen Girl: It's All About Me!
by debigilboa
Apr 16, 2012 | 496 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

What advice do you have for helping an 11 year old girl deal with divorce?



Anonymous, in CA

First let me say that I’m sorry for your loss. Even if you are better off out of this marriage, you are likely still grieving for the family you hoped you’d have with this person.

I do wish you’d given me some more information. Each girl (or boy) and each divorce is of course unique. So I’m stumbling a little blind here, but I’ll do my best with what I know about development and relationship competency.

An eleven year old girl usually believes that everything is about her. What her friends do, what her teachers don’t say, how the stranger in line at the store is standing, the weather – these are all because of and reflections on and directly connected to her. So even though you’ve told her (I hope) that she has no fault or blame in this divorce, she doesn’t believe you.

You and your ex-spouse (assuming there are no issues of abuse or addiction) need to actually put your daughter’s happiness ahead of your own, no matter how hard that is.

1. Do not complain about the other parent or badmouth their parenting. If you believe that person to be a true danger to your child, you must do everything you can to remove them from the picture. If that is not the case, respect your daughter’s love and need for that person! Complain to your friends, when you are actually alone, not when your child is in the other room.

2. Go to therapy and send your daughter too. Find a therapist that a) gets your daughter and her communication style and b) won’t tell you most of what they talk about. This is too much to handle alone.

3. Do not date anyone for at least two years, and when you do start to date leave your child out of it. Ouch, I know. However, your child needs you, and your focus, more at this age than any other. She can not go along, even tangentially, on the highs and lows of you embarking on romantic relationships. She needs your focus and the certainty that there are no more major parent changes ahead for a good long while.

4. Keep parenting. Don’t become a “We’re really more friends than mother and daughter!” family. Your daughter has friends, she needs parents. Don’t let your guilt (if you have some, and what parent doesn’t) or your compassion keep you from making rules and enforcing them. Have as much empathy as you can for her situation but don’t let it or her manipulate you into wimpy parenting.

I am sure I have missed some important issues for you and your daughter. I hope you’ll get back to me with a more specific question, and that my awesome readers will give you some of their valuable suggestions as well.

***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442




comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Potty Training Battle
by debigilboa
Apr 09, 2012 | 384 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Dr. G, Our son is 3 yrs old. He’ll be 4 in just a matter of 1.5 months. He has been refusing to potty train. We did well for a short while but now he wants nothing to do with the potty and even tries to hide the fact that he soiled his training pant. We have tried many things but nothing seems to work. Perhaps you have some ideas?

Alaina, in PA

Alaina, this is such a normal battle! Here is the perfect recipe for a toddler power struggle: something you care about greatly, but that he has complete control over the outcome.

You have two choices. Find a way to make using the toilet important to him, or relax and wait.

Most parents try to make potty-training important to kids. We try prizes, stickers, praise, even candy (I really don’t recommend this last one!). Also, parents often try scolding, time outs, threats or other negative consequences. Occasionally parents will find a long-term motivator that really speaks to their child, like “You’re only allowed to join that dance class if you use big girl underwear. Do you want to go?”

For some children these work well. It sounds like for your son they have not had continued success.

Many parents feel that a potty-trained child signals successful parenting, and that a four year old in diapers means they are parenting failures. This is NOT true.

Some kids hate change. Some kids care more about autonomy than making their parents happy. Some kids would just rather play than bother with self-toileting.

If you have the strength, I would encourage you to completely change your behavior regarding his potty training. You’ll have to get your co-parent on board, of course. Here’s what you do:

1. Go buy some diapers or pull-ups.

2. Tomorrow morning, when it is time to get dressed, have him put on underwear.

3. Let him know that you hope he’ll be dry and clean, and if not he’ll spend the rest of the day in a diaper.

4. If he wets or dirties his underwear, don’t scold him. You can be a little disappointed, but hold back your emotional reaction.

5. Clean him up, and put him in the diaper instead. Leave him in a diaper the rest of the day.

6. If he’d like to try big kid underwear the next morning, he may. If not, start with a diaper.

7. Wait for him to express interest in using the toilet.

I know that this sounds like a huge step back. It is not. This is you being honest with your son and yourself: toilet training is his decision, not yours. Once you remove the battle and struggle from the equation, he can decide for himself to potty-train.

He will find motivation to wear big kid underwear. Usually this happens when his friends are all big kids and he is still in diapers. The less you seem to care about this, the more he can choose to care about it himself.

He may not be daytime potty-trained until he is 4 ½ years old. More likely, you will leave it alone for a few weeks and then, in February you’ll ask if he’d like to give underwear a try and he’ll say yes. Or you’ll find an activity he wants to join in the spring, but he needs to be potty-trained to participate.

Just remember, the age at which your child is potty trained is not a reflection of your ability as a parent. If he knows to say please and thank you, your parenting is already pretty great!

***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442

 
comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Teenage Entitlement: What's a Part-time Dad to Do?
by debigilboa
Apr 02, 2012 | 552 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Dr. G,

I read your input on Martha Breckenbrough’s blog about entitlement. While my 13 year old daughter was staying with me for Xmas, I asked her to stay at my house while I ran to get her medication that she’d forgotten. She blew up and asked her Mom to come get her (which she did). I got the insults and accusations, just like you said. Her mom is the same way. How does a Dad who sees his kids only once a week (and sometimes less), get through that entitlement mindset?

 



Fredd, in MA

That is really hard Fredd. I sympathize that it must feel impossible to affect change with such a small percentage of your daughter’s time and attention.  However, I think there is real reason for hope in your situation.  Consider the following:

  1. Teen time. Though you have your daughter in your home 1/7 of her week (or less), if you can use the bulk of that (awake) time to actually be in the same room with her, you will get a much bigger impact on her than you might think.  For almost certain she spends a lot of her time at her mom’s house alone – most teens do. Engage her, do things she enjoys ( even if you aren’t so thrilled with them, look for something to like about her music, TV, movies, interests) without scorning her choices.
  2. Keep expecting the best of her. Demonstrate that you know she is resilient (or can be). Ask her thoughts on issues you are thinking about (except about her mother – don’t go there). Take her suggestions and thoughts seriously. Treat her and her ideas with great respect. Eventually (it may take years) she will be glad you expect much of her and believe in her.
  3. Don’t allow her to treat you badly. Require her to treat you and your rules with respect. If she says that she’ll go home (or complain to her mom), don’t be blackmailed. Tell her you’ll be really sad if she goes home, you have been looking forward to being with her all week.  However, hold your line. You must hold her accountable to your rules (which include not insulting or screaming at you) – you’re her Dad, that is your job.
  4. Be clear and verbal about your love for her. Don’t just tell her that you love her (though do that also, and often), tell her what you love about her.  Even if she rolls her eyes or says she doesn’t believe you, she is hearing you and storing up those admirable character traits to think about when she is alone. No one has self-loathing like a 13 year old girl, yet they hide it well.

Your daughter will look for a life partner that treats her however you treat her. So treat her well, but don’t give in to her demands. When that seems too hard remember: if you let her behave badly she will completely shocked when the rest of the world doesn’t put up with that behavior. Especially since you may be the only adult in her life willing to treat her like the adult she wants to be.

***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Preschooler Hits!
by debigilboa
Mar 26, 2012 | 460 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Hi Dr. G,

My three and half year old son has been hitting, kicking, pushing, etc. other children at play areas we go to as well as his younger infant brother and my husband and I. He isn’t doing these behaviors at preschool and I generally receive positive reports from his preschool teachers.

My husband and I have tried, “time outs,” on the step but have had to move time out to his bedroom with the door shut. I have also left play areas with him if he hits another child. I also make a conscious effort to praise him when he is playing well. Do you have any other recommendations on how to correct his behavior? I am so surprised that he is doing this type of behavior, it was not that long ago he would just stand there if another child took a toy from him.

Anonymous, in PA

Some kids sit out their “terrible twos” and lull their parents into a sense of complacency and comfort. Then they get to their threes and decide, “Enough of this! I’m in charge now!” Personally, I think this happens more with first kids, though I have no evidence to back that up.

What I’m getting at is this: Physical violence is normal two- or three-year-old behavior. This is even more common if you’ve added a baby in the last 6-12 months, or moved or had any other major social upheaval (from your son’s point of view) then this will be a regression time for him, using his body more and his words less. Otherwise, it’s likely part of his normal developmental path.

Of course, you can’t ignore it because it still is not acceptable behavior.

The first thing to do when a child physically hurts another child is to give a short, clear message “No hitting.” Set that child physically aside for a moment and focus loving attention on the child he hit. “Are you alright? How can I help you?” This will show him that hitting does not get him a great deal of that highest of kid currency: adult attention.

The second priority is to teach your child to apologize and offer to help. For a very verbal 3 ½ year old, he can say “I’m sorry for hitting” and offer to get a cold pack, give a hug, share a toy. If he can’t do all that, have him just say “Sorry.” If he won’t do these things, or if this is not his first physical outburst of the day, then a time out is a great behavior changing tool. If that doesn’t work you may have to do exactly what you are already doing – go home or change his environment entirely by sending him to a different room for a little while.

The third ingredient in correcting this behavior is one that we often forget with boys. According to a study quoted in “Raising Cain – Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys” by Dan Kindlon, PhD and Michael Thompson, PhD, when girls hit we ask them “Why did you do that?” and when boys hit we simply correct the behavior. They go on to point out that we then penalize men for a failure to name their emotions, but that we haven’t given boys the words they need to do just that. If we taught children then names of only a few colors they would describe the world using just those few colors. Similarly, if boys are not taught to recognize and identify the whole range of negative (as well as positive) feelings they experience, it will be much harder for them to “use their words.”

So, for this third point, wait until the child has calmed a little. Then ask him, as nonjudgementally as possible “Why did you hit?” See if he can name the feelings that led him to it (anger, frustration, embarrassment, jealousy, etc); if he can’t then offer suggestions until he agrees. Then spend just one or two minutes asking him to think of what he could do next time he feels that way.

These changes will take weeks or months to be effective. Don’t give up!

Do keep praising him when he plays well, especially when he feels a negative emotion but doesn’t act out physically. Again, help him to name the emotion, and tell what he did. Praise the heck out of that!

This is a normal developmental stage. If you are consistent, he will do this less and less often. At least until middle elementary school, when most boys communicate by punching each other, even in friendship.

***IMPORTANT!  This blog is for educational and informational purposes only.  It does not constitute medical advice in any legal way and in no way replaces the advice or relationship with your or your child’s physician.  If, however, you need a doctor, please feel free to call for an appointment at the Squirrel Hill Health Center!      

      412-422-7442




comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

page
2 3 .. 7