Tag Archives: parenting tips

Rewarding Kids for Good Behavior: A Bad Idea? (Part 2 of 2)

Close Up Of Girl Eating Iced Donut

Two weeks ago, we began a two-part series that aims to provide information to parents about rewards and how to use them strategically and systematically to teach children skills and modify behaviors. Our first post discussed common parental concerns about rewarding kids for good behavior. This week’s will focus on how to use a reward system effectively.

1. Define the target behavior and set up attainable goals. This involves planning what behavior(s) you want to target over time and then defining the behavior so it is specific, observable, measurable, positively-stated, and attainable:

Specific and Observable:
Avoid using vague terms that cannot be measured such as “Behaving,” “Listening,” or “Being nice.” Instead try “Staying next to parent outside of home,” “Using kind words with brother and sister.” Make sure the target behavior can be observed directly by anyone observing including a parent, nanny, or sitter.

Measurable: The next step is to make sure the goals are measurable. Make sure to focus on behavior and to avoid using thoughts and feelings in the goal because these internal states can’t be quantified by an observer. Also, make sure your goal has parameters like a time of day, number of reminders, or quantifiable amount. For instance, “Completing homework accurately,” could be defined as “Completing homework with at least 75% accuracy.”

Positively-Stated: After goals are specific and observable, they should be reworded if needed to ensure they are positively-stated. Positively-stated goals tell a child what to do instead of what not to do. For example: “Using a big boy voice,” or “Using an appropriate tone of voice,” can be used instead of “Not whining.”

Attainable: 
It’s important to set the target so it’s an improvement over where your child started but not so hard that it’s impossible. You want to find the right balance so you don’t reward things they are already doing and also don’t make it so difficult that they lose interest and your chart starts to collect dust. Adding a set number of reminders or specifying a small timeframe can help make challenging goals more attainable. Then when a child is successful, parents can make the target harder, which shapes the goal closer to the parents’ desired outcome. For instance, a goal of “Keeping hands and feet to self with 2 or fewer reminders in the afternoon,” can be changed to “1 or fewer reminders” after a child is consistently successful with 2 reminders.

2. Select Appropriate Rewards. Once targets are set, parents need to establish rewards based on their child’s preferences. Parents should brainstorm privileges, activities, and tangible items that would be enjoyable for their child. Examples of privileges or activities are extra screen time, extra story time, a board game with a parent, a craft or activity with a parent, a later bedtime, or an outing. Tangible items can include stickers, small prizes in a grab bag or treasure chest, a special treat, or items a child wants such as Pokemon cards, Legos, downloading a song or game, or gift cards. Parents should make sure the reward is something the child does not already get for free, such as offering an additional 20 minutes of screen time when current screen time is unlimited. They will also want to make sure they are comfortable withholding the rewards if the child does not earn them. For instance, a parent who is trying to help a child make more friends may not want to use play-dates as a reward. In general, younger children and children who have trouble waiting respond best to daily rewards and older children can wait for larger rewards.

3. Preparing Your Child: It’s important to prepare your child in advance by discussing briefly during a calm time. In this discussion you would want to let your child know what he or she will be working on and why, review how rewards can be earned and what types of rewards will be provided. You will also want to get input from the child about rewards.

4. Starting the Program, Giving Feedback, and Monitoring Progress: Once you start the system, it’s important to monitor and give feedback consistently after every opportunity to earn. Feedback should be praise when your child meets the goal and neutral feedback when he or she does not. For instance, positive feedback could be, “Great job getting dressed on your own with only one reminder.  You earned something from your reward list.”  Alternatively, on a tougher day, feedback could be, “I had to give you three reminders to get dressed today so you didn’t earn your reward.  We’ll try again tomorrow.”  You could also help problem solve with your child any difficulties depending on their age and ability.  In addition to regular verbal feedback, formally tracking progress is important to assess the effects of the program and determine next steps.  Having a visual such as tokens, a marble jar, or a behavior chart with stars or stickers helps the child understand the system and their progress. Visuals also can be important cues to busy parents that remind them to use the system.  In addition to providing a visual cue, behavior charts are particularly helpful for tracking progress over time to help parents decide when to make the goal easier or harder.

5. Troubleshooting: A number of problems can come up with reward systems. It’s important to consider several causes if your child is not responding or was responding and then stopped. One possible problem is your child’s motivation. Consider whether they are motivated by the reward, if the reward is too far in the future, and if the reward is something they already get for free. Sometimes refreshing the reward menu periodically can significantly help motivation and prevent a child from getting bored of the system. For children who are hard to motivate, pay attention to how they are spending their free time and what they are asking for. Some children are very motivated by parent attention and respond best to individual time with a parent or parent-child activities.  If it’s not a motivation problem, parents should consider whether they are giving regular and clear feedback consistently and should take steps to improve consistency by using reminders on a phone and/or placing the chart in a visible area. For parents with children who argue about their behavior, parents should make sure their feedback is given right when they see a behavior, let their child know that parent decisions are final, and then ignore arguing consistently.

Behavior charts can be very effective in changing behavior over time when used correctly. If you’ve tried these steps without positive results, you may want to consider professional guidance.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie M. Wagner, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She serves as the co-director of the Early Childhood Clinical Service at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

Rewarding Kids for Good Behavior: A Bad Idea? (Part 1 of 2)

Close Up Of Girl Eating Iced Donut


This is the first post of a two-part series that aims to provide information to parents about rewards and how to use them strategically and systematically to teach children skills and modify behaviors.

Most parents have found themselves uttering something to the extent of, “If you are good, I’ll buy you a piece of candy,” at one point or another.  Although rewarding appropriate behaviors can help modify behavior over time, parent concerns about rewarding and incorrect use of rewards often get in the way.

Frequently, parent concerns center on the principle of rewards. Common concerns along with considerations for these concerns include:

“I don’t want to reward my child for something he/she should be doing.” This concern often arises when there is a mismatch between parent expectations and the reality of child behavior. While this can happen for a number of reasons, parents ultimately have a choice here of accepting the behavior as is or working to change the behavior over time. For instance a parent whose 3 year old tantrums in stores when she is told no could simply accept the tantrums as the reality of shopping with a young child. However, most parents will be compelled to either try things in the moment that may make the behavior worse or avoid stores with the toddler, which does not teach the skill of staying calm and listening in these settings. Rewards used strategically can help turn a behavior that a child is not doing but “should be” into a routine habit.

“My child will become dependent on rewards.” This concern revolves around the idea that a child will need rewards in order to do anything and may even refuse tasks in absence of a reward. Here, it’s important to remember that rewards help facilitate skills and change habits over time. Once habits are formed, rewards are no longer necessary. Many parents have experience with this if they used small prizes for toilet training and can chuckle at the absurdity of giving their teenager M&Ms for using the potty. It is true that some children try to negotiate for rewards once they understand how rewards work. Negotiation can be reduced by having a clear and specific reward plan in place from the beginning.

“Rewards ruin a child’s intrinsic motivation.” This concern comes from research on rewarding and motivation. Findings from this research have fueled a backlash against incentive systems. When considering rewards for your child, it’s important to remember that there are more details to these studies that have been overlooked at times. Specifically, one of the major studies examined motivation for tasks that were enjoyable to participants before they were rewarded. If you are considering rewards for your child, there’s a good chance that your child does not find the task enjoyable and motivating on its own.

“Rewards are unnatural and not the way the world works.” Some parents worry that rewards do not prepare children for adulthood. While there are a number of examples of rewards in everyday life including working for a paycheck, another consideration here is that the use of rewards to form positive habits in childhood helps increase the likelihood of success in adulthood.

“Reward systems don’t work.” Parents will often say that they’ve tried rewards and they don’t work.

Stay tuned for our second post on rewarding kids for good behavior, which will discuss tips to help you use incentives effectively to address problem behaviors.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie M. Wagner, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. She serves as the co-director of the Early Childhood Clinical Service at the Child Study Center, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.

Head of the Class Dad, Scott Heifetz

Meet Head of the Class Dad, Scott Heifetz—Founder and Director of Launch Math + Science Centers—and an amazing parent!SH-with-Kids

Tell us about yourself. Why did you start Launch Math + Science Centers?
I’m an aerospace engineer by trade, with many years of experience running small businesses. When I was growing up many of my friends did not appreciate math and science. Until they entered college and realized that math was the language of the many fields they wanted to pursue (physical therapy, architecture, etc.) did they realize they made a mistake by choosing not to pursue math and science courses throughout high school. Launch’s mission is to inspire and motivate children to love and learn math and science in the hope that kids will realize that these subjects are the key ingredient to doing “fun stuff” as an adult (like building rockets!). We accomplish this goal by providing engaging math instruction and exciting STEM enrichment classes for kids from toddlers to 8th graders.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
It’s difficult. There is no secret. I am an absolute workaholic but I also try to be the best dad I can be. I have two girls ages 5 and 2. There is nowhere else I’d rather be than with them.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
I’m not sure if this story applies but… Before I got married I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted kids. Indifferent you might say. I also wasn’t sure I had the patience for kids. So what did I go and do? I started a business that requires 100% involvement with kids. I didn’t do it because I loved kids. I did it because I was extremely passionate about inspiring kids to pursue math and science. The bonus that came from the experience of starting the business was that it turns out I love kids and I do have patience for them (more for them than myself).

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
The challenge has been to accept less than perfection in my professional life so as to provide what I want for my kids (in terms of time).

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
That I would enjoy them as much as I do because I might have started earlier!

If you could give other dads one piece of advice what would it be?
Expose your child to as much as you can (in terms of what the world has to offer), and let them decide what they want to do with their lives. Intrinsic motivation is more powerful than anything else.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book? Iggy Peck Architect
What has been your favorite kids’ class (other than your own!)? Swim class, mainly because it’s a full morning family activity on Sundays.
What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends? Besides swim class, going to the playground.
What is your favorite rainy day escape? A princess movie with my 5 year old.

Learn more about Launch Math + Science Centers and reserve your child’s spot now for their upcoming STEM-focused winter break and summer camps.

Stranger = Danger…Except for Santa Claus!

santa-blogKids love Santa! He brings them toys, and has great songs and stories that they want to hear over and over. Children often enthusiastically agree to visit Santa to tell him about their Christmas lists. But parents are then confronted with the dilemma of taking said kids to visit Santa only to have the same enthusiasm replaced with tears. There is no shortage of images on the web of children dressed in their holiday best, howling on Santa’s lap with outstretched arms toward a parent who has abandoned them just out of frame. I also remember being wary of a man entering our house unnoticed as a child, even if he was bringing presents. Here are a few tips for parents who want to help their children enjoy this holiday tradition and maybe even ace that holiday photo.

First, recognize that stranger anxiety is a healthy and expected developmental phase for young children. Toddlers and preschoolers are most likely to fear a visit to Santa. As familiar as the character of Santa becomes for young children through stories, images, and songs it still feels jarring to go up to a large man with a face-covering beard, in a loud red costume, and sit on his lap to have a heart to heart. Try to give your child more control in the situation. You can do this by letting them bring a lovey, decide whether they will speak or not, watch older siblings or friends go first, or letting them walk up to Santa and decide if they want to sit or stand.

Second, let your child know what to expect in advance and give them an out at any time. You can even do this by acting it out with your child during play at home. If your child does not feel overwhelmed by the novelty of the situation, he or she is more likely to handle the experience with less fear. The additional control and trust that is established if your child knows he or she can opt out of the Santa meet and greet at any time will also promote bravery and comfort.

Third, approach the event with your own anxiety in check. If you are worried about how your child will react, if it will go well, or if your child will be polite, that worry will register to your child and make them feel there is something to worry about. For example, if you follow the advice above and give your child an out, mention it but do not repeat it with pressured speech every time the line advances forward. After the 5th repetition of “we don’t have to do this if you aren’t ready,” your child will imagine terrible things they SHOULD opt out of at the front of the line and take your cue. Be relaxed, supportive, upbeat and open to hearing what your child is feeling. If you can take the pressure off your child will be more likely to enjoy him or herself.

Finally, don’t sweat it if your child gets upset when the moment arrives. Usually the fear of Santa disappears as children enter elementary school age with no lasting scars of Christmas’ past. And it’s nothing that can’t be soothed with a hug from you and perhaps a hot chocolate on the way home.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Knickerbocker, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Knickerbocker specializes in treating selective mutism and anxiety in young children, ADHD and difficulties with organization and time management, disruptive behaviors, and parent management training. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.

How ‘Slow Parenting’ Can Help Your Family

slowAs a parent, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard, “Cherish these moments, children grow up way too quickly.” It’s true. I feel like it was just yesterday that my soon-to-be two-year-old was barely crawling. Yesterday he climbed a full set of stairs alone. I’m sure many of you reading this post can relate.

Today, many families are on a schedule from morning until bedtime, trying to get our children out the door, scrambling to meet job demands, ferrying our kids from one extracurricular activity to the next, grabbing dinner on the run, and squeezing in extra study or practice time. We thoughtfully program many aspects of our children’s lives in hope of giving them every opportunity we think can give them a leg up.

It’s no wonder many of us feel the end of the day comes way too soon and like life is just rushing by. Sound familiar? If so, it may be time to try a “slow parenting” approach to family life. Slow parenting embraces the idea of consciously pausing this constant motion and taking time to relish the special moments that might otherwise pass us by when we overschedule ourselves and our kids.

For example, I recently realized that I was trying to get my curious four-and-a-half-year-old from one activity to the next too fast. As we were heading out for ballet class one day, she said, “Mom, look at this bug on the floor! It’s so interesting. It’s crawling and falling over!” Normally, I would have rushed her out the door, but, with slow parenting in mind, I decided to stop and see what she was talking about, even if it made us late. We sat on the ground for 10 minutes examining this bug together. My daughter had a lot to say about it as she imagined different scenarios. This time together created a memory more special than watching her through a little glass window while she practiced ballet. We still talk about it, and a scrapbook now holds a picture I took of her with the bug.

Slowing down creates space for relaxation and quiet time, something children’s developing brains need to make sense of the world and integrate new information they learn every day. It also gives parents a chance to be mindful of and appreciate some of our kids’ more subtle developmental milestones like problem-solving and conversational skills. And, it gives us new snapshots of time that would have otherwise been ignored and swallowed up by more pressing demands.

Here are some ideas to help you get started with slow parenting:

1. Limit your children’s recreational activities like ballet or soccer to one activity per season, rather than two or three.
2. Make an effort to have sit-down dinners or even cook together on certain days of the week.
3. Prepare for the next day together the night before. This will allow some practice around choices in the evening (e.g., “Which outfit would you like [choice A or choice B]?” or “What would you like as a snack in your lunchbox?”) and more “together time” in the morning, when you can read to your kids, sing a song together on the ride or walk to school, or talk about the day ahead.
4. Rather than cramming weekends with birthday parties and other scheduled activities, spend a plan-free weekend at home and see what happens. We sometimes forget that there is so much to do together in our own living rooms: play family games, read books, or just chat.
5. Instead of rushing from one activity to the next, pause and say, “We are going to skip karate today and take some time to go for a walk,” or, “We’re just going to sit together and play a game.”
6. In the evening, talk with your kids about how their day went. If a book was introduced at school, read it together at home. If a special event occurred in the news, bring it up and see what their thoughts are.
7. Sit outside at night and talk about the different sounds you hear. Quieting down can give rise to important topics that would not naturally come up during an over-scheduled day.
8. Talk to your kids about your own childhood when the pace of life was slower. Share challenges you faced, fun experiences you had, and how you spent your time. Then suggest some simple, “old-fashioned” outdoor playtime: jump rope, toss a ball, play hopscotch.
9. Dial down the technology: turn off the TV, put phones away during dinner, simply be together and talk. Today’s kids are often whizzes at digital devices, but may be uncomfortable socially because they have little practice with back-and-forth conversation.
10. Pause and pay attention while your children are engaged in a project. For instance, if they are drawing, see how they are making sense of that activity and just appreciate who they are at the present moment.
11. Take time to give a hug and receive one. Just breathe your children in.

Slow parenting allows time to connect with our kids in a different, more positive way, and gives us a chance to quiet ourselves and feel less stressed. Today is a great day to start making the most of your time by doing less—together.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Daniela Montalto, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital. She is the Clinical Director of the Child Study Center’s Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement.

Head of the Class Mom: Shira Lahav

Meet our latest Head of the Class Mom, Shira Lahav—co-founder of Embodied Minds, a public speaking company that helps kids with presentation and self-esteem—and an amazing mom!shira

Why did you start Embodied Minds Public Speaking Consultants?
I am co-founder and consultant at Embodied Minds. I am also a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, Registered Drama Therapist and a Psychoanalyst in training. During my time working in hospitals, I was leading communication and storytelling groups through drama. I recognized the power of expression and was helping my clients tell their stories in captivating ways, helping them connect with others. During these groups, I found myself guiding my clients therapeutically but also helping them deliver their stories in ways that engage and transmit the meaning to their audience in the most effective way. I enjoyed the process of directing and teaching my clients public speaking techniques. My business partner Leticia and I wanted to take this type of work beyond the hospital walls and so we did.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
My secret to balancing work and family life is to constantly remind myself the importance of both and how one feeds the other. If I dedicate enough time to my family, I feel more satisfied during the week, which helps me be more focused and fulfilled at work and vice versa.

I play various roles in my life: public speaking consultant, therapist, mother, wife, sister, daughter, etc. The key is to nurture each and every role and create equilibrium. This includes leaving room for self-care. It is necessary to take care of your own needs while taking care of others. In addition, I find that good time management helps, as well as scheduling quality time with my family between busy workdays. On a more practical note, twice per week I make time to take my daughter to her activities and on the weekends, we always find a fun activity to do together as a family. Additionally, my husband and I go out at least twice per week, whether with friends or on a date. Although babysitting is expensive, date nights are extremely important and we have to keep the romance going between stressful life responsibilities.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
Not only am I a mommy to my 2-year-old daughter Lianne, but I am also a mommy to a 5-year-old Shih Tzu named Gizmo. When I first became a mom, I would walk out of the house with my brand new Uppa Baby Vista stroller and would keep getting smiles from strangers. Naïvely and faltered, I thought they were smiling at my baby, but in fact they were smiling at the fact that Gizmo was in the stroller too! Sitting below my baby, with his cute face sticking out of the basket curiously observing everyone around him, my little Shih Tzu found himself the perfect solution so he wouldn’t exert himself or his little paws.

As a result, I’ve learned the importance of multi-tasking and multi-use! Whether using the stroller for my baby and dog, or using the car seat as a spot for my daughter to sit and watch her favorite cartoons, I am always trying to find unique uses for expensive baby gear to make the most of every dollar spent. After all, we must find ways to save up for those “inexpensive” preschools! We also donate a lot, if not money then clothing or baby stuff that we are no longer using. It feels good to be able to help other families.

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
Even though I love my job and try to maintain a healthy balance between work and family life I still at times feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time with my daughter. This is probably a result of the pressure of others and my missing my daughter during workdays. At the same time, I know how important it is to teach her that a woman can do both, be a mother and have a career.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
That parenting is all about logistics and time management.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Take other people’s advice with a grain of salt.

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book? “Alice in Wonderland”

What has been your favorite kids’ class?  Ballet Class at City Moves Dance Studio. [Now Midtown Movement and Dance – Ed.]

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends? Go to Central Park and spend time on the lawn and children’s playground.

What is your favorite rainy day escape? The Children’s Museum of Manhattan on the Upper West Side

Learn more about Embodied Minds on Kidz Central Station and reserve your child’s spot now for their Public Speaking and Communications Skills Group, starting in the fall.

Head of the Class Mom: Leticia Warner

Meet our latest Head of the Class Mom, Leticia Warner—co-founder of Embodied Minds, a public speaking company that helps kids with presentation and self-esteem—and an amazing mom!leticia

Why did you start Embodied Minds Public Speaking Consultants?
I am co-founder of Embodied Minds as well as a consultant, Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, and Registered Drama Therapist. My co-founder Shira and I started Embodied Minds because we knew there was a lack of public speaking companies that focus on the reasons behind the fear of public speaking. A lot of companies emphasize the surface solutions but aren’t able to delve deeper. We, on the other hand, look at both the internal and external processes. When it comes to our Kids program, we focus on helping children and young adults increase self-esteem, improve their thought organization, interpersonal skills, build confidence, reduce their use of filler words, and more.

What is your secret to balancing work and family? Is there a balance?
I don’t know if I yet have a secret to balancing work and family. It’s something that I’m still figuring out! My son is 5 months old so I’m still getting used to balancing the demands of my business as well as his needs. My husband and I are lucky to have a reliable nanny so when I need to focus on my business, I know my son is in good hands. However, what I have learned so far is that it’s extremely important to spend quality time with my family as often as I possibly can. Time will not stand still and our children are only getting older. Therefore, if I have a break between clients or I can avoid working through lunch, I will take a quick trip to see my son wherever he is and that sustains me for the rest of the day.

Share a funny story that helped you become a better parent and/or better at your job.
I’m not sure if this made me a better parent or better at my job, but it was certainly when I first experienced the two needs clashing for the first time… we had a really important workshop taking place the week I gave birth to my son. Though I couldn’t physically be there, my co-founder Shira and I were literally working on the workshop while I was in labor (!) and once I had given birth. On top of that, I was answering work e-mails while in labor and took an emergency call from one of my private clients less than 24 hours after my son was born. Obviously, the boundaries were out of control to say the least, but this story to me is the epitome of the “working mom” story. In some ways, it helped me become a better working mom because I learned to create boundaries after experiencing it!

What has been your biggest challenge and/or greatest reward in the struggle for work-life balance?
I adore what I do and I’m so lucky to own a business, as it provides me with flexibility and freedom. But, I would be lying if I said I don’t feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time with my son. I have to keep reminding myself that I am doing this for him, to model proper work ethic and make a living doing what I love.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you had kids?
That there’s no way to plan for the overwhelming feeling of being a parent; the awe-inspiring love mixed with the chaos. I also wish I knew how quickly kids grow out of clothes! I had an idea, but could never have anticipated the speed at which it happens.

If you could give other moms one piece of advice what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes we try really hard to be the “perfect mom” and do it all on our own, but there’s no such thing as a perfect mom and there’s no shame in asking for help and support. If in the end it will keep you sane and allow you to spend more quality time with your child, why not?

QUICK Q’s:

What is your favorite children’s book? “The Little Boy Who Lost His Name” (Personalized Book).

What has been your favorite kids’ class?  “Rockin’ Railroad” at Kidville, but I’m moving to Long Island City and bet I’ll have a ton of new favorites!

What is your favorite thing to do with your family on weekends? My son is currently 5 months old so if at home, my husband and I like to pull out the playmat and play with him. If we’re going out, we love to take walks and go to the park with him.

What is your favorite rainy day escape? Any New York Public Library or bookstore that’s nearby.

Learn more about Embodied Minds on Kidz Central Station and reserve your child’s spot now for their Public Speaking and Communications Skills Group, starting in the fall.

Understanding Our Kids: The Power of Validation


We’ve all experienced frustration when someone minimizes our concerns or tunes us out. And most of us are guilty as well, perhaps more often than we realize. But when we do it to our kids—when we fail to hear them and validate their feelings—we are in danger of damaging one of the most important relationships of all.

What validation is . . .
Put simply, validation is the acknowledgement and acceptance of another’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences. It can be particularly effective with adolescents who are navigating the complicated road to adulthood. As parents, we want to know what our teenage children are thinking and doing, while their inclination, as they test new boundaries, may be to withhold their emotional struggles from us.

Validation techniques can help bridge that chasm by showing our children that we are listening to them without judgment, and that their feelings make sense. In turn, parental validation helps children manage their emotions, decreases conflict, and improves the parent-child relationship. It can also help build self-confidence and teach coping techniques they will rely on throughout their lives.

. . . And what it is not.
In order to understand what validation is, we must also clarify what it is not. The “no judgment” aspect alarms some parents and gives rise to the misconception that validation involves permissiveness and leniency. It does not. Validation is neither agreement with nor approval of what your child is saying. Nor is it encouragement, reassurance, or praise—other parenting tools that are helpful but distinct. And validation is most emphatically not excessive permissiveness or reinforcement of bad behavior.

Instead, it’s a parenting tool that helps show your child that you hear what he is really saying, and gives him the confidence to engage with you on an emotional level. For example, if your child is upset by his curfew, you can let him know that you understand how hard that restriction feels, especially when your rules are different from other parents’, and yet also hold to your limits. He may still be angry, but he may also be more likely to discuss his feelings in the future, lessening the likelihood of a larger argument. While he knows you understand and accept his feelings, he also realizes that the curfew stands.

The Six Levels of Validation
Validation takes practice. It will probably not feel natural at first, especially during a tense time when you and your child are under stress. Keep at it!

Here is a summary of the six levels of validation developed by Marsha Linehan (1993), the creator of Dialectical Behavior Theory. It is generally recommended that parents use the highest level of validation they can within the situation.

1. Be present. Stop what you’re doing, put down your iPhone, and give your child your undivided attention.

2. Reflect accurately. Repeat what you believe your child has said and is feeling.

3. Read minds. Guess how your child is feeling, and ask him if you are right.

4. Put it in context. Understand your child’s reactions in the context of his past experiences.

5. Convey your understanding. Let your child know that his reactions and feelings are normal, and that anyone would feel the same way in the situation.

6. Be radically genuine. Treat your child like an equal, perhaps by sharing a similar experience you have had.

Like any other parenting strategy, validation will become easier and more natural over time—and the rewards for your child and your family are lasting, and well worth the effort.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Randi Pochtar, Ph.D., is a clinical assistant professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center.

The Real Facts About Celiac


May is National Celiac Disease Awareness Month! If you suspect that you or your child has this disorder, your first step should be to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist, who can accurately diagnose your symptoms. To get you started, here are some important facts about celiac disease.

What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a genetic, autoimmune disorder affecting the gastrointestinal system. Children and adults with celiac disease cannot digest gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.

How is it treated?
A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for celiac disease.

How do you know if you have it?
Symptoms associated with celiac disease vary widely from person to person. Everything from fatigue and headaches, to bloating, diarrhea, and constipation can be signs of the disease. Celiac disease may also be present without any symptoms at all. Blood work for elevated celiac markers, as well as genetic testing, can help rule out or establish suspicion for celiac disease. If it is suspected, an endoscopy with biopsies is recommended for definitive diagnosis.

What foods must you avoid?
The gluten-free diet eliminates all food items containing, or that have come in contact with, wheat, rye, barley, and their derivatives. This includes spelt, farro, and malt. One of the biggest challenges of living with celiac disease is learning to identify all hidden sources of gluten in recipes and prepared foods. For example, soy sauce, salad dressings, and mustard often contain gluten.

What if you don’t avoid these foods?
In a person with celiac disease, failure to comply with a gluten-free diet leads to increased risk for certain cancers, poor growth and development in children, persistent abdominal pain, and nutrient deficiencies.

What sort of things need to be monitored after receiving the diagnosis?
The first step after diagnosis is initiating a gluten-free diet—a multidisciplinary approach is key to a successful transition into a gluten-free lifestyle. A dietitian helps to establish meal planning and maximize dietary intake. A nurse practitioner follows with blood work. A social worker and certified child life specialist team up to provide emotional and educational support as needed. Depending on the person and disease process, blood markers are checked every three months to yearly to ensure adequate control of the disease.

Support for children with celiac disease
Beginning and maintaining a completely gluten-free lifestyle can be challenging for children and adolescents with celiac disease. NYU Langone’s Pediatric Celiac Disease and Gluten-Related Disorders Program offers families the tools they need to make this transition as easy as possible. In this program, pediatric gastroenterologists, nurse practitioners, and other nursing professionals, nutritionists, and social workers focus on improving the health and quality of life of children with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Ayelet Schieber, MS, RD is a registered dietician in the Pediatric Gastroenterology Program at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Supporting Young Adults with Autism through Life Transitions


The transition between high school and college or high school and other postsecondary opportunities brings a lot of changes to the lives of young adults and their families. In most cases, young adults suddenly experience much more flexibility in terms of daily activities and schedule—and unfortunately have fewer opportunities for structured social activities. For adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), such transitions can be extremely difficult due to their specific social challenges. Such challenges may interfere with the ability to successfully form friendships and romantic relationships, navigate college, and later on, seek and maintain employment.

Parents play an important role as social coaches and facilitators of vocational and social opportunities. Below are some suggestions for parents for supporting their adolescent or young adult through the transition to adulthood and toward independence.

Make a Plan

Identify goals
Adolescents and young adults tend to show interest in employment opportunities, greater independence, and social relationships, including romantic relationships and dating. If having close friends or dating is a priority to your child with ASD, it’s important to think about how to intentionally build in more support and social experiences to help him or her to be successful and included in his or her community.

Start small
Parents and young adults don’t need to do everything all at once! Once goals are identified, think about priorities. If the goal is to make new friends and build one’s social group, work with your young adult to identify his or her interests and find social activities or groups based on those interests. For example, if your child has an interest in chess, he or she can visit gaming stores, attend tournaments, join a chess Meet Up group, or join a chess club on his/her college campus. It can be helpful to talk about how to identify individuals who may have similar interests. If the primary goal is employment, starting small may include one of the following: visiting a parent’s place of work for a day, participating in extracurricular school activities related to career interests, learning about internship or service learning opportunities, or occupational mentoring to learn and practice work behaviors and gain awareness of a potential professional niche.

Practice together
In addition to the two planning steps above, a helpful tool for young adults is practicing the different skills or scenarios that might come up in vocational or social situations. Try role-playing interview skills or having a back-and-forth conversation, and give your child feedback or coaching. Common difficulties for individuals with ASD that may need coaching include inconsistent eye contact, dominating the conversation, perseverating on topics of personal interest, talking about inappropriate topics, and body boundaries.

Praise/recognize efforts
Individuals with ASD may feel misunderstood or disrespected, and become exhausted by social demands, or think of small talk as phony. It is important to praise their efforts and motivation, while continuing to coach around areas of difficulties.

April is National Autism Awareness Month. Learn more online at the Autism Society.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Katherine Sullivan, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center.