Why saying no is a good thing

5 Reasons Saying “No” To Your Kids Is A Good Thing

Parents have a hard time saying no to their children because they want their child to be happy and to have positive experiences. They are concerned that if they say no, it will lead to unhappiness, defiance, a lack of creativity and a decreased sense of self-esteem in their child. Today, more than ever, it is important for parents to be comfortable with saying “no” to their children. Saying no without frustration/anger and following through with what you say let’s a child know that you care about them and that you want them to be safe. In other words, saying no is a good thing.

Here are five additional reasons why saying no to your child can be a good thing:Why saying no is a good thing

  1. Children want you to say no. They actually like structure and limit setting by parents and typically respond better to parents that can provide consistency and who hold them accountable for their actions.
  2. Saying “no” provides teachable moments. It allows your child to learn that they cannot always have what they want.
  3. It teaches children to delay gratification and to learn how to be patient.
  4. It teaches them to learn how to handle disappointment and helps them to learn how to work through disappointment through problem solving other solutions.
  5. It also teaches them how to respect their parents and other adults, as well as allows them to prepare for being in the “real world.”

Need help getting your child’s behavior under control? Click here to read a blog on 1-2-3 Magic Behavioral Principles!

oppositional defiant disorder

Top Warning Signs for Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

How can a child’s irritable mood, lack of awareness into how their behavior impacts others, and resistance towards engagement in unfavorable tasks be differentiated from age-appropriate/typical behavior to something more serious, like a clinical diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

What is ODD?

According to the DSM-V, a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is characterized as “a pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness lasting at least 6 months as evidenced by at least 4 symptoms from these categories.” The DSM-V also outlines that to qualify for a diagnosis of ODD, the individual must demonstrate these symptoms during an interaction with at least one other person other than a sibling.

Warning signs for ODD include:

  • Often loses temper
  • Negative outlook/mood
  • Defiance
  • Disobedience
  • Hostility towards authority figures
  • Regular temper tantrums
  • Blames others for his mistakes or misbehavior
  • Does not comply with rules of tasks assigned by adult
  • Spiteful or vindictive nature
  • Enjoys annoying others and is easily annoyed themselves

Treatment for ODD includes clinical intervention and potential medication management to address related symptoms such as mood dysregulation or impulse control as resonate of an ADHD diagnosis. Parent training for education on how to effectively discipline and avoid power struggles, individual/family therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy are all treatment modalities to holistically treat ODD.


social IQ

Tips to Raise Your Child’s Social IQ



Social IQ is a concept developed around the idea of social skills and how well-developed they are in social settings. So much awareness is involved in developing social skills: Tone of voice, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, and personal space (just to name a few). It is amazing we learn most of them through observation alone! Where is the class that teaches us how to share, compliment, join a group, manage conflict, and express and understand feelings!?
For some kids, social skills develop naturally and without much emphasis, but for others, these can be daunting skills to tackle. With the new school year upon us, the classroom is a breeding ground for social mishaps and social victories.

If you notice your child struggles in social situations, here are some things you can do to help raise his Social IQ:

  • Get to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses: Is he flexible with his friends or does he tend to be a bit bossy?
  • Discuss with them the importance of friendships and what he thinks it means to be a ‘good friend’.
  • Set realistic social goals with your child (i.e. Lilly will congratulate two classmates if they win in a game or Johnny will introduce himself to a new classmate and ask to join in on an activity at recess.).
  • Involve teachers and counselors to help reinforce and observe goals.
  • Help your child talk about and identify feelings, facial expressions, and gestures.
  • Practice conflict management: develop a plan that’s easy to remember in ‘heated’ moments.
  • Take a deep breath, count to 3, and use “ I feel ______ when _________”.
  • Practice skills at home (i.e. sharing, complimenting, asking questions, waiting her turn to talk) and be a good role model!
  • Join a social skills group.
  • Social skills go far beyond the examples mentioned here, so this can be a great opportunity to not only learn new skills, but practice them with their peers in a structured setting.

Click here for a list of apps to help teach social skills.

what to do when your child is a bully

Help! My Child is a Bully




Parenting is no easy feat as your job entails educating your child on how to make good choices, recognizing and maximizing your child’s innate capabilities, and teaching the skills necessary to appropriately function in society. While under your tutelage, your child’s behaviors, both positive and negative, can often times feel like a direct reflection of your own character. It is not a wonder that parents will instill within their child their core values and beliefs with the desire that their child emulate similar characteristics. But what happens when your child displays negative, bullying behaviors? What does that say about you? How do you aid your child in demonstrating the socially appropriate and expected behaviors you work so hard to teach?

What to do if your child is a bully:

  1. Make sure that your child is aware of the underlying message and meaning behind right vs. wrong behaviors. Don’t just say, “Don’t hit, it’s bad.” Explain the reason why this behavior is negative. “Hitting is not right because you could hurt someone’s body or their feelings; how do you feel when you’re hit, etc.”
  2. Teach your child what to do instead of the negative, non-preferred behavior. Besides just telling your child not to hit or push because it can impact another person’s safety, arm your child with what they can do instead when they feel mad or frustrated. For example, if your child feels mad when he is confronted to share a toy, you can educate him on the importance or turn taking, collaborating with others, or simply using his words vs. his body to communicate his dismay. Practicing effective communication skills regardless of age can help reduce negative behavioral reactions and facilitate appropriate compromise and negotiation skills.
  3. Operate with positive reinforcement instead of consequences. Motivate your child to access pro-social behaviors through the usage of a behavior chart. The incentives received from positive behaviors may provide the external motivation necessary to implement the impulse control required for appropriate decision-making necessary.
  4. Check in with your own feelings about your child’s behaviors. Know that you are working hard to assist your child in adjusting appropriately in various situations and try to stay calm when your child makes an unfavorable choice. Get down on his level, express why the choice he made is unfavorable, and provide examples for what he can do to correct the behavior (i.e. apologize, use his words, share the preferred item). Encourage your child to re-work the problem to gain a positive framework for what is expected of him in the future.

Read here for tips on turning a bully into an ally.

teach your child to self-advocate

Teach Your Child to Self-Advocate




Self-advocacy skills are necessary for children to express their feelings and effectively get their needs met. In some situations, children refrain from speaking up to their peers for fear of being seen as aggressive and offending the other person. As a result, children may agree to situations that they don’t feel comfortable with (peer pressure), sustain engagement in non-preferred behaviors (trading their lunch when they would prefer not to), and run the risk for mood dysregulation over small, unrelated issues due to bottled up frustration from previously unresolved matters (getting disproportionately upset when asked by a parent to take out the trash or begin homework).

Practice these strategies with your child to improve self-advocacy, increase confidence in self, and effectively get their needs met:

Teach your child the difference between aggressive and assertive communication.

  • Aggressive communication encompasses both negative and hostile verbal/non-verbal cues. Often times, the message being conveyed gets lost in the delivery as the individual goes on the attack and uses a loud/mean tone.
  • Assertive communication is positive, pro-social, direct, and non-threatening. The message being delivered is not accusatory and the tone is firm and calm. Assertive communication provides a forum for expression of thoughts and needs and allows both parties to collaborate on an appropriate course of action.

Provide “time out” time or “off the clock” time to promote sharing of information without the threat of punishment or consequence to facilitate increased communication within the home.

Children may not speak their mind for fear of the aftermath. Allowing for 10-15 minutes a day where the child can process their thoughts, feelings, and needs can not only offer them the opportunity to practice self-advocacy, they are learning that it is ok to assert themselves and build confidence in their communication skills.

Read here for three tips for knowing when to intervene in your child’s relationships.

separation anxiety

Separation Anxiety and the Young Child




Children can encounter many different types of anxieties and fears as they go through early childhood. Separation anxiety is one of these types of fears.

As children enter into preschool and begin the transition into kindergarten, they may begin to have fears about growing up, being away from their parents and losing their parents. It can be very typical for children between the ages of 4 and 6 to start verbalizing and expressing these fears. This age is a time of increased independence and transitions which can lead to increased anxiety for many children. Here are some strategies to help your child deal with these concerns:

Strategies for Managing Separation Anxiety in the Young Child:

  • Empathize with your child and to let them know that you are his/her forever family.
  • Let your child know that they are not alone and that many children have these same concerns and fears.
  • Avoid giving too much reassurance to your child because this can lead to increased anxiety and dependence on you.
  • Use books as a resource. Books that focus on transitions and feelings can be very helpful at this age. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney are great books to use to help ease transitions and to reduce the fears of being separated from parents.

If you notice that your child exhibits worries and fears about growing up and losing his parents and these fears do not subside within several weeks, it is recommended that you seek advice from a mental health professional in order to identify if your child needs assistance from someone to reduce their fears.

prepping for a positive school year

Prep Your Child for a Positive School Year

As summer comes to a close, so does the unstructured leisure time and easy living associated with this 3 month break from the norm. Going back to school means going back to a routine and reaffirming expectations for academics, behavior, and overall family standards. Like with any major transition, it will be important to pay mind to the alteration in daily living in advance.  Here are 3 helpful tips to ease this transition and to prepare your child for a positive school year.

3 Tips to Prep Your Child for a Positive School Year:

    1. Begin school bed-time and wake-up time up to a week prior to the beginning of school. If you missed this window, start to establish the school bedtime as soon as possible.  This does not mean your child will fall asleep right away at this new bedtime, but as long as he gets in the groove of getting into bed earlier to wind down, even if he lays there, it will help prepare him for the upcoming transition for school. This is the same with the morning time routine. Even if your child wakes up from an alarm at 6 a.m. and just lays around, this can serve to reset the body.
    2. Plan for any upcoming changes. Going back to school is a major change in it’s own right.  If your child is starting at a new school, plan ahead by arranging a tour of the unfamiliar setting. Talk to the school to see when you can set up this preliminary visit and if possible, ask to set up a meet and greet with his new teacher. This exchange can facilitate positive feelings about starting the new year and reduce any feelings of anxiety.
    3. Arrange a family meeting. Sitting down with your child before the start of the school year to iron out weekly routines and expectations can help provide a framework for what will be tolerable vs. intolerable behaviors during the school year. To prevent future arguments about the frequency of computer/technology time, homework routines, and social plans during the week, collaborate as a family about what can be expected. For instance, if it is required that all homework is completed before only 1 hour allotment of computer time, the child can be aware of the expectation and make positive choices to earn this reward. If the child does not complete all work before bedtime, the child may not be eligible for computer time that evening but potentially can earn extra time over the weekend as a reward. Communicating about expectations of behavior can anticipate future challenges and provide solutions to problems prior to them arising.

Taking the time to establish routines and expectations at the start of the school year will help set up your child for a great year.  For more on starting the school year right, click here to read about establishing a homework routine for school success.

medication for mental health in kids

When is it Appropriate to Seek Medication Management for Mental Health Symptom Reduction in Children?




For many families, the conversation about medication management to reduce mental health symptoms in children is off the table before the realities of this intervention can be explored. Medication can be a beneficial intervention, in tandem with therapy, to translate the skill development from the clinical setting into positive behavioral changes in the natural environment.

When is medication recommended to manage mental health symptoms in children?

Medication might be recommended as a therapeutic approach early on in treatment depending on the severity of the presented concerns and the impact of these symptoms on the child’s overall quality of life. For instance, if the child struggling with impulsivity and reduced focus/attention is doing poorly in school, if he has challenges reading social cues in peer relationships, and is he is internalizing negative feelings of self as the result, medication may be recommended sooner rather than later to improve client’s overall level of functioning.

The goal of social work intervention is to address the socio-emotional concerns through teaching client awareness into the triggers that precipitate the maladaptive behaviors (i.e. distracting thoughts/stimuli that reduce focus, decisions that elicit anger that snowballs into a meltdown, etc.) and the skills to modify their behavior. In some cases, the client can demonstrate and prove comprehension of the skills presented but in practice, have a hard time implementing the learned coping strategies in real-life scenarios. If the child’s quality of life and overall functioning remain to be negatively impacted despite intellectualization of how to handle their emotions or redirect their behavior, medication might serve as the glue to carry these compensatory strategies into reality.

To decide if a medication consultation is right for you, use this checklist:

  • Does my child struggle with implementing the therapeutic skills they learn in treatment?
  • Despite involvement in therapy, is my child’s quality of life negatively impacted socially, academically, personally?
  • Has there been an increase in the frequency and duration of symptoms (i.e. more meltdowns per week, more redirections to re-regulate body to remain calm, etc.)?
  • Does my (the parent) and my family’s quality of life continue to be negatively impacted with frequent impulsive reactions, mood dysregulation, or hyperactive nature of the child?

Consult with your pediatrician and therapist if you have any questions about if medication would be a right fit for your child. And remember, just because you may decide to try medication does not mean that it is a magic bullet fix or that it has to be a life sentence. Ongoing therapeutic intervention in addition to medication can be the right course of treatment for some children.

the benefits of a visual schedule

The Benefits of a Visual Schedule for Home and School Success

Do you feel like a broken record when you ask your child to complete a simple task or standard routine? Whether you’re asking your child to fulfill her typical morning routine or planning ahead for the upcoming weekend, try using a visual schedule to outline your expectations.

The benefits of a visual schedule include the following:

Visual schedules make chores or tasks objective instead of subjective. When there is a neutral source promoting expectations for the child, it fosters enhanced independence in the child as well as takes the emotionality out of having to remind, repeat, and get frustrated with the child’s progress. Even though it would seem like second nature to complete standard morning time practices, the visual schedule outlines for the child what comes first, second, last, etc. and provides a checklist to move through. Some parents take pictures of their child completing these tasks (i.e. making their bed, brushing their teeth, packing their bag, eating breakfast) to make this a visually pleasing tool and increase child investment in the process.

Visual schedules make transitions easier. For younger children who thrive with structure and benefit from knowing what is on the agenda for the day, a simple visual schedule can aid in transitions and reduce anxiety about upcoming events. These schedules can be less formal and just require a simple sketch of what is to come. During lazy days or even days with little going on, visual schedules can help to structure unstructured time and provide a variety of outlets in a time-sensitive fashion. For example, on a relaxing Saturday create a schedule with your child that incorporates meal times and provides options for morning “art time” and afternoon “outdoors time”. These schedules create structure with pictures. Instead of writing out art time, draw with crayons, paints, or chalk. Meal time would be indicated with a picture of a sandwich and plate. Drawing these expectations out can facilitate independence for even young kids to stick to the routine and understand the structure through the use of symbols.

These visual schedule help bring structure and independence to all home and school routines.

For more help this school year, watch this Pediatric TV Episode on how to set up a homework station at home.

co-parenting effectively

Tips for Co-Parenting Effectively

When it comes to parenting, whether both parents live under the same roof or not, it is important to provide a united front with regards to discipline, routines, and overall expectations for the child. This called co-parenting.   Parental communication with regard to each parent’s value system is critical for the consistency necessary to foster appropriate modes of behavior.

Regardless of what the desired outcomes may be, follow these easy steps to co-parent effectively:

Determine desired outcomes.

It is important that prior to any triggering situation, both parents sit down and come up with clear, concrete expectations about what they desire from their kids.

  • What is the discipline style each parent is comfortable fulfilling (will allow for negotiation/open dialogue, will be more authoritarian, etc.)?
  • What behaviors will and will not be tolerated?

This way, during challenging situations, the mode of response is the same whether the parents are together or separated when with the child. This consistent co-parenting will indicate to the child that negative behaviors will not change the mind of the parent. For example, if a child begins to cry out and tantrum, will the parents given in or will the parents both remain calm and ignore the behavior? The response needs to remain the same across environments and with both or just one of the parents.


It is important to process and communicate your thoughts and feelings to provide an open forum for discussion. Do not hesitate to express your feelings and thoughts to problem-solve, but be sure to do this BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. Even if your spouse is saying something cringe-worthy in front of the children, be sure to maintain this stance and address your dismay or disagreement away from the children. The minute this parental dyad splits, the children learn how to “split” their parents to get whatever need they desire. This is where the child asks the mom for a playdate, mom says no, so child asks dad, who then says yes. To avoid this make sure that you defer back to the other parent to check on the previous resolution stated.

Follow these two simple tips to co-parent the right way.  More questions?  Our social work team can help you with any questions you may have about healthy parenting.

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