Child with iPad

Tips To Improve Transitions

“The only constant in life is change” – Heraclitus

Does your child struggle with ending activities, trying new things, or engaging in non-preferred tasks/demands? Transitions can be difficult especially when a child is not expecting the change. Advanced preparation, knowledge of perceived consequences, and balanced thinking can all aid in smoother transitions and overall compliance with directives.

Plan Ahead

Whether your child is anticipating a new ballet class or only has 20 minutes for the iPad, providing your child with clear expectations will help them transition. Having a conversation with your child a couple weeks in advance to identify any worries or fears regarding the new class, as well as identifying the positives, can help the child feel more in control and ready for something that doesn’t seem so “new.” Visiting the space, meeting the staff, and purchasing cute leotards can all challenge negative thinking and help the child view this new task as positive and familiar. In the event of transitioning from one activity to another, using a visual clock or kitchen timer as well as periodic reminders can assist your child in preparation to leave the iPad when it’s time.

Easier said than done…

Help your child create more balanced thinking by incorporating cognitive flexibility skills so they don’t feel like the world is over when you take away their preferred item.

Problem solving: help your child to come up other alternative solutions to the problem.

Ex: “When the iPad is over we can identify another time either later today or tomorrow you can use it” or identify another fun thing you can do if the iPad is not a choice (i.e. reading, TV, coloring).

Identify the positives in what will come next.

Ex: “I’m hungry for dinner, glad that’s now”, “going to the dentist so my teeth can be clean and healthy.”

Identify the size and severity of problem.

Ex:  “Getting off iPad is a small problem compared to getting sick and missing my birthday party or a highly anticipated concert or baseball game.”

Have your child evaluate the potential consequences of their actions.

Ex:  “If you don’t get off when I ask, what will happen…”

“I will lose dessert, I won’t be able to go on iPad the rest of the week. I might miss sleepover this weekend.”

Encouraging your child to evaluate the consequence of their choice prior to action and to engage in cognitive flexibility skills can aid your child in a smoother transition.




Boy having a temper tantrum

1-2-3 Magic Behavioral Principles: Harder Than We Think?

The popular discipline program, 1-2-3 Magic, is based on the basic behavioral principles of reinforcing positive behavior and reducing negative.  Simple, right?  Not necessarily, especially if you are parenting a child with a difficult temperament or developmental delays.  The difficulty lies not in the conceptual understanding of the program, but in the execution.  With practice and guidance it can be done and is well worth the effort.

The two most common pitfalls are 1) inconsistency in counting and following through with time-out and 2) unintentional reinforcement during time-out (e.g., talking and expressing emotion).  Every parent will fall victim to one or the other at the beginning.  The goal is to be aware of these traps, catch yourself when you are committing them, and work to avoid them next time.

Here is how to get started:

Step 1: Getting noncompliance and other negative behaviors under control.  The idea is to consistently send the message to your child that these behaviors are not ok.  How do we do that?  We consistently set limits on what is not acceptable by using a counting system.  This gives your child up to two opportunities to change their behavior before a consequence is handed down.  When your child does not comply after number 2, immediately go to number 3 and that’s it.  They will soon catch on that you are serious.  There is a learning curve, and not without its emotional meltdowns along the way, but children learn very well if consistency is in place.

Step 2: Get more of the good behaviors.  This is the fun part.  Spend time with your child one-on-one, have fun with them, listen, and be a model for appropriate ways to cope with situations.

With practice, it becomes easier.  Feel confident in your ability to create change in your home and enjoy the rewards!


Phelan, Thomas. (2010). 1-2-3 Magic: Effective discipline for children 2-12. Glen Ellyn, IL: ParentMagic, Inc.

Tips For Getting Your Child To Focus

Feeling frustrated that every time you turn your back, your child has once again escaped the kitchen table so nicely decorated with math workbooks, spelling words and other scattered assignments? Practicing these tips to enhance focus and attention will foster greater independence with homework completion and other tasks that require a calm body and mind.

1. Recognizing on- vs. off-topic thought content

One way to regain focus and attention is through gaining insight into the nature and content of our thoughts. If we are supposed to be doing math homework, our brains need to be thinking of math-related topics. This is called on-topic thinking. If you are doing math and thinking about what you are going to eat for dinner or your next Lego creation then you are experiencing off-topic thinking as these thoughts are unrelated to the task at hand. Getting refocused is as simple as switching your thoughts to support on-topic material. If you see your child glazed over, doodling, or getting up to engage in an alternative activity, call their attention to their thought process, have them recognize if they are on- or off-topic, and encourage them to think of thoughts that would support on-topic thinking.

 2. Deep breathing and muscle relaxation activities

If your child is having a hard time sitting still and attending to their homework, a family conversation at dinner, or on a directive, encourage them to engage in these fun activities:

Deep breathing. Encourage your child to take 10 deep breaths. This will slow breathing, cancel out other “noise” and regain attention to the here and now.

-Following deep breathing, encourage your child to do a series of tightening and loosening of their muscles 10 times (this can be a body scan, going through the muscles one by one to tighten and then loosen, or squeezing the whole body tightly and then releasing after 10 seconds)

-Whole body listening. Making sure that the body is calm will aid in focus and attention to the task at hand. Feet are calmly on the floor, hands are calm and not fidgeting, eyes are looking at the material, mouth is closed unless it is their turn to speak, ears are listening, and brain is thinking about on-topic thoughts.

3. Setting a timer

This will increase autonomy over homework and reduce parental frustration as the timer is an objective tool that the child can refer to keep them on task. You can set the timer for various increments of time and it can also provide options for necessary movement breaks. You can set the timer to delineate the amount of time needed to focus on work and/or set the timer for a series of movement breaks that may help the child get through longer tasks. For example, if your child has 45 minutes of homework, you can have the child do 10 minutes of work with a 5 minute break, 10 minutes of work, 5 minute break, etc. this will allow your child to get through their work with the intention of getting a chance to move around so that homework doesn’t seem daunting and their “breaks” give them a chance to refocus.

4. Repeat directions.

Encourage your child to repeat back directives to ensure that they have heard your message. Make sure that your child is engaging in whole body listening to really encourage focus and attention. Redirect your child into whole body listening if they are not to ensure that they are focusing on your message.

Framing Questions and Commands So Your Child Will Listen

The way in which a directive is presented can elicit a variety of responses. Prior to communicating with your child, set your expectation.

Is your goal to remove choice to ensure a task is completed or is your goal to offer choice to empower the child? These tips from our Pediatric Social Worker will explain when to “tell” your child to do something or when to “ask.”

When to “tell” your child what to do:

If there is a time-sensitive task that must be completed, posing a question might not be in your best interest. Asking your child to do something may imply a choice. Saying, “Johnny, can you take out the trash?’ can open pandora’s box for reactions and can, in fact, allow Johnny the option to say “no.” Telling Johnny to take out the trash doesn’t give any alternative option and the direction is cut and dry.

If you would like to provide choices when telling, you can say, “Johnny, please take out the trash and then you can resume watching TV.”

When to “ask” your child to do something:

Asking your child to do something can allow the child to feel more empowered in regards to making their own choices. You can structure these choices so that any response that you receive is okay. For example, asking your child, “Do you want macaroni and cheese or chicken parm for dinner?” offers options that you are ok with (you were planning to make one or the other so their input isn’t going to greatly alter your plans).

Tips while “telling” or “asking”:

Regardless if you are telling or asking, make sure that you stay calm and that your non-verbal and verbal cues are non-threatening (threatening cues may foster increased child resistance). If you are telling your child to do something, stay firm but recognize the tone of your voice and attitude. If you are raising your voice and showing signs of being mad, this may put the child on the defense. Staying firm but continuing to use a calm voice and body will maintain your message, show that you will ignore negative behavior, and aid in child investment quicker.

Click here to read more about handling stubborn behavior.

How to Discipline a Special Needs Child (When He Doesn’t Understand)

Disciplining a child with special needs is more challenging than disciplining a typically developing child. That said, it is just as important,how to discipline a special needs child if not more so, to encourage appropriate behavior for your child. It is essential to hold special needs children to the same expectations as their typically developing peers as often as possible.
Discipline is not a punishment. It is a tool to be used to promote positive behaviors and decrease negative behaviors. It should be used as a means to encourage progress of the child across all aspects of their development. And while all children are different and demonstrate different behaviors as they grow, there are a few discipline techniques that are applicable for all special needs children.

Discipline Strategies for Special Needs Children:

1. Praise good behaviors, ignore bad behaviors (if possible). Cause and effect is one of the earliest concepts a child learns. If he learns that you give attention (even if it is to reprimand or physically stop him) when he reacts inappropriately, he will continue the poor behavior seeking the negative attention. Rather, it is beneficial to teach him that the good behaviors will result in the attention and praise he seeks. Read more

Social Thinking: Improving Social Skills to Enhance Socio-Emotional Health

What is social thinking?

Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people. For successful social interactions, it is important that the individual take in and process information embedded in both verbal and non-verbal cues and process how to effectively respond based on the context and topic of presented material. Joint attention, knowledge of expectations regarding behavior, and mental flexibility are all key components for appropriate social relationships.

What happens when social skills are impaired?

When a child has difficulty with focus, understanding the context of the environment around them, and lacks knowledge of how their behaviors make others feel, social thinking may be impaired. Social skills deficits can have profound effects on your child’s academic performance, feelings about self, ability to connect with others, and ability to achieve desired wants and needs. Read more

Socialization Concerns in School

Many times there is an over emphasis on the academic aspects of a child’s school day.  Now, of course, academics are vital and should be put on the forefront in school.  However, what is just as important is the child’s social and emotional functioning.  Unfortunately these are often domains that are left unnoticed until they become a major problem with a child’s day-to-day academic achievement.  It is important that teachers identify any possible socialization or emotional concern that one of their students may be exhibiting, prior to it becoming a major concern for that student’s daily academic life.  Teachers should be on the lookout for various warning signs regarding socialization or emotional concerns.

Warning signs for social or emotional concerns:

  1. The child prefers to be by himself at recess.
  2. There is an increase in argumentative or oppositional behavior.
  3. The child ‘avoids’ or ‘escapes’ certain classes and situations by repeatedly going to the nurse or bathroom.
  4. The child appears more irritable or becomes easily frustrated.
  5. The child cries easily.

Many children will engage in a variety of the above behaviors at some time, and just because one or two of them appear, it does not mean that there needs to be a rush to intervention.  However, if a teacher does notice any of the above behaviors in a child, it is definitely recommended that he or she bring up this information to the child’s parent.  The parent may be able to provide some insight as well as help the child attain some needed interventions.

What to Do When Your Child Throws a Tantrum in Public

Trying to deal with a child that is throwing a tantrum is never easy, but when this fits are occurring outside of the privacy of your own tantrum in publichome, these tantrums may create a completely new level of anxiety. In fact, some parents are so nervous that they will not be able to handle their child during a tantrum that they fear going out in public with their child altogether. They may worry about negative attention from strangers as well as being judged on how well they are parenting.

Dealing with tantrums are never easy; below are some helpful tips on what to do when your child throws tantrums in public to make it easier for you:

  • Keep Calm.  You need to remain in control. If you begin to become stressed and scream or yell, then the situation will only escalate. For example, calmly discuss with your child about why they cannot have a certain item and move away from that area. Try to redirect the conversation and talk about something else in order to help your child lose focus on what he/she wants. Do not panic and feel that everyone is staring at you. Tantrums are regular behaviors of children and do not usually phase most people;  however, more people will begin to stare if your reaction is just as loud as your child’s tantrum.
  • Never See Them Again.  Remember that the people you see in the store will most likely not be seen again. You should not worry about what others are thinking as they are not as concerned with the situation as you are imagining and it will easily be forgotten. Most people understand as they have experienced similar situations. They have their own matters to worry about and focus on.
  • Consistency. Make sure that you are consistent in how you are addressing your child’s tantrums. If a tantrum at home would typically result in a timeout, then continue to use the same Read more

How To Deal With A Child Who Lies


Telling the truth and being honest are virtues that parents strive to instill in their children. However lying is a part of normal childhood boy cheating in school development, and it is expected that most children will go through phases where they experiment with lying. Lying typically begins around age 3, and becomes more prevalent during the elementary school years. The occurrence and severity of lying will vary in every child, but most parents will at some point find themselves in situations where their child has told a lie. In order to effectively handle lying in children, it is helpful to know a few basic strategies in order to decrease the instances of lying and increase telling the truth.


  • To cover up something or to avoid punishment
  • To escape an unpleasant task
  • To gain attention from others
  • To impress friends or classmates by exaggerating and/or making up a story
  • To avoid hurting someone’s feelings


  • First, ensure there is not an underlying issue that needs to be addressed (i.e. low self-esteem, a problem at school, etc.)
  • Do not ignore a lie. When you know your child is lying, calmly discuss the issue with them. Discuss how they could have better handled the situation, and explore alternative responses to lying.
  • Teach your child the consequences of lying and how lying can negatively affect them (i.e. potential loss of friends, loss of privileges, loss of trust from parents, teachers, and friends).
  • If the lie was more serious, and you feel a consequence is necessary, make the consequence directly related to the lie. For example, if your child lied about stealing money from their sibling,
    withhold their allowance for a week.


  • Be a good role model for your child and model honesty. If your child witnesses you lying, they will be more likely to lie themselves.
  • From a young age, discuss the importance of honesty and reinforce the value of telling the truth.
  • Praise and reinforce your child for telling the truth. Be specific with your praise, “I like how you told your teacher the truth about why your homework assignment was late.”
  • Make use stories, books, and real life situations that deal with lying. Use these examples to discuss appropriate alternatives to lying.

5 Tips To Work With Stubborn Behavior

Working with stubborn behavior can be frustrating and trying. It can easily ruin a fun-filled day of activities or just make every day stubborn girlmundane tasks a burden. Remember, stubbornness is a behavior that can be changed! Below are some tips that you can use to help decrease a child’s stubborn behavior.

Here are 5 tips to work through stubborn behavior:

  1. Give choices.  For example, you can give a choice of which chore the child wants to do. This often works as a win/win situation. The child get’s control what he or she does and the child still follows your direction.
  2. Give clear simple directions.  Sometimes the wordiness of our directions can send the message that we can negotiate. Give as simple of a direction as possible.
  3. Use first/then language. This gives a child a clear understanding of what will happen.
  4. Stay calm.  If a child has stubborn behavior, try not to let that behavior upset you. With a neutral attitude/tone/body language, follow up with the child.
  5. Reinforce following directions (non-stubborn behavior).  When a child follows directions with no argument, reinforce that behavior. Be specific with your praise and why you are providing praise or other reinforcement.