Topic: Beyond Behaviors

Lessons From a Six-Year-Old in a Squad Car

The scene on the video is heartbreaking. An adorable six-year-old girl walks away from her elementary school—escorted not by her teacher or a parent, but by a sheriff’s deputy. “Am I going to jail?” the girl asks. “No,” the officer replies, “you’re not going to jail.” Seconds later, the girl slides into the back seat […]

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Child Discipline: Time to Shift the Lens

The Monitor on Psychology’s October 2019 article, “Teaming Up to Change Child Discipline” described how parenting advice such as “spare the rod and spoil the child” is now debunked and outdated. This is an important shift, considering that 60% of children aged 3-4 in the US are spanked by their parents. In regards to the […]

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How Teachers Can Take A More Compassionate Approach to Behaviors

Jalene’s teachers were at a loss about how to deal with the fourth grader’s habit of dashing wildly through the halls of her public school. Her IEP team made an effort, devising a behavior plan that called for teachers to reprimand her for the behavior, remove her from the classroom, or even force her to […]

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Do Time-Outs Work? It’s Time to Reframe the Question

Are time-outs an effective strategy for parents to cope with children’s challenging behaviors? Before I studied early childhood development, I occasionally used time-outs with my own children because they were touted as an effective and appropriate discipline technique. Decades later, a debate is raging about whether or not this is true. A recent Time article tried […]

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Top-Down and Bottom-Up Behaviors: Understanding the Critical Difference

Did you know that there are (at least) 2 different kinds of behaviors? Most people don’t. I didn’t, even after years of college, training, and earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Most graduate programs in mental health, education, social work, and medicine don’t yet consider this dichotomy important enough to teach or train about. But […]

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Childhood Trauma: Understanding Behavioral Challenges as Survival Instincts

This is a blog post I never wanted to write. In light of the tidal wave of neuroscience research, I had hoped that by now the fields of education, mental health and juvenile justice would change the way they view and support children and teens exposed to trauma. That hasn’t happened yet. And while I’m […]

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When a Child Cries, Ignore the “Experts,” Not the Tears

Every parent knows how difficult it can be to watch your child burst into tears. Your instinct is to do whatever you can to bring comfort and calm the child. But in my work as a child psychologist, I sometimes observe behavioral interventionists suggest a different reaction for the children they work with, including those […]

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Why We Misunderstand Traumatized Children’s Behavioral Challenges and How We Can Do Better

By the time he turned eleven, “Luke” had consistently displayed such challenging behavior that he had been kicked out of four foster homes. Finally, a social worker placed him with parents who had been trained in a program that focused on behavior management.  That placement was also unsuccessful, and he landed in a residential school […]

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It’s Time to Do Away with Seclusion and Isolation Rooms and Replace them with Compassion

Recently, a 13-year-old autistic student died after staff members at his Northern California school physically restrained him for an extended period. And the parents of a non-speaking, autistic 12-year-old  have sued his school for placing him in a seclusion room after a behavioral outburst. Teachers forced the child to strip naked before they placed him in a […]

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