Topic: Beyond Behaviors

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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He’s Having a Meltdown! Four Possible Triggers—and How to React

In my last post, I suggested that we should appreciate meltdowns for what they are: a child’s way of signaling that he needs something from the adults around him—or from his environment.  When a child experiences a meltdown or tantrum or acts aggressively, he is communicating that he has exceeded his ability to intentionally control his […]

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Why Preschoolers Shouldn’t be Suspended or Expelled: Lessons from Neuroscience

Luke struggled to get through nearly every day at his preschool. The four-year-old had difficulty sitting still and following directions, and when teachers reprimanded him, he usually responded by hitting something or someone. The more they admonished him, the more disruptive his behaviors became. Finally, the school ran out of options and suspended him. His […]

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The Pacifier Question: Why Not to Make Your Toddler Go Cold Turkey

Robby was two years old when his dentist told his parents that it was time to lose the pacifier. Concerned at the professional’s warning that using it was causing misalignment of the boy’s jaw, they took heed and soon made it disappear. That’s when the trouble began. Before long Robby had difficulty falling asleep. Within […]

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