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Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.

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Playing with Your Child

Play has developmental value

Research has repeatedly shown that play has numerous developmental benefits for children. Children “practice” the concepts they learn through their play. It is delightful to see children focus on a block or science activity for hours as they learn about how things work. Other reasons for play include:

  • Children learn math skills, literacy, and build their vocabulary through play.
  • Play can be vehicle through which they explore an idea that is mysterious, frightening, or troubling to them in a safe, imaginary setting. Doing so reduces stress and prepares children to cope with things emotionally.
  • Active play, especially when outdoors, builds strength and physical coordination and helps prevent obesity. (1)


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Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

From an early age, many children are interested in talking about right and wrong. They learn that good is rewarded in society and that “bad guys” are punished. However, explaining to inquisitive children why something is right and okay and why some things are simply morally wrong can be difficult. It may take adjusting the explanation to their “level” of reasoning. They may see rules as the unchangeable authority because disobeying them will lead to punishment. Other children may have a keen sense of what is “nice” or “not nice” and how to treat other people with kindness.

The American psychologist, and former professor at Harvard, Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987) sought to discover how it is that children develop and mature in moral reasoning skills. When it comes to understanding children’s moral behavior, it may be beneficial to consider how children view right and wrong according to Kohlberg’s theory. His research on the motivations behind moral decisions is widely published and discussed among psychologists and developmentalists today. 


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Online Computer Game and Video Game Addictions


Computer games–sometimes children just can’t seem to get enough of them. But could this fascination with each new, eye-catching, and highly detailed game become a problem or even a serious addiction for our children?

Video and computer games have only been around for the past three decades, and much research is still needed to understand all the implications for child and adult health and wellbeing. Sensational stories, such as a 28-year-old man in South Korea who died after attempting to play the game StarCraft for 50 hours straight in an internet café, as well as the experiences of many concerned parents, have pushed researchers to learn whether video game play and online gaming can develop into a diagnosable addiction.

The jury is still out on whether professionals will define video game addiction as a “real” addiction, on the same level as addictions to drugs, alcohol, and gambling. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- 5th edition (DSM- 5) includes “internet gaming disorder” in the appendix, but says that it is a “condition warranting more clinical research and experience before it” can be included as a formal disorder.

But to parents and spouses of those who display addiction-related symptoms in relation to video/online games, there is often no question that an addiction has taken hold of their loved one.

In particular, online games that are Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG’s), such as World of War Craft and EverQuest, can lead to addiction and other issues because of their virtual social network quality. “Compared to players of arcade, console, or offline computer games, Smyth (2007) reported that those who play MMORPGs excessively have worse health, worse sleep quality, greater difficulty in socializing in real-life, and worse academic performance” (Berenuy, et. al, 2013).

The official diagnostic symptoms for gambling addictions are often used as a basis for defining the symptoms of internet gaming addiction, as gambling is a non-substance addiction, built on behaviors that influence chemical release patterns in the brain.

Symptoms given by those that define internet addiction, and those who describe themselves as having been addicted, include:

  • Tolerance- needing increasing amounts of time spent on gaming to maintain the desired emotional effect.
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop or take an extended break.  
  • Withdrawal symptoms that include a change in typical personality, such as anger, aggression, and possibly violence. Moodiness and irritability if unable to play.
  • Repeated use of games to escape from stress, loneliness, family problems, depression, low self-esteem, etc.
  • Neglecting to sleep, eat, or take care of one’s basic needs in order to play a game.
  • Threatened or lost relationships, job, or educational opportunities because of the drive to play online or video games.
  • Lying to therapists or family members to hide game play or to be able to play more,
  • Spending excessive money on online games, stealing money to spend on games.
  • Preoccupation with video games or online games for much of the day, when not playing them.

It is important to recognize that playing video games a lot and being highly invested in them is different from being addicted. The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction here.

Many parents have reached out for help to professional therapists and support groups because of a child whose life seems to have been completely lost to electronic games. Supportive resources for individuals dealing with a gaming addiction and their family and loved ones include:

  • Online-Gamers Anonymous®, a non-profit organization created by a mother, whose son committed suicide as a direct result from an online game addiction. Online forums are available for parents, those seeking recovery, and professionals.
  • The Center for Internet Addiction– created by psychologist, Dr. Kimberly Young who has spent over 20 years researching internet addiction, and is the author of several articles and books about internet addiction.

Excessive time spent on the internet or playing video games is not healthy for the overall well-being of our children, may impair interpersonal skills, and may lead to unrealistic relationship realities. Some youth today are truly addicted to social media, online gaming, or other apps.

The following tips can help parents prevent their children from experiencing internet and video game addictions.

  • Enforce internet, video game and screen time limits from early ages.
  • Actively encourage real-life activities that help develop crucial interpersonal skills for success in life.
  • Watch for signs of addiction such as your children becoming agitated when they are denied access to the internet or permission to play video games
  • Do not allow cell phones, computers, tablets, or other internet-enabled devices in bedrooms, especially at night.
  • Consider “unplugging” the whole family from screens periodically.
  • Limit your own use of digital media to set a good example, including turning off smartphones and computers during family meals and avoiding texting while driving.

If your child is experiencing detrimental effects due to compulsive or excessive electronic gaming, set limits on your child’s internet use and be consistent, and seek the help of a counselor or therapist with experience in electronic addictions. These pages from the above-mentioned resources and others offer advice from parents who have experienced similar situations:

Other References:

American Society of Addiction Medicine Board of Directors, (2011). Quality and practice: Definition of addiction. Retrieved from:

Beranuy, M., Carbonell, X. x., & Griffiths, M. (2013). A Qualitative Analysis of Online Gaming Addicts in Treatment. International Journal of Mental Health & Addiction11(2), 149-161.

Tichelaar, K. (Jun. 27, 2017). Dopamine and its effects on the brain. Retrieved from:

Young, K. (2009). Understanding Online Gaming Addiction and Treatment Issues for Adolescents. American Journal of Family Therapy, 37(5), 355-372. doi. 10.1080/01926180902942191.

Young, K., Addiction to MMORPG’s: Symptoms and treatment. Retrieved from:

Young, K. (2014). Net negotiations: What every parent should know about controlling their child’s use of technology. [Kindle version] Retrieved from

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Laughter: Nature’s Medicine for Family Relationships


Finding ways to laugh through the hard times builds resilience and relationships in a family. The effects of laughter are both immediate and lasting for people of all ages.

A few weekends ago I visited some of my husband’s family I had never met before to attend the funeral of his aunt. Emotions were still fresh from my husband’s mother passing away two years before, and now her twin had passed away from cancer at a relatively young age as well. It was a hard time. After the funeral, we stayed at another aunt’s home and spent the afternoon and evening after the funeral sitting around with relatives telling stories, catching up, laughing, and talking. As we sat there, the family reminisced about the funny quirks of the two sisters who had passed away:  family stories, puns, riddles- you name it. What a stark contrast was this scene from the funeral tears and heavy hearts. I was amazed at how this family used a thriving sense of humor to cope with a difficult time. Humor can be powerful.

Laughter is Medicine for the Body and Mind

  • Laughter releases stress-relieving hormones into the body and reduces tension.
  • Laughter reduces the chances of having depression. Laughing a lot releases endorphins and improves mood.
  • It helps with breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate, and reduces calories
  • Some research connects laughter and humor to strengthening immunity and the body’s ability to deal with pain.
  • Laughter can increase self-esteem and confidence, improve creativity and thinking skills, and helps you feel in control of a situation. Research on families and married couples show that those with stronger, happier relationships laugh more with each other.

How to Strengthen Your Family’s Funny Bone

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”- Victor Borge

    • “Mutual respect, love, and trust allow family members to share and create humor” (Wilcox, “Humor in the Family”). Laugh at things that everyone finds funny. Jokes aimed at criticizing someone or to manipulate someone else are detrimental to the environment of the home.
  • Be willing to laugh at your own mistakes. Doing so will show your children an example of dealing with failings with a good attitude, compassion, and kindness. Teach them to not take themselves so seriously.
    • With your young children, learn to be spontaneous, playful, and silly. Collect funny books and movies. Teach them when jokes are funny and when they might hurt feelings and are not okay.
  • Families usually are aware of what other family members are sensitive about. When telling funny stories and making witty remarks, jabs at other family members can cause lasting pain, even if they pretend to laugh. Nurture a sense of trust by not sharing other’s personal things without permission.
  • Choose to see the humor in a situation. Life will inevitably get overwhelming at times. Sometimes it is a choice between responding with tears or with laughter. Laughter relieves tension and makes things psychologically more bearable.
  • Share memories of humorous moments. Keep a journal of funny things. These will be delightfully amusing to read over later. Family inside jokes and shared stories form powerful bonds.
  • Learn about the differences in sense of humor in your spouse and other family members. One joke that is dull to you, might throw someone else into fits of giggles.

“A marriage [or a family] without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs — jolted by every pebble in the road.”- Henry Ward Beecher

And for an added bonus- some of my favorite family jokes:

“If you have trouble getting your children’s attention, just sit down and look comfortable.”

A little girl asked her Mom, “Where do humans come from?” Her mom answered, “God made Adam and Eve and they had children and that’s who we all descend from.” A few days later the girl asked her dad the same question. Her dad answered, “Many years ago there were monkeys from which people evolved.” The confused girl returned to her mother and said, “Mom, how is it possible that you told me the people were created by God, and Dad said people evolved from monkeys?” Her mom answered, “Well, dear, it’s very simple: I told you about my side of the family, and your father told you about his.”

“I was watching the game at my parents’ home and I asked for something to eat. My dad said, “Go ahead and eat some of the peanuts in the bowl beside the chair. I ended up eating them all and as I was leaving I said that I was sorry and would replace them. That’s when dad said, “Ever since I lost my teeth, all I can do is suck the chocolate off them.”


Gavin, M. (Jun 2015), Encouraging your child’s sense of humor. Retrieved from:

Mayo Clinic Staff. (Apr. 21, 2016). Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. Healthy Lifestyle.  Retrieved from:

Schwartz, J. (2017). The gift is humor. In Healthy Communication. Retrieved from:

Wallen, D., 9 surprising benefits of laughter you need to know. Retrieved from:

Wilcox, B. Humor in the family. In Marriage and Families. Retrieved from:

Yim, J. (2016). Therapeutic Benefits of Laughter in Mental Health: A Theoretical Review. The Tohoku Journal Of Experimental Medicine239(3), 243-249. doi:10.1620/tjem.239.243.

Image obtained from

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Resources for Parents and Families of Autistic Children – Supporting Parents and Families with an Autistic Child (pt. 2)

Part 2: Resources for Parents and Families of Autistic Children

The information for this article is taken from a qualitative research study and report by Stephanie Williamson. The research focused on the coping strategies of 12 different mothers who had between one and three children with autism. Mothers, who are often the main caretakers of their child with autism, usually experience high amounts of chronic stress, and are often obligated to learn a new and different way of life in raising a child with autism. Both parents coping with the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may struggle with the loss of previous expectations they had for their child’s future and the worries about how things will work out in planning for a possibly very different future. Many parents with a child who has autism find that their greatest support comes from activities with extended family, support from a spouse and other relatives, as well as understanding and helpful friends. Having professional resources through the school, community, and private programs also make a big difference.

What do Parents of Autistic Children Find Helpful from Others?

  • Life as a parent of a child with autism is often extremely hectic, unpredictable, and without breaks. Parents caring for an autistic child appreciate hands-on help. Offering to trade babysitting or watching their other children so they can take their child with autism to therapy are great ways to lend a hand.
  • Avoid offering unsolicited advice about what remedies they should try; instead, offer a listening ear. Parents may not have time to cope with more ideas at once than the ones they are already trying.
  • Get to know the child with autism. Behind the disorder, they are an individual who you will likely come to love and enjoy.
  • Be understanding. Parenting a child with autism requires parents to sometimes do things that may not be understood by others. A child with autism may not understand about staying safe and not running into the street, may have difficulty controlling bodily functions, and will not understand what is socially acceptable. They can act impulsively and do things that endanger themselves. Others in the community can avoid being judgmental of a family dealing with these behaviors, and realize that they are not caused by a lack of appropriate parenting.  

Resources for Parents

Mothers who participated in the aforementioned study, emphasized that receiving a diagnosis of autism can be a lengthy process, but it is essential to have in order to begin getting help. One mother said, “Get the diagnosis. Do whatever you have to do to fight it… Because once you have that, the doors open… the diagnosis I think has helped us the most.”

The available community resources for children with autism may vary between different locations in the United States. Additionally, many therapy and support programs can be found through a child’s school.

More than likely, a parent with a child with ASD wouldn’t even have time to read all this information! But you can pass on the message by offering a helping hand for children with a unique and special life.


Autism Society (2016) What is autism. Retrieved from:

Autism Speaks Inc. (Apr. 26, 2017). Autism and health: a special report by autism speaks. Retrieved from:

Williamson, S.A, (2009) Approaching autism: a qualitative review of maternal and familial adaptation among families of children with autism. In All Theses and Dissertations. Retrieved from:

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What is Autism – Supporting Parents and Families with an Autistic Child (pt. 1)

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disability that effects millions of children and their families. Many of us are familiar with autism from children that we knew growing up, neighbors and relatives, or from characters in movies, books, or TV. Families that have a child with autism know that there is often a lack of understanding from others on what autism really is. The experience of having a child with autism is usually a huge source or stress to parents and siblings in the child’s family. The purpose of this collection of articles (parts one and two) is to share some useful information about autism, raise awareness of how to support parents and families who have a child with autism, and to share some helpful resources to these parents.

Part One: What is Autism?

In 2016, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued the newest report, showing that the rate for children with autism in the United States is 1 child in every 68 births. Boys are 4 ½ times more likely to have autism than girls. Children with autism grow, learn, and have individual interests like other children, but they think in a different way. Some are “high functioning” and may have regular or high intelligence, but lack the ability to communicate, understand social cues, and express themselves like other people. Others are lower functioning and exhibit delays in intelligence. The CDC estimates that a third of children with autism also have an intellectual disability, based on available data.

Autism is referred to as a “spectrum disorder”, because autism affects individual children in a wide variety of ways and different levels of severity. One child with autism may display very different behaviors and symptoms from another child. Many children with ASD have very focused interests and may “obsess” over a certain activity or topic. They can be very friendly and loving, or they may not show any interest in interacting with people at all. Individuals with ASD often have a hard time understanding sarcasm. The symptoms of autism are usually apparent before the age of three. The earlier autism is diagnosed, the more a child can benefit from early intervention and treatment. Some early signs of autism in a young child are:

  • Significantly delayed speech, or a loss of speech skills that were previously developed.
  • Lack of interest in social relationships, difficulty with social interaction, lack of eye contact.
  • Self-stimulatory behavior or repetitive behaviors, such as rocking back and forth or walking in circles.
  • Increase in tantrums, discomfort with sensory processing- extra sensitivity to sight, sound, and smells.

For a guide to typical developmental milestones for infants and young children, visit

Diagnosis of autism should be thoroughly completed by a medical team if there is a suspicion that autism is present. A delay in a certain area of development does not necessarily mean a child has autism, rather several screening tests are used to determine diagnosis.

Children with autism are more likely to also suffer from other health problems such as: sleep irregularity, anxiety, epilepsy, difficulty with eating, ADHD, depression, and gastrointestinal problems.

There is no known single cause for why autism occurs. Research is being done investigating the genetics, environmental substances, problems during pregnancy, and other possible factors behind autism. Brain scans show that there are abnormalities in the brains of children with autism that are not present in normal brains.

Because autism is so varied for different children and families, finding the right treatment for an individual child is varied as well. Children with autism can grow and enjoy life and become contributing, unique members of society, especially when they receive the right help. Early intervention, community support programs, and speech and occupational therapy are common therapy providers. School-age children with autism usually receive an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to set goals for their developmental needs, and may participate in regular classrooms with special supports or in a special education classroom. There are special private schools, which are specific for children with autism, as well.

See Part 2 of this article for guidelines in helping parents with children with autism and finding resources for support.


Autism Society (2016) What is autism. Retrieved from:http: //

Autism Speaks Inc. (Apr. 26, 2017). Autism and health: a special report by autism speaks. Retrieved from:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Dec. 5, 2016). Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Retrieved from:

Williamson, S.A, (2009) Approaching autism: a qualitative review of maternal and familial adaptation among families of children with autism. In All Theses and Dissertations. Retrieved from:

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Positive and Negative Reinforcement


When it comes to children, teaching them behaviors that they need to repeat and not repeat is never an easy task.

But what makes decisions on parenting a lot easier is understanding the benefits of encouraging or discouraging certain behaviors. Both positive and negative reinforcements are used for all age categories and levels of mental activity.  All of us can profit from reinforcement but especially developing children, teenagers, elderly, and those with psychological or developmental issues. They are all in need of positive and negative reinforcement to help accomplish certain tasks or milestones.

Borrowed from “Teaching Your Children Through Positive Parenting”

Positive reinforcement is defined by as “the offering of desirable effects or consequences for a behavior with the intention of increasing the chance of that behavior being repeated in the future.” Research on parenting consistently shows that positive reinforcement tends to be very beneficial to the development of positive behaviors and habits. So what are some examples of positive reinforcement?

  • Giving a child a compliment or candy for a job well done.
  • Getting paid for a completed task.
  • Watching your favorite TV show after doing all your homework.
  • Giving a dolphin a fish for doing a trick.
  • Awarding your dog a treat for sitting, laying, rolling over.
  • Getting a candy bar after putting money in the machine.

Now, negative reinforcement isn’t always a bad thing.  However, when used in an extreme manner, it can produce undesired behaviors. Negative reinforcement is defined as “the reinforcing of a response by giving an aversive stimulus when the response is not made and omitting the aversive stimulus when the response is made.”  The definition is a mouthful and alone doesn’t tell us exactly how this reinforcement is carried out, so here are a few examples of negative reinforcement used in a good way.

  • You say, “Thank you for helping me clean! I can finish now.” In the future, your child is more likely to clean because it wasn’t as difficult of a task as they thought.
  • Your child refuses to do their homework so you continue to ask them repeatedly to do it. They eventually do it so you will stop asking.
  • If you tell your child to take 3 more bites or they won’t get dessert, in the future they will know they can get dessert after only taking 3 bites.
  • Your child refuses to go to sleep, so you tell them he doesn’t have to wash the dishes the next day if he goes to bed on time. You are taking away something they hate in order to encourage going to bed on time.

As you can see, both positive and negative reinforcements can be used and produce both positive and negative behaviors. Parents generally tend to focus on the negative behaviors because they are more disruptive and sometimes unacceptable, especially in calm home or outside settings. As a parent, you are able to make the decision on how to use positive or negative reinforcement to help your child grow and develop.

As a final thought, The National Physicians Center gives this admonition,

“Please remember–if your children demonstrate negative behaviors, always give them opportunities to change that behavior–never leave them feeling hopeless.”

Click to to view the Physicians Center’s newsletter on positive and negative reinforcements and below are resources to help you better help each of your children through each phase of their life.


Baron, A., & Galizio, M. (2006). The Distinction Between Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Use With Care. The Behavior Analyst29(1), 141–151.

Lapham, P. (2014). Consequences. [Blog] Teaching Your Children Through Positive Parenting. Available at: [Accessed 24 Jul. 2017].

Whittle S, Simmon JG, et al.  Positive parenting predicts the development of adolescent brain structure:  A longitudinal study.  Develop Cognitive Neuroscience.  2014; 8: 7 – 17

The National Physicians Center, Prescriptions for Parents: Making Scientific Research Practical for Families, Encouraging positive behaviors in children and adolescents.

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What if my Child is Afraid of Going to the Doctor?

One of the troubling dilemmas a parent might deal with is the question of whether talking to their child about what will happen at the doctor’s office in the days before will just build more anxiety, or if it will help prepare them to be less afraid. While it can be detrimental to dwell on the worries of visiting the doctor before going, it can also be quite problematic if a child is brought to the doctor by surprise, or lied to about where they are going.  Several experts share the following advice on how to prepare your child for a doctor visit, without stressing them out even more.

  • One of the most important things parents can do is to be calm themselves. If a parent is anxious at the doctor, the child will get his cues from the parent and also be afraid. Find ways to deal with the apprehension you may have about your child’s doctor experience. Try not to let your child see these feelings.
  • Tell your child about the appointment a couple days in advance. Karen Stephens, director of Illinois State University Child Care Center, says, “A week’s notice is too long for young kids, because they forget easily, and a week gives school-age children too much time to fret and worry.”
  • Be very honest, but positive. Dr. Lindenberg, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center advises, “Never lie to a child and never make promises that may be broken during a visit. For example, you shouldn’t promise that a visit to the doctor won’t hurt, because there may be immunizations or blood draws. What you can say is, “I don’t know if you will get a shot this time. If you do, it will be over very quickly and will probably feel like a pinch.”
  • Fears can be eased by helping a young child become familiar with the experience of a trip to the doctor office. You might consider letting them perform role plays with toy doctor equipment at home, observing the doctor visits of older siblings, reading helpful books about visiting the doctor, and briefly going over what to expect when you are there. During these activities, take a chance to explain some of the equipment that the doctor uses. The Fred Rogers website has a video about going to the doctor from the Mister Rogers television show that may appeal to little ones and ease their concerns at
  • “Research has shown that children who sit on a parent’s lap (rather than away from their parent on a table) while receiving a shot or medicine show less anxiety. (Probably because they feel more safe and secure)” (Stephens, K., 2007).
  • Make the trip a special and fun occasion. Allow your child to bring a special blanket or stuffed animal with them if it helps them to feel comforted. Avoid using bribes for children to behave, but it is helpful to make it a fun occasion by having a special activity afterwards or going for ice cream on the way home. Dr. Benjamin Kligler, an Associate Medical Director in New York City, says, “Instead of bribing or threatening a young child into going to the doctor, ask him what fun thing he would like to do afterwards. Use this as an incentive, rather than a reward for good behavior, because it’s normal for young kids to get upset during the visit.

One of the frustrating things about raising children is not being able to control the influences that come into their lives, sometimes creating false perceptions of the world. A child’s fear about going to the doctor is usually partially based on their observations of other’s reactions. An older sibling or neighbor might talk about being scared to get a shot at the doctor, and voila! Your younger child is likely going to be afraid too. Besides the influence of others, visiting the doctor is naturally a frightening experience for a child, especially on the first visit (at least the first visit they actually remember, that is).

Vaccines are often a cause of concern for kids and parents because they hurt and parents often don’t understand why it’s best that their children receive them. If you’re a parent with concerns regarding immunizations, click to view the ACPeds handouts on the Origin and Production of Vacciness in the United States and the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine.

For some more helpful tips and ideas on quelling your child’s fears (and any of your own) about doctor visits, view the following resources:

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Improving Your Toddler’s Aggressive Behavior

Toddlers are at quite the exciting stage of life! They are grasping the power of language, can navigate around more proficiently, and are realizing that they can make their own choices and exert their own influence on the world around them. Additionally, around age two, many toddlers hit the peak in the number of acts of physical aggression towards others (1). The sweet, cherub-cheeked little girl can shock her parents with a startling bite on the arm, during a sudden outburst from experiencing a disappointment.

Parents often struggle to understand how to stop the biting, hitting, kicking, and scratching that their toddler seems to be resorting to more and more. Its stressful for the whole family, hurts badly despite your child’s small size, and can be quite embarrassing right in the middle of the grocery store!

There are multiple possible reasons for a child’s aggressive actions, including fear, frustration, feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, jealousy, anger, and un-obtained wants. They feel completely out of control, and most likely do not want to harm their friends or family members. For toddlers, aggression sometimes results because they are unable to communicate their wants and needs verbally.

Claire Lerner, a licensed clinical social worker and child development specialist, wrote an article entitled “Aggressive Behavior in Toddlers.” About aggression, she counsels that, “Toddlers also don’t have the self-control to stop themselves from acting on their feelings. They are just beginning to develop empathy—the ability to understand how others feel. So, they cannot yet say, Mommy, I am mad that Zachary grabbed my favorite doll. But I know he just wants to play with me. So how about I offer him a different doll to play with? Instead, your toddler may bop Zachary on the head with a toy truck.”

For parents, it is very easy to feel angry when your child reacts aggressively. It can be very hurtful and confusing. According to Lerner, “Parents often expect that as their older toddlers become more and more verbal and advanced in their thinking skills, they are capable of more self-control than they really are. This stage of development can be very confusing because while your 2 ½-year-old may be able to tell you what the rule is, she still does not have the impulse control to stop herself from doing something she desires. At this age, emotions still trump thinking skills almost every time.”

Lerner recommends three general steps for managing a young child’s aggression. They are:

  • Observe and Learn. Consider what the underlying reasons for your child’s behavior could be. This might be a temporary occurrence with a playmate, or a deeper underlying issue. Also, watch for a pattern of common times and situations when the behavior happens. Also check yourself for how you respond and your ability to remain calm when the problems happen.
  • Respond to your child based on your best understanding of the behavior. It is most helpful to plan ahead for when aggression is likely to occur and take preventative measures. Distractions can be a good tool for helping your child avoid acting out. Help your child recognize his emotions and how he can cope more appropriately. Give your child an alternative where he can “channel his energy.”
  • Help your older toddler (2 ½ to 3), who is beginning to understand logic and rational thinking, learn from his actions. Guide your child in recognizing how her behavior affects others and herself and help her think about how they can act differently.

For the full article see:

Image from


  1. Lerner, C. & Parlakian, R. (Feb. 1, 2016). Aggressive behavior in toddlers. Retrieved from
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Benefits of “Baby Talk”: Infant Language Stimulation

When a new baby is around a group of adults, chances are that you will hear many people launch into an animated, high-pitched voice and make silly sounds that would be quite amusing out of context. It just so happens that this type of silly communication we use in fawning over babies is helpful to their learning. Sometimes referred to as “mother-ese” or even “baby talk”,

Infant-Directed Speech is the speaking style that adults often use to speak to their babies in a certain voice register, with exaggerated pronunciation of syllables, and a slower pace. 

This is something that most parents all over the world seem to naturally do, but research consistently proves that this manner of talking is beneficial for your young child’s language development. Babies’ brains are primed for the fast accumulation of words and language comprehension, but they need adults to talk to them and around them for them to learn. Experts say that babies need to hear a word about 500 times before they say them! (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 2015). Infant-directed speech is a way that adults make learning words and sounds a little easier.

  • Several studies have found results showing that babies will pay attention longer to an adult using infant-directed speech than to adult-directed speech (Spinelli, 2017).
  • Brain scans on infants revealed higher amounts of brain activity for babies listening to infant-directed speech, than for normal speech (Naoi, 2012).
  • Further research on infant-directed speech has found that children who were exposed to more infant-directed speech at age 1, tend to have a larger vocabulary at age 2 than children who were exposed to less. (Ramirez, 2014).

Note: Once children are above the age of 3, they benefit more from being spoken to in a normal tone of voice. They can recognize what “baby talk” is and don’t benefit from knowing that they are being spoken to like a baby- they want to feel big! Additionally, as they are already developing language acquisition, they learn from observing your modeling of how to talk and communicate in the proper way. Avoid using incorrect terms for things, like mimicking how they say “basketti” instead of “spaghetti” (even if it is absolutely adorable) so you can help them hear the correct word.

Tips for Helping Your Infant or Toddler Develop Language

  • Use “self-talk.” Narrate your day to day activities for your child as you go. It may seem funny to talk to your child before they can answer back, but they are listening! For example, say “Now I’m getting a new diaper!” during diaper changing, or “I’m cooking soup for dinner!” in the kitchen. They need to hear the different sounds of speech and associate words you say with what they see you do. Children typically learn language comprehension at a faster rate than they learn language production. They may understand a lot more than they can say. Some research shows that babies can understand many words at 7 months old and “practice them in their brains” (Shere, 2014).
  • Label what a child is doing and objects of interest for them. This is called “parallel talk”. For example, say, “You found the ball!”, when they reach for the ball. Use simple phrases for actions, such as saying “coats on!” when getting ready to go outside. (Walker & Bigelow, 2012).
  • For children under age 1, you can talk to them often and repeat simple sounds for them, letting them watch your mouth as you do. Repeating sounds such as “ba ba ba ba” or “da da da da da” breaks down language into a much simpler form for them. This may come through imitating the sounds that your child makes.
  • Read books with your child, starting at a young age. Help them come to learn that books are wonderful and fun. Use thick, board books that are less breakable for young toddlers and let them handle them. They might want a certain story to be read over and over again!
  • Singing songs and teaching children nursery rhymes are valuable learning tools because of the repetition of sounds. Children can learn songs at a young age. Music can teach them vocabulary, rhyming, math, social skills, and other things!
  • Follow what a child seems interested in and talk about those things. They will learn more as you use words to contribute to what they are already playing or show responsiveness to. (Walker & Bigelow, 2012).
  • When a child begins to make one or two word phrases like “Dog!”. Expand their words by adding detail and sentence structure. Say, for example, “Yes, that’s grandpa’s dog! He is little!”

So how can you help your baby or toddler develop language skills at an appropriate pace?

Talk to them and talk a lot! The more you engage them in the use of language the more easily and quickly they will be soon be speaking to you.

For more information, see the following resources:

A quick and helpful video from licensed speech pathologist, Kimberly Scanlon, author of the book, My Toddler Talks.

For a helpful guide on promoting language development for your infant and toddler, see: –

Watch this video: for a guide on the developmental milestones in language during your baby’s first year of life.

Video on research from San Diego University about how a child’s early language comprehension affects their later development:


Albert Einstein College of Medicine. (Apr. 15, 2015). Developmental Milestones: Baby Talk from First Sounds to First Words. Retrieved from:

Skanlan, K. (Jun 26, 2013). Speech Therapy for Toddlers: 5 Great Tips! Retrieved from:

  1. Naoi, Y. Minagawa-Kawai, A. Kobayashi, K. Takeuchi, K. Nakamura, J. Yamamoto, S. Kojima. (2012). Cerebral responses to infant-directed speech and the effect of talker familiarity Neuroimage, 59(2), 1735–1744.
  2. Ramirez-Esparza, A. Garcia-Sierra, P.K. Kuhl. (2014). Look who’s talking: Speech style and social context in language input to infants are linked to concurrent and future speech development. Developmental Science, 17(6), 880–891

Shere, J. (Nov. 7, 2014). Baby talk. In A Moment of Science. Retrieved from:

Spinelli, M., Fasolo, M., & Mesman, J. (2017). Does prosody make the difference? A meta-analysis on relations between prosodic aspects of infant-directed speech and infant outcomes. Developmental Review, 441-18. doi:10.1016/j.dr.2016.12.001

Walker, D. & Bigelow, K. (2012). Strategies for Promoting Communication and Language of Infants and Toddlers. Juniper Gardens Children’s Project. Retrieved from:

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