Child Behavioral Therapy Staten Island NY

Local resource for behavioral therapy for children in Staten Island. Includes detailed information on local businesses that provide access to child behavioral therapists, as well as advice and content on how to handle your children’s behavior.


Dr. Roger McIntire

Caught on tape hitting and punching her 4-year-old daughter, Madelyne Toogood was charged with battery to a child. The story was on the news nationwide. Ms. Toogood's lawyer said they would plead guilty and hope for mercy from the court. She could serve three years in prison.

Thank heavens the little girl is under age. If she were over 18, the sentence could be worse. And if she were under 2, the sentence for hurting a defenseless baby might be worse also. But between 2 and 18 there is a gray area, at least at first, before they get big enough to hit back.

Certainly the courts would not punish a parent for spanking a child unless the spanking left marks or bruises. Cuts and bleeding are out, and anything sexual is out. I guess the message is you can hurt them, but you can't damage them.

Staying within the law, a parent hitting a child may satisfy his or her own frustration and may feel that justice has been served, but have we made any headway with the child? He or she would certainly learn how to mimic hitting and slapping. You could count on that coming back to haunt you.

We all face life's daily stress. Ms. Toogood was shopping with an out- of-control 4-year-old who had run off twice. Before Mom "lost it," what alternatives could we have suggested?

She could have called an early halt to a shopping trip that was getting worse by the minute: "I guess this was a mistake, we are going home." I'm sure Mom wishes now she had done that. She would have to drag her balking child back to the car, possibly through a crowded mall, but at least the child wouldn't be learning the bad habit that she could act up at will on shopping trips.

Some "Get Tough" advocates would defend Toogood's hitting, but they are on the wrong track for several reasons. First, a child faced with physical punishment becomes afraid. Learning slows and creativity stops because it's too risky to stick your creative neck out if you might get hit for your mistakes.

Second, the hard-line approach will be, must be, inconsistent. A parent cannot, and should not, be consistent with punishment. Without the inconsistencies of warnings, threats and postponements, the rules are too inhuman. Yet with the "verbal decorations" the inconsistencies change the focus from "What's the problem?" to "Who will win?" The game and the power struggle begin.

Third, slapping, spanking or hitting a child is, of course, insulting. They belittle the child and lower his value of himself. That's why adults are so insulted if you try these punishments on them. The child defends himself, attempts to escape, or tries to "win" the game. Parents can "win" the power struggle, but for every winner a loser is made. And losers eventually call in absent.

But even when they lose, children imitate. Mom and Dad set the example that physical abuse is a good (used by Mom and Dad) way to deal with people.

The adult alternatives are much better. For example, if you come to my house f...

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Dr. Roger McIntire

What causes bad behavior? I receive many letters from parents who know part of the answer.

Some think the problem is a product of unfortunate circumstances. For example, a parent will say, “He has a hard time behaving because he was upset when his father and I divorced.” Or, “He was upset when I remarried.” Other parents suspect there are bipolar symptoms on one or both sides of the family tree. Others complain their child rejects discipline because his father doesn’t cooperate or they agree with his teacher who said, “He might be ADHD.”

Of course any of these speculations could be true, or partly true, but regardless of underlying causes, changing the child’s diet along with careful parental reactions may hold the only hope for permanent improvement. They also require the most effort.

Children don’t keep track of their diet let alone the effect of any particular part of it. For behavioral problems, caffeine is the biggest culprit. Studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show children and teens guzzle 64 gallons of soft drinks a year with an average of 38 milligrams of caffeine in every ounce. For adults, it’s coffee and if it’s fancy coffee the caffeine may be as high as 200 milligrams. After the temporary boost in energy, there’s the inevitable drop in energy and disposition that follows. A re-supply of caffeine will produce another burst of energy, but an addiction is beginning to form.

Hofstra University professor Michael Schare studied 400 preschoolers for a year and found that the heavy users of caffeine had more “uncontrollable energy,” which could be diagnosed as ADHD. If caffeine is occasional, provided at school but not at home, for example, a “bipolar disorder” might be suspected. Caffeine effects, and the additional sleep disturbance that comes with them, provide pharmaceutical companies with a host of prescriptions for children. Physicians often recommend less than 100 milligrams of caffeine—about two ounces of most colas—for the whole day. Why they recommend any at all is hard to understand.

In addition to a diet that contains caffeine and sugar in large quantities, food allergies can be part of the problem. The National Institutes of Health reports that 50 million Americans suffer from allergic diseases and 54 percent test positive for one or more allergens. The most common disruptive culprit...

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Dr. Roger McIntire

What Causes Tantrums?

Tantrums are triggered by disruptions of routine, changes in sleep and meal schedules, unrealistic expectations, and disappointments.

When a child who regularly throws tantrums makes a request, parents are often tempted to put off a confrontation with, "I'll think about it," or "We'll have to wait until your mother (or father) comes home." This sets up a long and risky period when a tantrum is likely. For the moment the request is denied, but it was done in a weak way that tempts the child to fight for what he or she wants - plenty of time to try out a tantrum along with other obnoxious behavior.

Also, putting off the child leaves him with nothing to do. It takes experience and creativity to put aside one line of activity and take up another while waiting for an answer to come down from the parental powers. Instead of switching to a new activity, the childish thing to do is cling to the present direction and push for an answer. Nagging is followed by complaining, then frustration and attack, and then the whole tantrum.

Another argument for prompt decisions is that they allow less time for a tantrum to develop and for parents to give in. With delayed decisions, parents are tempted to hold out until bad behavior gets worse. Giving in then is certainly a move in the wrong direction. Delays in decisions and giving in to expanding tantrums develop the childish willingness to try to manipulate others by making them miserable.

How Can You Stop Tantrums?

Many parents I know have used the "all stop" method with success. The term comes from the Navy when the ship captain commands, "All stop!" and all engines, whether in reverse, slow, or full speed, are shut down and the ship is dead in the water. For tantrums it means no progress is possible until the tantrum stops - no discussion, no alternatives, no argument. Mom merely says, "We're in "all stop" until you stop this tantrum."

The pitfall to this approach is that most of us will not really stop. We are tempted to continue to talk, cajole, plead and threaten - especially if the tantrum gets longer and louder. If this attention is part of the child's reason for tantruming, then we're going in the wrong direction again by providing attention only for escalation.

And speaking of escalation, parents need to guard against escalating their own volume and anger, thus providing additional bad behavior to be imitated.

Many parents have told me that tantrums occur at regular times - often when routine is disrupted by holidays or company, or when the competition from a sibling is the focus. Here's a good place to keep a behavior record. You may find that food shopping with your child right before dinner is likely to be a tantrum situation. Or that homework arguments right before bed produce the most tantrums.

The best solution will come from patience with a child not experienced with the unusual stress of the holidays or ...

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