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Doctor Blake
Doctor Blake, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 146
Experience:  Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure
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This is a question for a chilld psychologist. I am a single

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This is a question for a chilld psychologist. I am a single mother of a 2 year old boy (just turned 2 last week), and a 10 month old girl.
My two year old boy is soooo sweet, he laughs smiles, plays, has tons of energy.
I realy want him to grow up in a good direction, want to do things right with him. I see a few behavior issues that I need to take care of:
I tell him "NO" a million times and he still does whatever it is I am saying no to. He most definately understands. He is very smart. For example, whenever he gets hold of a cup with a beverage in it, he promptly dumps it on the floor. He constantly climbs on my dining room chairs (thats how he gets the cup) though I repeatedly take him down.
I live in a large apartment building that has a playroom, whenever he is there he seems to take the other kids balls and refuses to give toy back. He does not want to learn to "share" at all. I actually feel like the mothers dont invite me on purpose to the playroom. My son seems to be the only one that is doing this....he IS a few months older than the kids he is taking balls from....but there is also a four year old in the mix and he gets into problems with him too over toys. I want to teach him to play nice and share, but dont know how to do it.
He constantly takes toys away from his 10 month old sister, she is starting to not like it....makes her cry.
I recently had big success in getting him to stop scrtatching her face. I do a "super Nanny" naugty chair type thing, but I put him in the playpen for one minute, tell him what he did wrong, he crys, and then I go to him, tell him again why he is in there and then pick him up and hug him and tell him I love him. Since doing that only a few times, he has not been doing it, and is now kissing her nicely but I dont want to do this for every little thing.....
also he goes to bed at like 11pm....???? he is like not even close to tired at 8pm and sometimes he does not even take a nap.

Good morning. Thanks for writing to JA.

Jo Frost and the SUPERNANNY franchise will be putting us Child Psychologists out of work! Why? Because she does what many/most of us would do with little people with behavior problems - she works with the parents. And, she does it beautifully.

You are to be commended for your proper application of the "Super Nanny technique" to reduce inappropriate behavior with his younger sister. You (a) set the behavioral expectation; (b) removed him from the environment that reinforced the negative behavior; (c) reminded him of that expectation in a loving and supportive way; (d) rewarded him for appropriate behavior; and [most importantly] (e) you were consistent and didn't back down.

Your success with reducing the sibling rivalry should show you one thing: persistence and consistency on your part CAN change behavior!

What may likely be happening with some other behaviors is what we psychologists call an "extinction burst." That's a fancy term for "acting up when we're trying to discipline." Essentially, whenever someone tries to reduce a behavior/habit by changing the consequences associated with that behavior, the person (or even animal) who is supposed to change will "up the ante" in his or her unwanted behavior. This "upping the ante" will continue until, FINALLY, the person either exhausts the one trying to change the behavior (e.g., the parent) or the person changes. If the person stops the behavior, there may be one or two more small extinction bursts after the first one - but never as bad as the first. If the person outlasts the one trying to change the behavior - you've now got a MUCH WORSE behavior problem. Why? Because the kiddo has learned (probably not in such direct language), "well, if I just wait it out long enough - or become intolerably obnoxious... she'll finally leave me alone." What does the kiddo do, then? Moves directly toward the more and more obnoxious behavior more and more quickly. It worked once before - why not try it again?!?

With regard to the juice... simple solution. No more juice in cups, only non-spillable sippy-cups. He can graduate to cups (only filled 1/4 full) once he shows mastery of the sippy-cup.

With regard to sharing and less-than-social behavior... try reducing the environmental stimuli to only 1-2 other children at a time - and then provide direct punishment (naughty chair or equivalent) for inappropriate behavior. Be sure to provide praise for appropriate behavior. "I love it when you play so nicely with Bobby" or "You're doing a great job of sharing" goes a long way toward reinforcing and shaping the behavior you want.

With regard to the sleep... well... SUPERNANNY has got the corner on establishing good sleeping behaviors. Not only does she address the need for behavioral consistency, she addresses the need for proper sleep hygiene throughout the day. I'd encourage you to catch a few or her episodes, or even go to her website at:

Finally, I know that this feels exhausting right now. I know that when my sons were the age of your children, my wife and I felt like we hadn't slept in about 3 years. Keep your good humor up, find opportunities to "catch him being good" and praise his accomplishments, and consider speaking to his pediatrician if the behavior persists after a good-hearted try on your behalf. (If you apply all of the strategies outlined above, for 6-10 weeks, and you see no improvement - it's time for some outside help!) When we board the plane, the stewards always tell us to put the oxygen masks on ourselves firse before assisting our kids. The same is true with parenting... give yourself some time to have a break, regroup, and take care of yourself so you can be the caring and efficient mommy you are!

Best of luck to you. Remember, these challenges will pass. Just think - in 14 years - he'll be asking for the keys to your car! :)


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