Read some of Dr. Roth’s Thoughts on Children and Technology

Check out the interview with Dr. Roth here.

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The Bully Cycle and the Vulnerable

Intuitively it makes sense.  Those with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than their general education peers; however, a recent study published in the Journal of School Psychology found that those with disabilities are also more likely to be the perpetrators of bullying than their general education peers.  The authors hypothesized that this cycle of bullying begins with the victimization of the student with a disability.  This was especially true for students with disabilities that are easily identified.  Because they are the victims, they then have a need to regain power and engage in bullying behaviors themselves.  The problems are exacerbated in groups and when no bystander intervenes.  This unfortunately shown through the terrible viral YouTube video of the elderly bus aide being bullied by a group of students.  Unfortunately, there is no single prescription for this problem.  Interventions need to take place at every systemic level.  Appropriately funded state laws are a good first step.  In New Jersey, we are in our first year of a new Anti-Bullying law, and though the goals are laudable, there were minimal resources put in place to fund the program; therefore, it turned into another unfunded mandate in already cash-strapped school districts.  School districts must also develop strong prevention programs.  The heart of a good bully prevention targets bystanders.  When bystanders are empowered, it makes it very hard for a bully to usurp and abuse that power.  Interventions with perpetrators of bullying as well victims are also imperative. This should include meaningful disciplinary interventions for perpetrators of bullying that are not just based on detention or suspension but include some learning or service-based activity.

For those who are chronic victims of bullying and cannot seem to find their way out of the darkness, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional.  Victims of bullying are at higher risk of school failure, substance abuse, drop out, and suicide.  This problem is not a new one, and it is not going away anytime soon.  My hope is that with adequate attention and intervention, we can minimize these harmful outcomes and empower our children to lead positive and respectful lives.

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When to contact your child’s school

I am not sure how often my parents contacted my school when I was growing up.  I think that they had a sense of trust in the institution of public education that the professionals had a firm understanding of how to best educate me and also had my best interest at heart.  I think that my parents also a firm understanding that part of instilling a sense of independence and responsibility in me was to allow me get knocked down (in the figurative sense) and rely on myself to get back up and try again.  During my high school days, I was that “average” student that was told that my potential was far greater than my achievement.  My parents pushed me but did not push my teachers.  They trusted my teachers.  More importantly, they understood that they would not always be around to swoop in and rescue me.

 

As hard as it can be, we need to let our children feel the anxiety that is associated with conflict, failure, and disappointment.  It is only by experiencing this anxiety that our children can learn to cope with it and recognize there are still methods and mechanisms to overcome it.  With that said, there are times that is in our children’s interest to contact the school and intervene.  This is a non-exhaustive of list of some situations when it is important that you contact your child’s school.

 

  1. Bullying.  A school’s administration should be contacted immediately if there is bullying occurring.  There is significant evidence that bullying is a risk factor of developing mental illness, future violent behavior, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts and actions.
  2. There is a violation of legal document.  This could be an IEP or a Section 504 plan.  These are legally binding documents that are put in place to level the playing field for students with disabilities and must be implemented with fidelity.
  3. To collaborate.  In most situations, the schools goals will be very much aligned with your own.  Schools have a vested interest in your child’s success.   You are a stakeholder in your child’s education and if you have ideas or a plan that will help your child be successful, let the school know.
  4. Threats of harm.  If you know of a child that you think is at risk of being harmed either by an adult or another child, reporting this to school could help prevent this act from occurring.
  5. Change in behavior or work habits.  There is a good chance that the school would be in contact with you if there were a drastic change in behavior or academic performance.  If this occurs, and the school does not contact you, it is appropriate to place a phone call to the school and request a meeting to brainstorm solutions to assist your child.

 

These are just a few times when contacting your child’s school is perfectly appropriate and reasonable.  Children are quite resilient.  Most children can overcome and cope with many of life’s challenges.  Allowing your child to have a voice to speak up for themselves and develop their own problem solving strategies with your guidance is integral in their growth.

 

Commenting, responding, or posting on this site is not intended as and should not be interpreted as psychological service, advice, treatment or personal counseling. The transmission of any comment, response, or other electronic communication does not create a professional relationship between Dr. Roth and you. The information on this website or in any e-mail communication is not a substitute for psychological services or treatment nor does it represent the professional views or opinions of Dr. Roth.   Dr. Roth is not responsible for the content of the postings by others as those postings represent the opinion of the person who made the posting.   If you are in need of psychological services, please contact me via my office phone at 609-217-0973 to schedule an appointment.

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“But He Doesn’t Act That Way at Home (School)”

Human beings do not exist in bubble. We are adaptable and highly contextual beings. We exist in dyads, family systems, school systems, work systems (and an infinite amount of other systems). With that being said, it is no wonder that I often hear parents speak of their child’s school behavior and state “we never see those behaviors at home.” I also hear parents pleading with school-based professionals for help, and school officials respond by saying “we never see those behaviors at school.” In some cases, behaviors are consistent across settings. This is what differentiates a child with behavioral issues from a child with a diagnosable psychological disorder. Why does this happen? The easy answer is that a child often behaves in a way that they believe is adaptive in that setting. For example, a child may act out in class because the material is far too challenging for them. In a sense, they are acting out to escape or avoid the difficult schoolwork. At home, a parent may be able to sit with them one on one to complete schoolwork and not see these behavioral problems. Another example would be the child that is able contain their emotional distress during the school day because they do not want to face the social ramifications of a behavioral meltdown. As soon as that child comes home, a parent or sibling may soon face the wrath of the emotional containment. Things can become more complicating when it is believed that the trigger or at least part of the cause for the behavior is occurring in a different setting than the behavior is actually occurring in. This causes parents and/or school-based professionals to feel powerless to help and frustrated because their strategies also seem impotent. When this occurs, a trained professional with expertise in both behavioral assessment and family systems can be very helpful.

Commenting, responding, or posting on this site is not intended as and should not be interpreted as psychological service, advice, treatment or personal counseling. The transmission of any comment, response, or other electronic communication does not create a professional relationship between Dr. Roth and you. The information on this website or in any e-mail communication is not a substitute for psychological services or treatment nor does it represent the professional views or opinions of Dr. Roth. Dr. Roth is not responsible for the content of the postings by others as those postings represent the opinion of the person who made the posting. If you are in need of psychological services, please contact me via my office phone at 609-217-0973 to schedule an appointment.

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Reward Process, not Product.

I often encounter situations in which children and students are not able to meet their parents or teachers goals.  “Johnny was not able to go a full week without a behavioral meltdown” or “Matthew studied so hard, but couldn’t pass the test.”  All parents have high expectations for their children and rightly so; however, when these expectations are not met, there can be an enormous blow to the child’s self esteem.  There is the old cliché that tells us that “as long as you try” that’s all that matters.  I would take this statement a step further.  Praise and reward the process that you would like to see your child use to reach the goals that are set, not the end goal itself.  We want to ensure that our children understand the importance of using a skill set that is taught; not just achieving the end goal.

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Are America’s Schools Failing?

It seems as though the media has latched on to the meme of America’s failing public education system.  Yes, we are lagging in many indicator; however, the glaring truth is that failing schools are much more likely to exist in poor communities.  Maybe America can learn a lesson from some of our European friends.  In Finland, schools do not compete with each other for funding nor is funding based on whether or not cohorts of children can pass standardized tests.  In Finland, poor schools are not penalized with less money for not achieving for making adequate yearly progress.  Finally, in Finland, the only public institution that is trusted more than the public schools is the police.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/12/27/learning_from_finland/?page=2

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Dr. Roth is now on Twitter

Follow me on twitter @TheHelpTheyNeed

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Divorce: Some Thoughts

I am heartened when I meet with divorcing or separating parents that seek consultation with me to review appropriate methods of parenting during divorce.  These parents show a level of thoughtfulness and care that many divorcing parents are not able to access due to the chaos and overwhelming emotion that often surround this type of transition.  For parents that are planning to divorce there are some general guidelines and strategies that I recommend.  Keep in mind that each family is unique as is their style of communication.  These are only general guidelines.  If you are interested in how these guidelines may apply to your situation, please feel free to contact me at 609-217-0973.

  1. When breaking the news to your children, be honest and direct (of course, use discretion regarding the appropriateness of the content).  Do not leave room for ambiguity or interpretation.  If children are left to their own interpretation, they will often construct their own narrative in their mind.
  2. If you have more than one child, or children in that are in different developmental stages, consider talking to each child individually.  The information and verbiage that you use will be different when speaking to a five year old, 7 year old, and 11 year old.
  3. Attempt to keep all matters regarding the divorce proceedings between the adults.  No child should be privy to financial settlements, battles over various court orders, or strategy suggestions from attorneys.  Any notion of including or using this information to sway your child’s opinion creates emotional dissonance in thec child and once again brings the child into adult conflict.
  4. Do not use disagreements over pickup/dropoff times or athletic events as proxy battles over custody arrangements.  Listen to your children.  If they talk about wanting to play soccer, then it would be an appropriate choice to sign them up for soccer (even if Dad always played football).  Think about what logically and logistically makes sense for the child.

Always keep in mind that the manner in which a parent conducts him or herself during this process will impact your child.  If this process is handled with care and dignity, the impact will be quite positive.  It will model appropriate conflict resolution skills, empathy, and collaboration.  If this process is handled with spite and rancor, the impact will be quite negative.

Commenting, responding, or posting on this site is not intended as and should not be interpreted as psychological service, advice, treatment or personal counseling. The transmission of any comment, response, or other electronic communication does not create a professional relationship between Dr. Roth and you. The information on this website or in any e-mail communication is not a substitute for psychological services or treatment nor does it represent the professional views or opinions of Dr. Roth.   Dr. Roth is not responsible for the content of the postings by others as those postings represent the opinion of the person who made the posting.   If you are in need of psychological services, please contact me via my office phone at 609-217-0973 to schedule an appointment.

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Text Messaging, Chatting, Social Networking and Your Child

I now know why my parents and the parents of my peers were concerned about allowing me to walk around a mall without adult supervision during my late childhood and early adolescence.  Truth be told, they understood what a child of this age was developmentally ready to navigate and the mall was not one of these things.  Today’s parents are faced with more significant challenges.  Instead of making the decision of allowing their children to tour the mall, today’s parents must decide what level of exposure their children should have to the ever-changing world of technology.  Older children and young adolescents lack the emotional readiness to navigate the seemingly endless world of the Internet, mobile technology, and social networking.  Many of these youngsters feel as though they face social isolation if they are not permitted to chat, instant message, or text as much as their friends do.  They project anger and frustration and fear humiliation if this technology is not available to them.  I do not posit that these technologies should be removed from these youngsters’ lives.   I do suggest, however, that parents take the necessary precautions to create the boundaries and limits that these youngsters and not developmentally ready to do create themselves.  This may include using parental controls on the computers, communicating with your cell phone provider about limiting text messages, and password protecting computers.  Talk to your children about your reasons for setting limits rather than just instinctively enforcing limits.  Make it a teachable moment that provides a template for future decision making.

Commenting, responding, or posting on this site is not intended as and should not be interpreted as psychological service, advice, treatment or personal counseling. The transmission of any comment, response, or other electronic communication does not create a professional relationship between Dr. Roth and you. The information on this website or in any e-mail communication is not a substitute for psychological services or treatment nor does it represent the professional views or opinions of Dr. Roth.   Dr. Roth is not responsible for the content of the postings by others as those postings represent the opinion of the person who made the posting.   If you are in need of psychological services, please contact me via my office phone at 609-217-0973 to schedule an appointment.

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How Families Communicate

Many of the families that come to see me enter treatment with a child or adolescent as the identified patient.  It is true that the child is often of the most significant symptom bearer when there is stress within the family system; however, the therapeutic gains with the child often occur when changes in the family system take place.  When family stress occurs, a triangle can often be identified.  A triangle is a relational subsystem that develops when the stress and anxiety that occurs between two family members is relieved by involving a third person, who theoretically provides a “detour” for the anxiety.  This often occurs when parents are having marital difficulties and a parent attempts to ally his or herself with the child.  In this situation, the child is pulled in close to one of the parents, leaving the other parent feeling isolated and vulnerable.  The child then begins to act in a way to please the allied parent and further isolate the other parent.  Triangling can occur in more subtle ways as well.  This may include the language and communication one uses or physical space and proximity one chooses to exist in.  One goal of symptom relief in children is often to become aware of the various triangles that exist within families and under what circumstances they come to light.  Once this awareness occurs, more functional systems of communication can be created.

Commenting, responding, or posting on this site is not intended as and should not be interpreted as psychological service, advice, treatment or personal counseling. The transmission of any comment, response, or other electronic communication does not create a professional relationship between Dr. Roth and you. The information on this website or in any e-mail communication is not a substitute for psychological services or treatment nor does it represent the professional views or opinions of Dr. Roth.   Dr. Roth is not responsible for the content of the postings by others as those postings represent the opinion of the person who made the posting.   If you are in need of psychological services, please contact me via my office phone at 609-217-0973 to schedule an appointment.

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