by Dr. Lindsay Asawa

Tired of sleepless nights and want help getting your kids on a sleep routine? Or maybe your child has recently been diagnosed with ADHD, and you want trusted guidance to help you make necessary adjustments.

Lindsay Asawa, PhD is The List Magazine’s trusted resource for all parenting topics related to behavior and development, as well as general mental health. As part of our effort to be ever present and involved in our community, we are interested in what questions you want to “Ask the Doc.” So, ask away. Submissions always remain anonymous and if you can’t wait for the publication to come to your mailbox to get your answer, let us know and we can try to facilitate a quicker response for you. Email us, subject line: ASK THE DOC.

We have a 2 ½ year old son and are expecting a second child in a few months. What’s the best way to prepare our toddler for the new baby and tips for an easier transition?
A new baby sibling brings so many changes into a toddler’s world – new routines, baby toys and necessities, different sounds and smells, and more people in and out. Most importantly, it changes the family dynamics. Your son will have to share mom and dad’s attention and some of that attention may be different than before (ex: asking for his help, reminding him to be quiet, exhaustion and frustration). It is important for all children to have time to mentally prepare for big changes. Talk about the new baby often and involve your son as you prepare for the baby’s arrival. Use toys to demonstrate and role-play having a baby in the home. This is a great way to teach your son appropriate behavior and boundaries with the baby. Use lots of praise and rewards for his gentle and kind behavior toward the “baby” and his help as a big brother. Plan ahead to ensure that your son is familiar with many of the changes he will experience. For example, if grandparents will be keeping him more often after the baby arrives, start that transition now with occasional visits. Introduce a consistent bedtime routine, including rituals that will bring him comfort and a sense of belonging. Both parents can take turns doing the bedtime routine to encourage flexibility. Read picture books and watch cartoons about becoming a big brother. When the baby arrives, it will be important to keep your son’s world as stable and consistent as possible. Involve him whenever you can in helping to care for the baby. Make an effort to set aside special time for your son. Make sure it is “quality time” filled with praise, affection, and fun.
My daughter has always been a good student, but she recently started lying about her homework and missing assignments. Why would she do this? How do I help her be more honest and responsible about her schoolwork?
There could be a number of reasons why she is not being honest about her work. Lying can be an indication of underlying anxiety, perfectionism, fear of failure, and feelings of pressure. Students sometimes feel overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the work, but continue to feel pressure (self-imposed or from others) to reach a certain academic standard. It is often easier to avoid and ignore the work than to put in the effort without the desired results. Some students may truly have difficulty with organization, forgetfulness, and impulsivity. If these concerns are present in other aspects of her life as well, it may be worth seeking an evaluation to identify an underlying neurological difference. Lying is typically an impulsive behavior to avoid a negative consequence (ex: getting in trouble) or gain a positive consequence (ex: getting a reward). The best way to start is by talking to your daughter. Have an honest, calm conversation about your concerns and get her input on why this is happening. Find out more about her fears and concerns. She may need help problem-solving to handle her stress. Give her an opportunity to own up to her dishonesty and tell the truth. Hold her accountable by communicating with her teachers about upcoming assignments that are due and previous missed assignments. If she is staying on track with homework and turning in assignments, give her plenty of praise and encouragement for her effort!
Our son does not respond to timeouts as a discipline. We’ve tried understanding his feelings, whether he’s acting out due to fatigue, hunger, etc. but it seems his bad behavior is associated with testing boundaries. He’s strong willed. What can we do to get through to him before his bad behavior, such as hitting the dogs, gets him injured?
With strong-willed children, never underestimate the power of attention! Time Out is tricky and there are many ways it can go wrong. However, the most common reason for ineffective Time Outs is unintentionally giving the child attention. Time Out will only be effective if it is truly a time out from all attention. If your son leaves Time Out, take him back without talking, scolding, or even making eye contact. Any attention at all can be rewarding to children and causes their behaviors to continue (and even escalate). Use your attention as a tool during other situations when your son is testing limits. It is best to intentionally ignore behaviors that are not dangerous or destructive. The moment he makes a move in the right direction, shower on the praise! Practice good behaviors with your son and give him lots of positive attention. For those dangerous and destructive behaviors, he will need an immediate consequence (ex: putting toy in Time Out, taking away privilege). When your son tests boundaries, be sure to make them clear and consistent. If you give a warning, always follow through to let him know that your warnings should be taken seriously. By setting limits and using constant praise, you can make big changes in even the most difficult behaviors!