Ask Dr. Nelly

dr-nellyBelow are some answers to questions asked of Dr. Nelly. If you’d like Dr. Nelly to answer one of your questions, then click here and jump to the form at the bottom of this page

September 11, 2013 

Q: Dear Dr. Nelly, twelve years after 9/11, I thought by now so much of what was “ailing” our nation and the world would be better by now.  But the headlines seem always saturated with hopelessness…conflict in the middle east, conflict on illegal immigration, conflict over racial profiling…reproductive rights, same-sex marriage – hostility is everywhere.  As a father ‘soon-to-be’, peace-learning is a noble personal mission, but how on earth can we restore peace and hope for our children even in our own country when we are so divided on so many issues? – Oscar V.

A: Thank you for sharing Oscar.  In my role as a child psychologist, my primary desire is to alter or prevent these hostilities at a young age.  Through Peace Learning Parenting, I emphasize five foundation principles:  compassion, communication, cooperation, culture, and conservation.  But the truth of it is that these same principles apply to us as adults.

Yes, we are a nation of diversity and thereby a nation of complex issues.  But the issues are not so much rooted in confrontation as they are in misunderstanding, ignorance, fear, and judgement.  If we can replace these ‘assessments’ with constructive and affirming conditioning and techniques of awareness, tolerance, and empathy, I have every bit of faith that we WILL start to see constructive changes in how we see each other and  little by little, how we treat each other as a society.


August 28, 2013

Q: Dear Dr.Nelly, my youngest child is three years old and throws tantrums regularly.  It used to only be in the privacy of home, but recently, she has expanded her ‘repertoire’ for public display which is both challenging and embarrassing personally.  My gut reaction is to revert to the tools of my own parents by pulling her outside and giving a good old fashioned spanking – certainly did wonders for me!  I want to offer a more evolved solution to bad behavior than physical punishment, but I have to confess that I am frustrated and exhausted by the outbursts and feel like I’m going to eventually “LOSE IT!”  How can I discipline with consequences without instilling obedience by fear?  – Julia S.
A:  A wonderful question Julia – and emotions I can assure you EVERY mother has or will face at some stage in parenthood.  
First things first – For over three decades, clinical research consistently indicates that “good old fashioned spanking” is no longer an effective option in our society.   According to the American Pediatric Association and American Psychological Association, corporal punishment may have an immediate response but also can lead to long-term harmful emotional and physiological side effects.  Some of these effects include but are not limited to anxiety, post traumatic stress, and complications in sexual development.   
There are many parents from previous generations or raised within cultural backgrounds which introduced them to physical discipline as an acceptable form of behavior as children themselves – “Spare the rod, spoil the child”.  Unfortunately, ‘assault’ in any form, even within limited or structured parameters, is a learned behavior of violence and not an acceptable form of conflict resolution.  
I guide parents to eliminate spanking as a plausible solution, and challenge them to find and utilize other options.  You can still ‘show who’s boss’ and discipline without raising your hand.  Tantrums are never ‘pleasant’ in the moment, but in the long-run, your ability to ‘keep your cool’ results in an increased bond between you and your child and decreased bad behavior!  The sustainable goal of parenting is to cultivate a warm, safe and secure bond that is implemented by ‘negotiation thru reasoning’.  This repertoire begins with guiding your child thru development that is appropriate for their ‘age and stage’ and being aware of their individual temperament.   For example, an over-stimulating birthday party or visit to the supermarket, introduce unpredictable variables if they’re hungry or tired.   
Above all, remember that you’re not just a parent – you too are human, with your own needs and temperament.  Whatever advice we give or receive through books, blogs, or talking heads – in the end, we and our children both, are “learning as we go”!.  So, take a deep breath, meditate, pray.  In life, as in emergency landing demonstrations – Remember that parents need to put their own oxygen mask on first before helping the child.  
Suggested literary material addressing tantrums:
Taming Your Child’s Temper Tantrums (Harvard Medical School Guides) – Victoria Rogers McEvoy M.D. and Karen Weintraub (Dec 17, 2012)

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