Tag Archives: parenting

Annual Holiday Message 2014 (Pedcast)

I’ve got to tell you, I look forward to my holiday podcast all year, I guess because holidays are special and a time for reflection. Being a little older person, I think gives me a perspective that younger parents just can’t have. I often ask myself strange questions…like the other day when I was wondering, “What is a child’s most valuable asset, their most important possession? Their place in the family will, their social security number and future benefits, their citizenship? No, I believe these these are all wrong. I think the answer is you…their parents. You are their rock, their everything, their foundation. You shape their world-view. You teach them to trust others. You teach them how to share. You teach them their language. And most of all, you teach them how to love themselves and others.  So it is you, the parents of your children, that I want to concentrate on in this year’s holiday message.

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Nurture Shock, by Bronson & Merryman (Book Review Pedcast)

Help support DocSmo.com by buying this reviewed book using this affiliate link. You get Amazon’s best price and DocSmo.com earns a small affiliate marketing fee.  Thank you.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

Here we go. I’m once again firing up Studio 1E to bring my listeners another book review that will hopefully help you decide which books should be on your list to read. I’m your host and the creator of DocSmo.com, Dr. Paul Smolen, a real Board Certified pediatrician with 32 years of experience. I’ve got to tell you, I love doing these book reviews, and based the audience response, you seem to enjoy listening. Today, with the help of my brilliant intern, Angela Solis, we are going to review an interesting book called NurtureShock. So sit back, crank up the volume, and see what our thoughts are about this interesting book addressing today’s children.

While not exactly a traditional parenting book, NurtureShock is full of interesting and useful information that parents can use. It may even change some of your basic assumptions about children! Unlike previous books reviewed on my blog that featured discussions of subjects like discipline, sleep schedules, or nutrition for babies and toddlers, NurtureShock is an intellectual, research-based book about what makes children tick. This book is not for the parent looking for a solution to address a specific parenting issue, but rather for those readers wishing to gain insight into how children learn, develop, and function. Written by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, both journalists and writers by trade, this book is an overview of the latest developments in child psychology and development.

NurtureShock is actually a compilation of essays written on various topics from sleep, racial attitudes, lying in childhood, and sibling relationships. The book is well written and accessible to most readers although at times may seem dense with examples and citations from many pieces of literature and research. Fortunately for the reader, there is minimal scientific jargon to decipher. The book is well written and we are impressed with the extensive list of sources and references used to write this book. The introduction and conclusion give an overall look at the layout of the book, and the reader may choose to jump around from chapter to chapter without interrupting the narrative flow.

The “Shock” in the title comes from the many counterintuitive conclusions about children that recent research offers. For example, in a chapter entitled “The Inverse Power of Praise,” the authors conclude that praising children excessively may actually hinder their progress and development of key virtues like grit and determination. Research reveals that children who are told repeatedly, “You are so smart!” often shy away from more challenging problems in order to maintain their appearance of “smartness” and continue to please adults. So much for the boosting-self-esteem-at-any-cost theory.  The authors also conclude that even mild sleep deprivation in children can cause major cognitive impairment, that children lie much more often than their parents ever imagine, that free, unstructured play is vital to a child’s healthy emotional development, and that an accurate prediction of intelligence in young children is impossible, even if you have a PhD after your name.

Although not a parenting guide, this is an entertaining and insightful read about some of the newer research on child development and psychology. We do not recommend this for a busy parent looking for solutions to address a particular issue but would recommend this to someone interested in what recent science says on these topics. As the book title says, many of the findings are shocking and contrary to what adults would find intuitive. If you have a little extra time, be sure to pick up a copy of NurtureShock. We think you will enjoy it. We give it four out of five Doc Smo stars.

If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out the many other book reviews posted in the book review tab at my website, www.docsmo.com.  Until next time.

“Instant Replays”, Not just for football anymore! (Article)

As a new school year starts, teachers and parents are once again confronted with the reality that many children are not ready to start school and do not have adequate language skills to excel in school. These children come predominantly from poor backgrounds and are already far behind when they first enter school. It is estimated that a child from a poor home knows only 25% of the vocabulary that a child from a “privileged” background knows. To overcome this deficit in language and to promote school readiness among low-income children, the Bellevue Hospital in New York outpatient pediatric clinic pioneered what they call the VIP or (Video Interaction Project).


VIP takes advantage of the periodic checkups when parents bring their children to the hospital’s well childcare clinic for their routine healthcare visits.  Before or after seeing the doctor, participating families have a session with a child development specialist who sits down with the parent and child, and observes their interactions, even recording some of it on tape. The specialist will later play back the video to the parent and give them suggestions and feedback about their own parent-child interactions, reinforcing the positive behavior and allowing time for self-reflection and growth.


Research shows that the VIP approach is having a positive effect on the low income families studied so far because the parent gets to actually see what their parenting looks like on tape, giving them a totally different perspective on their own parenting skills. Sometimes when you are doing things one way for a long time, it can be hard to see better alternatives. The advice given by the specialist is individualized, so the parents can know exactly what behavior to change.


The VIP project is designed to improve the language skills of the low-income children it serves. In addition to parent coaching, the VIP sessions also provide educational pamphlets for parents, age appropriate toys and books.The results of the first phase of study are now in showing that  VIP was effective. On average, VIP parents were more responsive verbally to  their children, read more to them, and generally improved their parenting skills compared to parents who did not participate.The research continues to find ways to give low-income children a better chance at school success. The doctors leading the study plan to do more research to see if VIP can be applied to other low-income groups. Not everyone is born knowing how to be a parent, and VIP seems like a great way to help parents improve the critical skills that might help.  Let’s wish them tremendous success.


If you like hearing about what is new in the world of pediatrics, take a few moments to explore the hundreds of articles, book reviews, videos, and audio posts at www.docsmo.com.  You’ll be glad you did.  Until next time.

 Smo Notes:



Written collaboratively by Catherine Wu and Paul Smolen M.D.


123 Magic by Thomas Phelan PhD (Book Review Pedcast)

Help support DocSmo.com by buying this reviewed book using this affiliate link. You get Amazon’s best price and DocSmo.com earns a small affiliate marketing fee.  Thank you.

1-2-3 Magic: 3-Step Discipline for Calm, Effective, and Happy Parenting

123 Magic– 4th Edition

by, Thomas Phelan PhD

Publisher- ParentMagic,Inc


Doc Smo here. Welcome to another edition of my pediatric blog, DocSmo.com.  With the help of one of my very capable interns, Angela Solis, we are going to introduce you to a great book on child discipline by a well known author, Dr. Thomas Phelan. The back cover of the book, 1,2,3 Magic  asks, “Who’s in charge at your house?” If you can’t answer “You, the parent are” , then listen up as we review our latest read. I am sure that over the years you  have read several books that describe the best way to discipline  children. After several frustrating moments and graying hairs, you might have chosen to just pick and choose methods, trying to see what will finally  have an effect. You and I know however, that the real issue is in the simplicity of the method, consistency,  and sticking to it. Being persistent. That’s where 123 Magic shines and why we are pleased to recommend the book!  This book is a simple book to read, understand, and later apply. Now in its fourth edition, it covers a wide range of issues, such as correcting obnoxious behavior, encouraging good behavior, dealing with more serious issues, and even providing assistance to teachers in their classrooms. The book begins by differentiating between stop and start behavior. Stop behavior includes the frequent but minor behavior such as arguing, screaming, and tantrums. Start behavior includes chores, homework, and sticking to a regular morning and evening routines.

The counting procedure that the book is named after, “1,2,3,” is used for stop behavior.  The start behavior includes several different tactics outlined in the book such as using a kitchen timer or charts. For correcting both types of behavioral issues, Dr. Phelan emphasizes consistency and removing emotion from the discipline process. This system may be used not only by parents, but grandparents, teachers, and other caregivers after the children have been introduced to the method, for a period of time. We were surprised by how simple his system is to implement.  It really is about counting and not yelling, begging, or hitting.  Dr. Phelan forbids parents from injecting emotion into their discipline process.  He says that children feed off of the emotions of their parents.  He calls this the “NO TALK, NO EMOTION” rule.   Many parents that open this book might think that their child will not respond to these methods but Dr. Phelan insists that with consistency and proper application of the counting method and using the tactics for start behavior, effective discipline  can be implemented in any home.  In this now fourth edition of 123 magic, Dr. Phelan has added a dynamite chapter on how parents can handle technology issues (email and internet time, texting boundaries).

No other book we have picked up  has been able to so efficiently handle this subject. This book is very accessible, written in everyday language without heavy psychology jargon. The chapters are short and may be read in bursts. In fact, many of the paragraphs are simply responses to bold-faced questions in the text, which makes it easier to find an answer to your specific question. The examples of parent and children  interactions are extremely practical and the ideas and suggestions for each behavior are doable. This does not require some kind of disciplining certification; it really is simple to adopt these practices immediately in your home. We really thought this discipline method showed respect to children by removing the often belittling lecturing, yelling, and insulting talk children often hear from their parents. One of the three big goals of the 123 method is to improve your relationship with your child, not to just get control. Now for the negatives: One downside to this book was that there seemed to be a lack of emphasis on setting a good example by the parents. He lists over and over again how important it is to avoid the parental tantrums, basically when parents lose control while trying to discipline, but he does not comment on what the children observe in the home. For example, the parents may be calm with their children but perhaps not with other adults. He also states that oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorders may be created by poor parenting and  frankly, we are not sure that is correct. Lastly, the book was poorly edited, in the eBook edition that we read.    All in all, we agree that  one of the goals of parenting is to improve your relationship with your children. This book certainly does that by providing a simple discipline method, useful to all parents, and respectful behavior towards both parties. This is especially great for parents with children between 2 and 5 years old who are looking to get off to the right start with boundaries and limits as well as encouraging good habits in the home. We give it 5 out of 5 stars. Go buy and read it.

We hope you found that book review helpful.  For more reviews of pediatric books and literally hundreds of other discussions of pediatric topics, please visit my website at www.DocSmo.com and explore. Your comments are welcome so go ahead and leave one on iTunes, Facebook or my blog. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping instead of a scream, your child will behave like a dream.  until next time.

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