ASK DR. LEIGH

The past two and a half decades of treating children and their families has offered me a unique perspective into the struggles that parents have with their children.  I have two children and know first- hand the struggles that accompany parenthood. I wanted to be the perfect parent, avoid the mistakes that I believed my parents made, and provide my children with all the necessary ingredients for a healthy and happy life. They are adults now, with their own children, They now understand the difficult taks of raising children and are much more sympathic with me for the struggles that I encountered as a young mother.

It is difficult to be a parent; it is by far, one of the most difficult tasks to undertake. It is a commitment for life and one that brings the greatest joy and the greatest pain. No one can hurt you like your child and nothing can devastate you more than when your child is hurtng.

Your infant did not come with an operating manual, so you do the best you can. You try hard to understand, comfort, give emotional reassurance, and raise your child in the best possible environment you have to offer. You may have read a number of books on child raising and even tried implementing some of the techniques outlined by the experts.

It is important to understand what works and what doesn’t work for your child. Each child is born with a certain temperament. Parents with more than one child can certainly attest to that. Temperament is responsible for a great deal of behavior. For example, some babies are born with very sensitive bodies; they are very sensitive to pain, clothing textures, flavors of different foods, and temperature. Some children are very persistent from birth; they cry until their needs are met or keep at a task until it is mastered. Other children are quicker to move on. Some children are quite shy, while others are comfortable with strangers. Some children adapt well to changes in routine, caretakers, and environments. And there are those children who are slow to adapt and react to changes with considerable discomfort. Understanding your child’s inborn traits is essential because, while some of these traits can be modified to some degree, the basic temperament of your child will persist.

Parents often struggle with identifying their child’s behaviors as a reflection of an inborn trait or a result of problems in the environment. They search for answers at the pediatrician’s office and through the experts that offer advice on parenting.

Some children need to have a professional evaluation because there are other existing factors. Diagnoses such as Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), or Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD), childhood schizophrenia, or mood disorders, can significantly impact your child’s development and therefore need to be diagnosed as soon as possible.

It is important to note that some children who have been diagnosed with one or more of the above disorders are actually suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Trauma in children often looks like attention disorders. Trauma symptoms such as irritability, fearfulness, loss of attention, and hyperactivity mimic those of ADD or ADHD. Therefore it is critical that if your child does have some of these symptoms or has been given a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD you have a thorough evaluation to rule out any exposure to trauma.

Ask Dr. Leigh will be a weekly forum of questions and answers. I will pick one question per week and answer it on my website. I will keep all questions that come into my box and eventually it is my hope that I can answer most of  them. I will try to give concrete answers that parents can incorporate into their regular parenting routine. I will also advise parents as to the necessity of having a professional evaluation if one is indicated.

These answers are not intended to take the place of professional therapy. The answers will give you advice, guidance, and support, however, because I may not have a complete history of your child’s development, it is not intended to take the place of a professional evaluation. I will keep anonymity and neither you nor your child’s identities will be compromised.

I look forward to hearing from parents. And please don’t hesitate to contact me if your questions are not being answered in a timely manner.

My hope is that we can grow, share, and learn from one another through active discussions and explorations of the challenges we share in parenting.


Leigh Baker, Clinical Psychologist



One Response

  1. Judith Keegan LCSW says:

    Great article! As a clinical social worker in private practice I work with many parenting issues. I agree that it is important to understand your child’s temperament in order to have effective discipline I really like that Dr. Leigh is providing a forum for parents to have their questions answered. Parenting support is so crucial!

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