Evidence that spanking alters the brain

© 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved As disciplinary tactics go, spanking is ineffective, and it may be harmful, too. A new study suggests that spanking alters the brain, making kids more reactive to potential threats, and more at risk for developing behavior problems. Over the years, I’ve followed the research on spanking, and Read More »

ADHD in children: What parents need to know about attention and hyperactivity problems

friends talking - two boys in conversation

© 2021 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved The difficulty of identifying ADHD in children Diagnosing ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is intrinsically problematic.    The symptoms—distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity—are consistent with the normal behavior of young children. So when young children are diagnosed, the implication is that they are more distractible, impulsive, or hyperactive than Read More »

Why kids rebel (and what we can to encourage cooperation)

© 2018 – 2021 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Is childhood rebellion inevitable? Not really. Most kids are ready to be cooperative. But they recognize limits to our power: They resist when they perceive us as trying to control their personal lives. So what’s the solution? Be fair-minded. Listen to their requests. Give kids Read More »

When does peer pressure start? Early. Very early in life.


© 2020 Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved Peer pressure and social conformity starts long before adolescence. When faced with a choice between telling the truth and backing a popular falsehood, even 4-year-old children will buckle. You and three other people are sitting in adjacent booths, and you’ve each got a copy of the same book. Read More »

Working memory tips: How to help kids focus and stick to a plan

© 2017 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Working memory (or “WM”) is the system we use to keep information immediately available in our thoughts. We use working memory when we perform calculations in our heads, track the meaning of a conversation, and remember what we’re supposed to do next. As you can Read More »

Raising helpful kids: Tips for teaching generosity and kindness

young boy helping his friend on roller skates stand up - by Pahis / istock

© 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved How do you teach kids to be helpful?  To be generous and kind? Studies suggest we should avoid heavy-handed tactics and bribes. Instead, we need to respect — and nurture — our children’s natural inclinations to do good. Helpful? Generous? Caring? Psychologists call these behaviors “prosocial,” and Read More »

Infant crying, fussing, and colic: A thinking parent’s guide

© 2009 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Are you coping with infant crying, fussing, or colic? Babies everywhere cry, especially during the first 3 months after birth. Even chimpanzees follow this pattern (Bard 2004). Like it or not, crying is a universal mode of communication for our species. But that doesn’t mean we’re Read More »

Disruptive behavior problems: 12 evidence-based tips for handling aggression, defiance, and acting out

silhouette of two young boys -- one child approaching the other with an aggressive posture - image by JohnD / flickr

© 2016 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Psychologists call them “externalizing” behaviors — acts of disruption, aggression, defiance, or anti-social intent. Just about every parent has to cope with them at some point, particularly during the toddler years. Young children are still developing the ability to regulate their emotions and impulses; they Read More »

Stress in babies: How to keep babies calm, happy, and emotionally healthy

closeup, black and white father kissing a smiling baby - by Kathy Tegtmeyer / flickr (creative commons)

© 2015 – 2020 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Why should we care about stress in babies? Nobody wants a stressed-out baby. The stress is contagious, making everyone miserable. And when the stress is chronic — a regular feature of everyday life — children face long-term health consequences. If babies are exposed to high levels Read More »