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Protecting the Child, Preserving the Family, and Honoring Life

Welcome to the Blog page of the American College of Pediatricians, which we call Scribit Veritas.  Each issue of the Blog is intended to assist parents, encourage children, and enrich the family.  Read our most recent issue below, and scroll to the bottom of this page to read earlier issues.


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Love, Limits, and Latitude: Authoritative Parenting (pt. 1)

The information for this blog post comes from a two-part article by Craig H. Hart that was called “What Children Need from Parents” and was published in the journal of Marriage and Families in 2004.


“Child rearing is so individualistic. Every child is different and unique. What works with one may not work with another. I do not know who is wise enough to say what discipline is too harsh or what is too lenient except the parents of the children themselves, who love them most… Certainly the overarching and undergirding principle is that the discipline of children must be motivated more by love than by punishment.” -James E. Faust

There are many influences on a child’s development. There are even multiple influences that come from the family environment, including marital satisfaction of the parents, sibling relationships and parenting styles. Parents have been found to have a huge impact in children’s development in all domains, including social interactions outside the home. There are four broad types of parenting styles:

  • coercive/authoritarian,
  • permissive,
  • uninvolved, and
  • authoritative.

Authoritative parenting has been found to have the most adaptive outcomes for children.

There are three principles that encompass being an authoritative parent. All children at every age need “an emotional connection with parents (love), regulation (limits), and autonomy (latitude).” Parents must find a balance of these principles for their individual child’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Using these principles “create[s] a positive emotional climate that helps children be more open to parental input and direction.” It helps children better adjust to school, be less aggressive and delinquent, be less likely to use drugs, be more friendly and accepted by peers, and be more capable of moral reasoning and self-control. Here is how parents can better apply these three principles.

Love. Parents need to show love to their children. This builds a foundation for their relationship to grow on. Parents can show affection, praise what their children do well, read to them, and assure them of their love during moments of correction. Parents need to take the time to help their children with their homework, to support them by attending their sporting and musical events, and show an interest in their other activities. Of course, this is not always easy for parents to do as it takes energy, inspiration, dedication, and most of all, TIME!

Nevertheless, parents should guide their children by setting limits and providing correction when necessary; but ultimately, parents should also strive to develop a relationship of friendship with their children as one day children grow into adults. 

For the full articles see:

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Are family meals worth it?


Are family meals worth it?

For as long as I can remember, my family had dinner together.  Whether mom made dinner  or we had take-out, we ate together.  I just assumed it would always be like that.  Then after getting married my husband and I found out it’s a lot harder than it seemed.  At first it was fine, but then it started to feel awkward with just the two of us. Eventually, dinner time moved to the couch accompanied by television.  I have been trying to change this situation. Since our daughter arrived, family dining occurs more often, but it still isn’t routine.  

Family dinners are a good influence on kids.  

The idea of family dining makes sense.  If children are at the dinner table, they are not outside unsupervised on the dark streets.  Teen are less likely to participate in risky behaviors (1) if they have positive communication with their parents.

There are, however, people that think family dinners are a negative influence.   Women’s Studies in Communication asserts that family meals uphold the stereotype of women as caretakers,  They state that this activity encourages mother-blaming, and suppresses maternal voice (2).  Today, many moms have to work away from the home.  However, no alternative is mentioned.  If both parents work, who makes dinner?  The implied alternative to this question is buying meals –  including fast food.   

Additionally a  Dutch study (3) mentions that family meals are often fraught with “rows,” or fights.  Since “fighting with your child is illegal” and “storming out of the room without asking if you can leave the table will get you in trouble…,” (3) family members keep their stress bottled up which can cause harmful elevations in cortisol.

Positive Family meals

These arguments focus on individuals instead of families and they emphasize the negative.  However, there is hope for family dining.

Family meals can help improve communication (4), and lower the risk of becoming overweight (5).  When sitting around the dinner table, keep the dialogue positive and happy to prevent stress.  Instead of relying on one person to make the meal, the family can rally together.  

Preparing food at home, and providing a positive atmosphere will lead to better family meals.

Give family meals a chance to change your home.  The research on both sides suggests that meals in the home can cause big change.  Check out the many Benefits of the Family Table and review our patient information handout on Having A Family Table.  It’s up to you to decide what side of the table your family sits.  


1) Yi, S., Poudel, K. C., Yasuoka, J., Palmer, P. H., Yi, S., & Jimba, M. (2010). Role of risk and protective factors in risky sexual behavior among high school students in Cambodia. BMC Public Health, 10(1), 477-484.

2) Kinser, A. E. (2017). Fixing Food to Fix Families: Feeding Risk Discourse and the Family Meal. Women’s Studies In Communication, 40(1), 29-47. doi:10.1080/07491409.2016.1207001

3) Newnham, D. (2014). Hard to swallow. Nursing Standard, 28(39), 29.

4) Diamond, A. (2010). Family meals are good for hearts and waistlines. Nursing Standard, 24(24), 28.

5) Part D. Chapter 3: Individual diet and physical activity behavior change: Family shared meals. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.


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Encouraging Healthy Body Image in Kids


Children are amazing at mimicking their parent’s and older sibling’s behaviors. This can be a great thing, if they are seeing positivity and productivity displayed around them. However, when they see negativity, inappropriate behaviors or unrealistic ideals, they will still have tendencies to mimic those behaviors.

It is imperative that parents take on the role as teacher and example. If you don’t, there are others who will.

Common Sense Media conducted a research study in 2015 to better understand the relationship between the media and body image. What they found may seem surprising; but it does, unfortunately, represent many children around us.

  • First, they found that children were aware of what dieting was and may have tried it by the age of 6.
  • Next, 26% of 5-year-old children surveyed said dieting was the appropriate solution for someone who has gained weight.
  • Shockingly enough, they found that by 7 years old, 1 in 4 children have engaged in a dieting practice of some sort.
  • Additionally, they found that child hospitalizations for eating disorders under the age of 12 spiked 112 percent between 1999 and 2006.

Body image may be difficult or even awkward for some parents to openly discuss with their children. But it is so important, and even crucial, that parents discuss and shape their child’s body image so that the media doesn’t. No parent wants to hear their 7-year-old daughter say that she feels fat and overweight, and she needs to go on a diet. It is up to you, as the parent, to let your children know how beautiful and precious their bodies are. Also, they must learn how to take care of their bodies to keep them healthy and strong. Remember that healthy has many different looks, and that is okay.

Parents can help shape their child’s body image by finding and sharing media that promotes positivity, healthy lifestyles, and uplifting environments.


Do not allow your child to be pulled into the media world that teaches children that ‘real’ men and women look, dress, walk and talk a certain way and that if you are not keeping up, you are inferior. Following are some additional suggestions as to how you, as a parent, can help promote a positive body image for your child.

  • Attempt to avoid the stereotypical female and male characters in the media that your child is exposed to. When you do come across them, talk about them with your child and share your beliefs and values.
  • Dare to challenge beliefs surrounding heavyset and slim characters. Help your kids identify characters that foster positive or negative ideas surrounding weight.
  • Help your children see the differences between actors and celebrities who use their bodies to be healthy and fit or to simply look good for the crowd.

Remember that your beautiful child is growing up in a world that is ever seeking to influence the way children live and what they aspire to be and look like.

Take every precaution to protect your child from unrealistic and harmful ideals so that they can blossom into the wonderful individual they are meant to become.


Tatangelo, G., McCabe, M., Mellor, D., & Mealey, A. (2016). Review article: A systematic review of body dissatisfaction and sociocultural messages related to the body among preschool children. Body Image, 1886-95. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.06.003

Commonsense Media Research Brief (2015) Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image.

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The Importance of Close Parent-Child Relationships


How important is the relationship between a parent and a child?

Are there really long term effects for taking time to bond with your child or even neglecting your child?

The answers may seem obvious. Of course the parent-child relationship matters and is critical to a child’s health and well-being. As every  relationship is critical to the overall happiness of the family, a deeper understanding of the importance and effects of these relationships gives parents a greater desire  to bond with their child and a greater understanding of how to go about doing so. 

In a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family Values, 680 married couples were examined for signs of attachment/detachment behaviors within their relationship.  Research showed that many individuals who had  depression, anxiety and detachment behaviors had previously experienced detached childhood relationships with their parent(s). This history had a high correlation of  depression and frustration between spouses later in life. However, most of those who experienced strong relationships, had experienced closeness as children with their parents.

The study concluded that the parent-child relationship affects attachment security, anxiety and depression in adulthood. No loving parent would desire for their child to face these trials as an adult. Almost all parents would  do anything to prevent their child experiencing depression and anxiety. This is not to say that all anxiety, depression and attachment difficulties are directly related to parental efforts. Rather this study sheds  light on possible ways to help prevent these disorders.

It is crucial that parents create a bond, play with, and have open and close conversation with their child.

In 2008, the Institute for American Values published a study conducted to see if the relationship between father and children made a difference in an adolescent’s life. This particular finding was moving.

Good studies have found that the quality of parenting exhibited by the father as well as the resources fathers bring or don’t bring to their families predict children’s behavior problems, depression, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction. The reach of fathers has been shown to extend to adolescents and young adults, as research shows adolescents function best when their fathers are engaged and involved in their lives.”

Replace the word father with parents and we can still see this finding as truth. Truly, there is no replacement for the relationship between a parent and a child. Parents have the solemn responsibility to care for and nurture their children. This responsibility, if fulfilled, will be beneficial for each child as they grow into adulthood.

Cherish the moments you have with your child. Your child will forever be grateful.


Rostad, W. L., & Whitaker, D. J. (2016). The association between reflective functioning and    parent–child relationship quality. Journal Of Child And Family Studies, 25(7), 2164-2177. doi:10.1007/s10826-016-0388-7

Eggebeen, D. (2008).  Do Fathers Matter Uniquely for Adolescent Well-Being? Institute for Marriage and Family Values.  Source:

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Putting an End to Human Trafficking


Up to 300,000 Americans under 18 are lured into the commercial sex trade and 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally every year, according to statistics published by the International Labour Organization, and the number is expected to increase in the years to come, even surpassing the illegal sale of arms.

Human trafficking is slavery. Perpetrators force the victims into sexual exploitation, organ donation, labor, and sometimes a combination of more than one. According to expert Megan Helton, “the current approaches to combat human trafficking could be greatly improved if law enforcement and health care providers worked together to identify victims and prosecute traffickers.” Most commonly, the direct victims of human trafficking are women and children. Though men also suffer as whole families and communities are disrupted and disturbed by the victims’ disappearances.

Traffickers tend to look for victims who are vulnerable and often in poverty stricken areas–people they suppose could go missing without too many people asking questions–but not always. Sometimes they hold false auditions or tryouts for modeling gigs in hopes of luring unsuspecting adolescent girls. “Often the traffickers will lure the women and children into the enterprise with false promises and hope for stable work, a steady income, and decent wages” Helton writes. Once kidnapped, human trafficking victims become sex slaves in forced laborers in settings as diverse as a neighbor’s home or a brothel in a foreign country. They can also be sold into marriage.

In additon to poor sexual health due to STDs and the emotional and psychological strain of their lives, it’s likely these victims will also suffer from substance addiction. Especially in the sex trade, sex traffickers often forcer their victims into addiction to have further control over them.

According to, some indications that a person may be a victim of human trafficking include (especially in the case of women and children):

  • Appearing malnourished
  • Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse
  • Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement
  • Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction
  • Lacking official identification documents
  • Appearing destitute/lacking personal possessions
  • Working excessively long hours
  • Living at place of employment
  • Poor physical or dental health
  • Tattoos/ branding on the neck and/or lower back
  • Untreated sexually transmitted diseases
  • Small children serving in a family restaurant
  • Security measures that appear to keep people inside an establishment – barbed wire inside of a fence, bars covering the insides of windows
  • Not allowing people to go into public alone, or speak for themselves

What can be done?

To help combat human trafficking, Congress has instituted The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 which targets sex trade and slavery and includes federal programs designed to help prevent violence against women. Operation underground RailRoad works across the globe and has helped many victims to be protected and saved; and many traffickers have been arrested.

Education is the best tool to put to an end to human trafficking. Law enforcement professionals, medical practitioners and educators should receive training to identify evidence of human trafficking in their communities, hospitals and classrooms.

The everyday person can use the library and even the internet browser on a cell phone to learn more about human trafficking prevention and helping the victims.

Make the committment today to

Human trafficking is a sensitive subject, but we need to bring awareness to it. It affects families and children in all walks of life, all over the world–even in the United States.

For more information:
National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline 1(888) 373-7888
Image source:

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Human Relationships

This is the fifth blog in a series titled, “The Core Concepts of Development.” Click to view the previous installments: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.


Human relationships, and the effects of relationships on relationships, are the building blocks of healthy development.  (Wittmer & Petersen 2010).

Core concept 5 of Human Development states, “From the moment of conception to the finality of death, intimate and caring relationships are the fundamental mediators of successful human adaptation.” (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000)

British psychologist John Bowlby described attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.”  There are many that think a parent is spoiling a baby when they pick it up each time it cries.  But newborn babies cry because they have basic needs that should be met.  

When a parent is available and reliable, a child develops a sense of trust in the world.  

The child can then rely on the caregiver as a secure base from which to explore the world.  That security and confidence will eventually result in less crying and more independence.  

A child will have a difficult time making appropriate attachments and building crucial relationships if they do not begin their life with a strong, healthy parent-child attachment in infancy.  This attachment is usually with the mother but can be any loving caregiver.  This first attachment gives them the example to follow and gives them the courage to branch out and make other attachments.  These relationships that are formed help a child to develop in a healthy, normal, and positive way.  

Humans need love.  Humans need other people.  Humans need a purpose in life, and loving relationships are one of the greatest purposes.

As parents, grandparents, siblings, or friends, we have a responsibility to look out for each other, to lift others through our friendships and relationships, and to love one another.

Bowlby J. (1969). Attachment. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Loss. New York: Basic Books.

Shonkoff, Jack P.,Phillips, Deborah A., Committee, O. I. T. S. O. (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods : The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press. p. 27.  Retrieved from

Wittmer, D.S. & Petersen S.H. (2010) Core concepts of prenatal, infant, and toddler development. Retrieved from: concepts-prenatal-infant-toddler/

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Active Exploration Promotes Child Development

This is the fourth blog in a series titled, “The Core Concepts of Development.” Click here for part 1, click here for part 2, and click here for part 3.


Children are motivated to learn about themselves, others, and the world in which they live (Wittmer & Petersen 2010).

Have you ever watched a newborn infant learn? They accidentally pass their hand in front of their face and you can just see the look of surprise and imagine what they might be thinking. “What was that? Where did it go? When is it coming back? Oh, there it is again!” Of course, at that age, they haven’t learned much language yet, but that is what they would say if they could verbalize. Give them a few weeks and they will have learned to hold their hand in front of their face and can watch as they wiggle their fingers. They are so easily fascinated (says the parent who watches by the hour, totally fascinated.)

Babies have a great desire to learn and they are always on the move. They want to talk and walk, to make things shake, rattle, and roll. They want to do things for themselves. They want to copy what they see others doing. They are curious about everything and even set goals for themselves, such as getting across the floor to see how that dog food tastes. They develop strategies and test them out, finding what works best to accomplish those goals.

Our children also look to us to give them feedback and encouragement. They will look at us to see us clap and smile, and then learn to do so in return. They love to copy the expressions that they see and the sounds that they hear. They count on us to be there to keep them safe as they explore this big new world. As they advance through each stage, they constantly turn as if to say, “Look at me! I can do it myself!” Wow! You certainly can. Good for you!

We don’t have to buy expensive toys or the latest gadgets to help our children to learn.

We just have to

  • provide them with a few basic toys and household items let them explore; and
  • read to them every day which helps strengthen your relationship with your child, helps them with basic language skills and helps prepare them for academic success.

Wittmer, D.S. & Petersen S.H. (2010) Core concepts of prenatal, infant, and toddler development. Retrieved from: prenatal-infant- toddler/


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Learning Self-Regulation

This is the third blog in a series titled, “The Core Concepts of Development.” Click here for part 1 and click here for part 2.


The ability to self-regulate is the backdrop of capabilities that allow the child to concentrate on a task, focus on another person’s feedback in a social situation, and control emotions in positive ways (Bronson, 2000a, 2000b; Kopp, 2000).

Just what is self-regulation?

As an infant grows, they begin to recognize things about themselves – when they are sleepy, when they are hungry, when they need to go to the bathroom, or when something makes them upset.  Children begin to learn independence and also to learn to self-regulate or control their physical bodies, as well as their thoughts and emotions.    

As a parent, I was very excited to watch my children do many “firsts” – first steps, first time feeding themselves, first time using the bathroom, and first words.  These are examples of physical growth and regulation.  I never thought much about the fact that they were also learning emotional growth and regulation.  

Children need to learn

  • to wait,
  • to think before acting,
  • to recognize consequences,
  • to think of the needs of others and cooperate with others, and
  • to model appropriate social behavior.  

Children who do not self-regulate are difficult to be around.

 They whine, demand & insist on getting their own wayThey refuse to share, or take turns, or listen to advice from anyone.  They have a difficult time finding or  and maintaining friends. They are impulsive, acting without thinking, and frequently causing harm to themselves or others because they lack the ability to see identify cause and effect. Control is also related to obesity. For some children, a lack of self-control can manifest itself as over-eating and evetually obesity. However, obesity can also be the result of a child exercising self-control in an unhealthy way. For example, abused children (especialy sexually abused children) will often put on weight to make themselves appear less attractive or because eating is the only thing they think they can control. In the latter case, this type of self-control can also lead to anorexia or bulimia because the child may feel, “Since I can’t control anything else in my life or how I’m treated, at least I can control what and how much I eat.”

Advances in motor skills make it possible for preschoolers to feed themselves when they are hungry and put on a sweater when they are cold.  Cognitive and emotional maturity signals a greater ability to delay gratification, to sit still and read a book, and to cope with the stresses of separation or loss.  Development may be viewed as the child’s ability to function more independently in personal and social contexts (Bronson, 2000; Kopp, 2000; Sameroff, 1989; Sroufe and Waters, 1977).  

As children mature, their capacity to exert their own autonomous control is essential and must be directed and encouraged by parents so self-control can be developed in a healthful manner.

In other words, do what you can as parents to – help your child to grow up!


For more information:

Shonkoff, J. P., Phillips, D. A., & National Research Council (U.S.). (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early child development. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.

Wittmer, D.S. & Petersen S.H. (2010) Core concepts of prenatal, infant, and toddler development. Retrieved from: concepts-prenatal-infant-toddler/


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The Influence of Culture

This is the second blog in a series titled, “The Core Concepts of Development.” Click here for part 1.


All families and cultures have different backgrounds, experiences, dreams for their children, habits, and customs that guide their thinking about raising children (Coll & Magnuson, 2000).

I was raised in a military family.  Punctuality was important and a sign of respect for other’s time.  In this culture, to be late was rude.  I recently had a conversation with a Samoan friend of mine.  I mentioned how different it was to be around her family and friends, because they were always starting meetings, dinners, or parties late.  She looked at me in surprise and said that it would be rude to start before everyone was there.  I had never thought about that concept before.  In her culture, punctuality meant nothing.  Waiting for everyone showed respect and politeness.  

We each have different cultures we are raised in, and not just in ethnic cultures.

True, there is an American culture, a European culture, Hispanic or Polynesian cultures, or any number of different races and countries that affect our beliefs and social norms.  But there are cultures such as the military culture that I was raised in.  There are families that are great believers in physical activities and sports, families that are involved in music, drama, or art.  There are different religious cultures, or atheist cultures.  There are families with a culture and background of abusive behaviors, and those with great love and support.  

Each family develops a culture that is unique to them.

As parents, we can apply this knowledge in several ways.  

  • For one, we can teach our children to be open-minded and accepting of the beliefs and cultures of other families by teaching our children to love and respect each person for who they are.
  • We can also examine our own family cultures and see if they need some improvement.  
    • Were you raised in a family where parents were over-bearing and possibly abusive?  Are you passing on that culture?
    • Are you teaching your children to work and be self-sufficient or are you raising them in a culture of entitlement?  
    • Are you a family that listens and discusses?  
    • We might need to break from old habits.

Another area of culture is child-raising and parenting.  Is one parent going to stay at home to raise the children as in a traditional culture? Who will work?  Who will do which household chores?  Who will change the diapers?  When is bedtime?  When is curfew?  Each of the spouses will bring the cultures they were raised with to the table when they decide (and if they decide) to have a family.  

Remember that culture is not usually a matter of right and wrong, just a blending of different styles and an appreciation of what each culture has to offer.   

Garcia, C., & Magnuson, K. (2000). Cultural influences on child development: Are we ready for a paradigm shift? Cultural Processes in Child Development: The Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology, chapter 1. p.21.  Psychology Press, New York & London (2000).

Wittmer, D.S. & Petersen S.H. (2010) Core concepts of prenatal, infant, and toddler development. Retrieved from: concepts-prenatal-infant-toddler/

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Nature vs. Nurture

This is the first blog in a series titled, “The Core Concepts of Development.”


Both nature (genetic influences) and nurture (influences of environment, experience, and education) affect children’s development.

When my first child, David, was born, I was determined to be the perfect parent.  David was a very calm and obedient child.  As I would sit in church each Sunday, I would congratulate myself on what a great job my spouse and I were doing as parents.  Our second child, Mark would sit still, fold his arms, and quietly look at books, at 15 months old.  He was the model of reverence, and I silently judged my neighbors while patting myself on the back.  And then Scott, our third child, was born.  He could not have been more different than his brothers.  He was a bundle of energy, constantly on the go, making me chase him everywhere.  In church, he was climbing the pews, throwing the books, talking, laughing, screaming, and trying to run up and down the aisles.  I had to offer silent apologies to all those parents that I had previously looked down on. As I observed my boys, I wondered what I had done differently as a parent to have children who acted so differently.  The answer was that I had done nothing differently.  They came to me with those personalities.  This was their inherent nature.

As any parent of two or more children knows, those little bundles of joy each come with a unique personality.

Each one has talents and attributes all their own.  The three most commonly studied types are the “easy” child, the “slow-to-warm-up” child, and the “difficult” child.   As you can guess by the names, some children seem to be a breeze to raise, seldom giving their parents problems, easily socializing or trying new experiences.  Some are more timid, shy with strangers, quieter, and even afraid to attempt anything new.  They have to be coaxed a little, having a safe anchor nearby.  And then there are the difficult ones, colicky and fussy, crying easily, stubborn, angry, and constantly refusing to do as they are instructed.  So where does nurture fit in?

 Our parenting styles need to adapt to each child.

 We need to be aware of the environment and how it affects a child, as well as the way we introduce them to new experiences. This is often referred to as “goodness of fit.”  Understanding the concept of goodness of fit can help us decide whether some changes may be needed so there is a better match between the child and his environment.  For instance, my second child really needed to be in bed by 8 pm.  He even asked me if he could go to bed.  He was tired then, and would be cranky and impossible to bear without the needed sleep. He would wake up at about 5 or 6 am, ready and rarin’ to go.  However, my youngest daughter was a night owl.  She would not wind down until midnight and sleep until 10 or 11 the next morning.  Putting her to bed early was useless because she would just scream and cry about having to go to bed when she was wide awake.  Making adjustments to try and fit their sleep schedules was a challenge, but through a little compromising and adding or taking away naps, we were able to make it work.  

By offering challenges to active children, gently coaxing shy children, and having multiple distractions ready for difficult children, we can help each child adapt and learn to fit into society.   

Wittmer, D.S. & Petersen S.H. (2010) Core concepts of prenatal, infant, and toddler development. Retrieved from: concepts-prenatal-infant-toddler/

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