Hilber Psychological Services
Therapy for Children, Teens, & Adults in San Diego
HPS Background.jpg

Hilber Psychological Services

San Diego Therapists | Child Therapist | Couples Counseling | ADHD | Anxiety | Parenting | Behaviors | Relationships | Marriage and Family Therapists | Psychologists | Professional Clinical Counselors

Posts tagged assertive
Reminder: You can always leave an uncomfortable situation

As a little boy or girl, were you ever at a sleepover, but something didn’t feel right, and you just wanted to leave? In high school, were you ever at a party and realized there was drugs alcohol, and no parents were home, and you just wanted to leave? Have you ever been on a date that was so uncomfortable, you just wanted to leave? In college, were you ever in a situation where someone was trying to get you to do something you didn’t want to, and you just wanted to leave? As an adult, have you ever been at a bar with some of your friends and someone else kept hitting on you and you just wanted to leave? The reality of it, is we have all been in an uncomfortable situation and forgot that we are allowed to just leave. The reason we stayed may have been because we were scared, we were embarrassed, or we wanted to please the people around us. This blog is a reminder to men and women of all ages that it is perfectly okay to leave a situation, regardless of what other people may think.

Erynn Brook shared her story through a twitter thread of the first time her mother taught her she was allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation and the many times after that she was reminded. Brook explains, “I was maybe 7, I think it was my first sleepover at someone else’s house… before I left Mum told me that if I was uncomfortable at any point, for any reason, even if it was the middle of the night, I could call her.” As Brook’s night continued, she was bullied by her friends and decided she wanted to leave. The girl’s mom tried to discourage her by saying “it was late, I could sleep on the couch, and that I was upsetting her daughter.” Brooks called her mom anyways. When her mom arrived in the middle of the night, the other girl’s mom apologized, Brook’s mom stopped her and said “don’t apologize for my daughter. I want her to know she’s allowed to leave, and I’ll be there for her at any time.”

As she grew up, there were many other uncomfortable situations Brook wanted to leave. Ranging from times her friends were bullying her to resigning from a job, she always remembered her mom’s advice. Brook explains that she is aware this is not a widespread idea. Most parents teach their kids to “just deal with it” or “don’t be a quitter,” but that’s not what this lesson is about. Leaving an uncomfortable situation is one of the hardest decisions. Leaving does not mean you are soft or weak, it means you are strong and brave.  

The most important lesson is that everyone is allowed to leave. There may be some situations, for some people where there is no way out. However, the important thing to remember, is that you’re ALLOWED to. You have the right and the ability to leave. A helpful part to remembering this, is having someone, like Brook had her mom, to always be there to remind you it is okay to leave and help you get out of the situation. Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable, regardless of your age or gender. YOU are in control of your life, YOU set your own boundaries, and YOU are allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Marfice, Christina. “Powerful Thread Reminds Us We Can Always Leave Uncomfortable Situations.” Scary Mommy, Scary Mommy, 2 Oct. 2018, www.scarymommy.com/twitter-thread-uncomfortable-leave/

9 Things Parents Can Say to Defuse a Meltdown With Compassion

Of course you love your children, but aren't they just so good at pushing your buttons? It's easy to get frustrated when your children are demanding impossible requests or continue to do the one thing you asked them not to over and over. Thoughts may cross your mind such as, "I brought you into this world, I can take you out," (although you would never say that aloud). Your first reaction may be to raise your voice and punish your child, however this article will prepare you with 9 sayings to use when your child is having a meltdown that get the point across while still using compassion. 

It is important to reinforce connection, not separation. Vanessa Lapointe suggests "discipline without damage". Based off of science, and the way a child's brain develops, we want to build children who are hardy, not hardened. Children who are hardy have the ability to overcome to struggles of life, while children who are hardened cannot, and instead shut down using poor coping skills. Below are 9 sayings found on Lapointe's Disciple Cheat Sheet to help change the way you defuse a difficult situation with your child. 

1. Instead of: "What were you thinking?" 
Say: "I'm going to help you with this."

2. Instead of: "How many times do I have to tell you?"
Say: "I'm going to do (__) so that it will be easier for you." 

3. Instead of: "Stop it! You're embarrassing me!"
Say: "Let's go to a quieter place to get this sorted out."


4. Instead of: "If you don't stop that, no Xbox for a week!"
Say: "I can see this is tricky for you. We're going to solve this later. Let's get a drink of water first."

5. Instead of: "Go to your room."
Say: "Come here, I've got you."

6. Instead of: "No stars on the star chart for you!"
Say: "Let's figure out a better way for next time."

7.  Instead of: "Stop. That. Right. NOW!"
Say: "If you need to get your mad out- then go ahead. It's okay. I've got you."

8. Instead of: *Silent eye-roll and frustration sigh*
Say: *Kindness in our eyes and compassionate hair tousle*

9. Instead of: "You are IMPOSSIBLE!"
Say: "We will get this figured out. I can handle ALL of you. It's all good."

The key to defusing a meltdown is to use different tactics from the Disciple Cheat Sheet. When your toddler does something, such as color on the wall, instead of yelling, begin by maintaining a calm voice and saying "You know we aren't supposed to color on the wall, let's get this cleaned up." If your toddler fights back, stay calm and move to another tactic, "I can see this is tricky for you, we're going to solve this later. Let's get a drink of water." It may take time, but eventually your child will calm down, and that is when you can show them how to get the color off of the wall. Your child still learns their actions have consequences, but you were able to get your point across without raising your voice. 

Children's brains have not developed impulse control, therefore no amount of yelling will change the brain's wiring. The phrases above work best for young children, but you can use the same idea of compassion to get your point across with older children and adults. When using these phrases, it is important to remain confident, all-knowing, and in charge, in order to avoid helicoptering your child. Although it may take time for the parent to refer to these phrases before getting frustrated, remember that "It's okay. I've got you," may be exactly what your child needs to hear. 

If you have questions about using compassion and the good affects it can have on you and your child or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Porter, Evan. “9 Things Parents Can Say to Defuse a Meltdown with Compassion.”Upworthy, Cloud Tiger Media Inc., 21 July 2017.

Parenting 101: Discipline, Part 2

Last week in the article "Parenting 101: Discipline Part 1," we discussed the foundation for parents to create an effective discipline plan. Today, we will discuss the implementation plan of a parenting technique known as “1-2-3 Magic" based on the work of psychologist Thomas W Phelan. It is intended for the parenting of children ages 2-12 years old. This method is best used for “stop” behaviors, such as tantrums, arguing, yelling, whining, and/or teasing. 1-2-3 is based on a counting system used to stop behaviors. It should be done as the following:

  • 1 is the first warning,
  • 2 is the second warning,
  • and 3 is the consequence.

It is important for parents to wait approximately 5 seconds between counting. This allows the opportunity for the child to correct his or her behavior.

Choosing Consequences: Remember to acknowledge your child’s age and developmental level when applying 1-2-3 Magic. For example, older children may have the choice between consequences, such as having a time-out or losing a privilege. If the child does not pick one, the parent may choose for the child. Consequences must be clear, concise, and specific. Listed below are some examples of possible consequences and tips for implementing them.


  • The time-out should be approximately 1 minute for every year of the child’s age. For example, a 5 year old should have a 5 minute time-out, while a 3 year old should have a 3 minute time-out.
  • Younger children should be escorted to time-out without showing emotion or speaking
  • Technology such as smartphones, television, video games, etc. should not be accessible while the child is in time-out
  • The location of the time-out should be in a different room than where the parent will be (remember, children look for emotional reactivity in their parents, so by being separated children are not granted that power)
  • If the child wrecks or destroys the room during a time-out, it is important as a parent not to react. Simply let the child live in that space. After a few peaceful days, the parent may go and clean the room if necessary.
  • If the child is 4 years old or older, the time-out begins after the child’s temper tantrum is over.

Loss of privilege:

  • When choosing the loss of a privilege, it is important for the child to lose something meaningful. It will have no effect, for example, if a parent takes away a toy the child no longer plays with.
  • Some examples may include: Loss of going to a friend’s house, or the loss of time on electronics, such as the television, iPad, or video game consoles

In situations in which a child continues to have a temper tantrum and/or refuses to calm down, parents may “reverse” the timeout by simply walking out of the room.

For children who tend to try and test their parents when first starting 1-2-3 Magic, most will become compliant within 7-10 days. As a reminder, it is important for parents not to express too much emotion and not to talk too much during discipline.

Over time, the family will adapt to this new system. Parents may want to consider that when things go well in the family, they may “slip off” the wagon of parenting. It’s vital to stay consistent in parenting, even during long spans of time when things are going well.

One final tip to remember is that discipline is less about trying to “punish” a child or make the child feel bad, and more about teaching the child the difference between good behavior and bad behavior. As parents, it is important to prepare your child to be a functional adult in the real world where there are real consequences based on the choices being made.

There may be times when, as a parent, you could use extra support. If you feel that you would like to begin therapy to further explore parenting options or caregiver stress, please contact us at Hilber Psychological Services to set up an appointment. If you have any general questions about therapy, you can visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.

Parenting 101: Discipline, Part 1

Parenting can already be difficult, and it does not help that children always seem to know just how to push their parents’ buttons. According to psychologist Dr. Thomas W. Phelan there are three roles of a parent: 1.) Control Obnoxious Behavior, 2.) Encourage Positive Behavior, and 3.) Build relationships with your child. Today, we will discuss how to effectively discipline based on Dr. Phelan's research to tackle those problematic behaviors. In discipline, among the biggest mistakes parents make are talking too much and expressing too much emotion. Often times, a child can easily pick up on a parent’s frustration, giving the child power and control in the situation. The more a parent reacts to a child’s misbehavior, the more likely the child will continue to engage in the negative behavior. Furthermore, when a parent is feeling frustrated, the parent is likely to talk more. Some parents have the misconception that children are like little adults who can be rational. Parents who believe in this are more likely to try to use words and logic when dealing with young children. However, often times children know that their behavior is wrong, and therefore they do not need reasons and speeches on their behavior. Trying to lecture to a child can be unproductive. As such, it is crucial for parents to stick to a “No Talking and No Emotion” rule. When disciplining a child, parents need to be calm and consistent.

One of the first things parents must discuss before implementing a discipline plan is to agree on what the rewards and consequences might look like. For discipline to be effective, it is important for children to know the consequences ahead of time. Therefore, having a short conversation with your child about new rules can be beneficial. If children are older, they can be a part of the discussion regarding what behaviors may warrant a consequence.

As a parent, you may want to incorporate role playing various scenarios into your initial discipline conversation. This allows the child the opportunity to be a part of the process, and provides examples of rewards and consequences in a way children may better understand. Incorporating an art project may also be helpful in this discussion. One idea may be to have the child create a “Rules” list to hang up on the wall as a reminder for unacceptable behaviors in the home.

Parents may also discuss consequences with the child before a specific event. For example, if the parent does not have to count past a “2” (a parental technique discussed next week) for misbehavior while grocery shopping, the child may be rewarded with ice cream.

Parents should recognize that children may respond to new parenting changes in two ways. 1.) the child immediately cooperates, or 2.) the child begins to test the parent. Children who test their parents gain perceived control by providing parents with an ultimatum: Give me what I desire and my bad behavior will stop immediately. Children will test parents via threats, tempers, badgering, buttering-up parents, and physical tactics. It’s important for parents to keep cool - children may continue to jump from tactic to tactic, but be strong and be consistent!

Tune back to this blog next week as I discuss the specific parenting technique “1-2-3 Magic” based on the research of Thomas W. Phelan, PhD. And don’t forget, as a parent you are not alone! If you feel that you would like to begin therapy to discuss parenting or personal stressors, please contact us to set up an appointment. If you have any general questions about therapy, you can visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services.