Friday, December 16, 2011

Forgetting why you went into the other room

 Doorways and memory loss

Comedian Bill Cosby tells a great story of looking for his glasses. He looked all over the living room then walked into another room to look there. Once in the other room, he can't remember why he went into that room in the first place. If I recall correctly he blamed the whole mess on his kids driving him crazy. 

Researcher Gabriel A. Radvansky and colleagues at the University of Notre Dame conducted an experiment to see if the act of walking through a doorway actually decreases ones memory. (Published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2011: show me the article.)

Their findings showed that the process of walking through a doorway did in fact lower experimental subjects short term memory. Subjects that walked through a doorway did much worse than subjects that walked the same distance without passing through a doorway. The research indicated that the act of going through a doorway compartmentalizes one's memory into separate activities weakening memory access to what was just learned in the previous room.

Least I forget, Bill Cosby was looking for his reading glasses that traveled with him from room to room perched on his head.

A few books on memory improvement that I recommend to my patients. Helpful, but they do take work. You have to learn how to improve your memory:


Thursday, December 1, 2011

What are negative emotions and rough handling of their infants

Dr. Phil,

I learn a lot from your blog and I have read your parenting book. I read your blog Aggressive Behavior in Toddlers, but I do not know what you mean by "negative emotions towards their infants and rough handling of their infants."

Thanks, Lilly, S.F. CA

Great question, Lilly, thanks.

Yesterday I was at lunch, looking forward to reading the latest gadget article for all things Apple computer. A few tables over I observed a mom and grandmother eating lunch with a 3 year old and an 18 month old. What I observed were "negative emotions towards their infants and rough handling of their infants."

The three year old was in a high chair reaching and grabbing as the food came to the table.  As he strained to reach for a french fry, his mom gently slapped his hand and said, "I told you in the car if you can't be a good boy you're going to get a spanking."

Over the next 15 minutes, while I finished my lunch, I observed the mom and the grandmother talking to each other in a friendly manner. When either adult was interrupted by a child, they growled softly at the child and said stern things to them.

"Stop doing that, you're acting like a little snot."
"You never listen to me."
"You're being a brat."

The 3 year old seemed unaware of anything the adults were saying. He seemed used to it. I saw his hand get gently slapped 5 times. Of note I did not see either adult talk to or with the children only at the children.

Over time, I can see how this type of parenting can lead to these children showing aggressive behaviors in school.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Aggressive Behavior in Toddlers

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

A new study gives us insight into aggressive behavior in toddlers. Researchers from the University of Minnesota looked into the relationship moms have with their newborns and how it influences their behavior in preschool.

Michael F. Lorber, the lead researcher said in a press release, “Before the study, we thought it was likely the combination of difficult infant temperament and negative parenting that put parent-child pairs most at risk for conflict in the toddler period, and then put the children at risk for conduct problems at school age. However, our findings suggest that it was negative parenting in early infancy that mattered most.” 

The researchers looked at over 260 mother-infant pairs following them through first grade. Each infant was evaluated for temperament during their first week of life and again at about 6 months. When the children were in kindergarten and first grade, their mothers and teachers were surveyed concerning the child's behaviors at home and in the classroom. 

The result of the longitudinal study suggests that the children who were aggressive and explosive in kindergarten and first grade tended to have disorganized and angry relationships with their mothers. Mothers who showed negative emotions towards their infants and rough handling of their infants, more often had children who were aggressive and defiant in kindergarden and first grade.

Over time...

The study showed that over time the behaviors of the children got more aggressive and defiant leading to more negative parenting from the parent. This study suggests a cycle of turbulent family behaviors leading to children having a harder time when they start school.

“The results of our study move beyond descriptive findings to explain the underlying process linking how mothers parent their children in infancy and the problems children have in early elementary school,” Lorber pointed out.

Parenting is a learned behavior. This study shows the importance of parents learning how to parent in non aggressive ways.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Does Mt. Dew shrink your penis?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Phil,

There is a rumor going around my school that Mt. Dew will shrink your penis. Is this true? If so how come they can legally sell this product?

Paul, Central Valley High, Redding CA.

Does Mt. Dew shrink your penis?

The simple answer is NO!

I am glad that you used the word "rumor" in your question. It seems that you were suspicious.

The problem with rumors is that if they are repeated often enough, they start to seem like old information. Tell the rumor several more times, and it starts to sound like a fact.

Similar rumors have to do with Mt. Dew lowering sperm count and/or shrinking testicles. All bull honkey!

When you come across a rumor, question its authority. Who is telling you this and why? Are there credible facts that can be verified? Is the rumor logical? Personally I like to ask, "Something that important should have facts to prove it, can you show me the facts?"  Statements like, "Everyone knows it," or "My social studies teacher said it," are not facts. 

For more information about this particular rumor see: Mountain Dew Shrinks Testicles

For more information about critical thinking see: The Importance of Teaching Critical Thinking

A few facts about Mt. Dew:

Energy110 kcal
Carbohydrate, by difference31 g
Sugars, total31 g
Sodium, Na50 mg

Dr. Phil's opinion about Mt. Dew

Overall Mt. Dew is liquid candy and should be consumed like a treat. It is very high is sugar, salt, and caffeine. It has no nutritional benefits. I personally like the taste of it. Enjoy it sparingly such as on your birthday, Christmas, and D&D all nighters.

Customer review:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nanny state or caring society?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Copitch,

I read your article called "New images on cigarette packs" and found myself getting angry. Why do people think that they can tell me what to do? I like smoking, and I am aware that it may be harmful to me. But it is my life and I still choose to smoke. I should be able to "opt out" of the nanny state and be allowed to live my life my way.

Grumpy in Oxnard

Hi grumpy in Oxnard,

I think I understand your desire to be left alone to smoke to your heart's content, but you live in a caring society. If I happen to be walking down the street and see you keeled over and wheezing, maybe having a heart attack or suffering from lung cancer, I'm going to call 911 and get you some help. 

This help comes with a big price tag and all of us pay this price tag. You can't "opt out" of our society easily. I like the concept of free will, but the reality of your free will can be very expensive for us as a whole.

According to the CDC:

  • During 2000–2004, cigarette smoking was estimated to be responsible for $193 billion in annual health-related economic losses in the United States ($96 billion in direct medical costs and approximately $97 billion in lost productivity).
  • The total economic costs (direct medical costs and lost productivity) associated with cigarette smoking are estimated at $10.47 per pack of cigarettes sold in the United States.
  • Cigarette smoking results in 5.1 million years of potential life lost in the United States annually.

More Info: CDC - Fact Sheet - Economic Facts About U.S. Tobacco Production and Use - Smoking & Tobacco Use

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chinese Herbal Medicine must be good because so many say it is good.

Dear Dr. Phil.

Last year you came to my AP Psychology Class at Shasta High. You were very informative and funny. You said that we could email you if we had a question... so here goes.

My friend's mom has gone 100% mental over Chinese medicine. She has an herb solution for everything. She is positive that there is a conspiracy keeping the truth about the power of Chinese medicine a secret so that doctors can get rich.

Is Chinese medicine better than American medicine?

Thanks, Sara

Is Chinese medicine better than American medicine?

Great question Sara,

The fact is that Chinese and American medicine are the same. Medicine is based in scientific fact, and in China if you can afford medicine you get the same treatments as you get in this country. Alternative medicine was (is) only used in poor, rural areas where there is little access to modern medicine. In fact, in the middle of the last century China was in the forefront of medical research. So, how come so many Americans believe that Chinese folk remedies are better than medicine (American, Chinese or French)?

It is important to look at how this phenomenon entered American culture. To help you get this information please take the time to listen to the podcast linked below. It is from Their motto is Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena. I find Skeptoid's analysis of a subject to be scientifically sound and educational.

Mao's Barefoot Doctors: The Secret History of Chinese Medicine (Skeptoid #259) - Westerners' belief that Chinese have long relied on alternative medicine is due in part to being duped by book publishers.
Read | Listen (12:51)

The transcript (Read) is a synopsis, so I recommend listening to the podcast for the whole story.

May I recommend:

While I'm on the subject to of, I highly recommend their award winning web site: Skeptoid: Critical Analysis Podcast

and specifically their podcast on critical thinking: The Importance of Teaching Critical Thinking

Be well,
Dr. Phil Copitch

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New images on cigarette packs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently showed of the new "warning" images that will be on all cigarette packs by the end of 2012. 

Some of the images are relatively mild:

While some are in your face gross:

The big question is "Will these warning graphics help people to stop smoking, or better yet, never start?"

The simple answer is yes.

These warning labels are product specific advertisement, and it is well documented that advertisements work. In 2006, the tobacco industry spent $12.4 billion on advertising, not to keep newspapers and magazines afloat, but to replace customers that die from their product. This 12.4 billion represents a doubling in expenditure since 1997.  Read the FTC report.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on June 21, 2011, 

Somebody said when they first saw the warnings: ‘These are really gross.' Well, they are. We want kids to understand smoking is gross, not cool. And there's really nothing pretty about having mouth cancer or making your baby sick if you smoke.

"I heard that teens aren't influenced by these scare tactics" 

Most people start smoking before age 19.  A common reason teens start to smoke is to say "screw you" to their parents, school, or authority in general. This attitude is fleeting for most teens. So over time, knowledge will  overcome anger. And advertising (warnings) take time to seep into the mind.

Smoking for teens is a statement. The more the teens see the bigger picture, the less effective their "statement" will be. 

A closing thought:

Teens are substantially more likely to smoke if one of their parents smoke. Some parents wonder if their teens learn anything from them... the simple answer is... Yes!

Want to stop... learn more?

Call: 1-800-Quit-Now or go to : USA, LLC

Saturday, May 7, 2011

No Child Left Behind - a disservice to our children

by Geri Copitch, veteran teacher:

As someone who has taught in both an underperforming school and a high achieving school I’ve always had a problem with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The concept that all students - without exception - can and must be proficient (at grade level) readers by third grade, was not run past any real life teachers who’ve ever taught in schools serving real kids. It is an ideal that we all strive for, but it’s not reality. So, I was surprised to hear a former assistant secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration, Diane Ravitch, come out against standardized testing and privatized charter schools.
Professor Ravitch acknowledged what I’ve experienced, that there are many factors that affect a child’s success in school, with teachers themselves being just one factor. Home and community life have a huge influence, as do the resources available to the students once they’re in school. As a newly minted teacher, I was surprised to learn that there were students in my second grade class who didn’t own any books - honestly, not one! How can we hope to mold competent readers when they have no reading material at home? When parents don’t model (demonstrate) reading? A co-worker who taught kindergarten at the same school told me she had one little girl who had never held a pencil or a crayon...Never! How can these children possibly get to the same proficiency level as a child whose parents take them to the library, occasionally buy them books, read them bedtime stories from the time they are barely able to sit up, and hand them paper and pencils to scribble with?
Ravitch was a strong advocate of NCLB. It was a program she felt would help schools and teachers hone in on areas that needed improvement, and make that their goal. Instead, it become a charge to reform schools using a hatchet to fire whole teaching staffs, while missing improvement goals completely. It became a one size fits all, fill-in-the-bubble approach. “No Child Left Behind has turned into a timetable for the destruction of American public education”, she told the radio host.
When schools are closed down for being underperforming, new schools open to replace them. Unfortunately, some of these schools, mostly those that are run by educational corporations, are allowed to winnow out underachieving students, making the school’s performance numbers improve. “If they’re not educating the same kids, then they’re not doing better.” In the end they are doing a grave injustice to those students who need the most help. These children are slipping through the cracks and are indeed, being left behind.
Vouchers and the push for homeschooling have the same chilling effect on public schools. They aren’t pushing public schools to improve, they are leaving them with nothing.
For schools to improve, we need parent and community investment in them. Not just money (though that helps) but time and interest. As Susan B. Anthony once said: If all the rich and all of the church people should send their children to the public schools they would feel bound to concentrate their money on improving these schools until they met the highest ideals.
When you look around the world, you see that those countries who provide free education to all their children are the countries that value democratic ideals. We used to be a nation that valued our free public education system. It was part of defining who we were. Now we have become a nation that worships at the altar of free enterprise. We value the business model which places very little value in the creative process, the very process that made us the envy the world over. We have become a nation of the bottom line, and our children, instead of becoming creative souls, will become commodities. Our children and the nation will suffer because of it.

Puzzle Buzz Club

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

But what about larger numbers times 11

After Prof. Benjamin's video last week, a few smart alecks pointed out, "But that is only 2 digits, how about larger numbers?" Fair question. I know two ways to multiply larger numbers by 11- both fun! In a few minutes you will know both!

Dr. Phil has fun with a little math.

A few fun gifts for young math students:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Math Wizard Prof. Arthur Benjamin

Lots of people wanted more information about math professor and magician, Arthur Benjamin.

His bio reads: 
Arthur Benjamin is a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. A professional magician, Benjamin can also multiply large numbers faster than a calculator, figure out the week day of any date in history and has memorized the decimal numbers of pi out to 100 digits.
Let's look at him teaching how to multiply by 11 quickly!

Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks

Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Parent Frustrated: Math is boring for her son!

Dear Dr. Phil,

My son fights us on homework, especially his math. It has gotten worse this year. My husband and I call it our nightly "4th grade homework hell".

Hair Pulling Mom, Weaverville, CA.

Hi Mom,

I am a true believer in clear behavior expectations for children, such as: No screen time (TV, computer phone) until all homework is done and checked by a parent. I like clear consequences for homework performance. This is not easy, but it is important to teach homework skills early.

An excerpt from Basic Parenting 101:

My children are late with homework, chores, or curfew.
This is simply an issue of your children doing what they want to do versus what they must do. Let me make this point bluntly,
Why doesn’t your teen poop in the living room? 
Why doesn’t your eight year old potty on the couch? 
Why doesn’t your eleven year old make dodo at the dining room table during Sunday dinner?
The answer is: they have internalized the Must Rule about toileting that you taught them during the potty training phase of their younger life. I point this out because, unless your children “believe” that they must do their homework, they will do what they want to do. Unless your child believes that they must be home by curfew, they will do what they want to do. Unless your child believes that they must do their chore at a particular level, they will do what they want to do.
Central to most task completion issues is that the child does not believe her adults. 
You need to honestly question yourself. Is homework a Maybe (a preference) in your family or a Must Rule? (See Chapter 4: Must, Maybe, and Minor Rules) If you are teaching your children that homework is a preference, then your child will play before she does her work. If your child believes that cleaning her room is a parental preference (Maybe Rule), then riding her bike is more likely to be her choice.

Learn more about Basic Parenting 101

Another major problem with homework is it is often tedious and boring; this tends to start with the teacher.

Arthur Benjamin is a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. He is a dynamic teacher of young and old alike. His teaching method is inspiring. This 3 minute video will give you an idea of how fun math can be:

You may also want to see:

Stump the Shrink by Dr. Philip Copitch: Is Tutoring Right For My Child?
with Guest Blogger: Geri Copitch, 18 Year Veteran Educator.

Stump the Shrink by Dr. Philip Copitch: Bribing children to do their homework does not work

Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks  Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks

Basic Parenting 101 The Manual Your Child Should Have Been Born With  Basic Parenting 101 The Manual Your Child Should Have Been Born With

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What is the best form of exercise?

I was asked the other day, “Dr. Phil, what is the best form of exercise?” my answer… “Anything you will actually do!” 
My second answer is, “All things being equal, walking.”
Walking doesn’t take a lot of equipment and you can do it many places—rain or shine. It is easy on the body and you can set your own pace. When you travel you don’t have to pack lots of stuff. You can walk with a friend, pet, or ipod. And it surely is good for you. 
I’m not going to bore you with the health benefit statistics, I’m sure you’ve heard them already, but I’m confident you will agree that it is important that we all move our tushies!
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009 reported that I in 3 adults participated in regular leisure time activity.  With another 1 in 3 doing no, nada, zero leisure time activity. Another way of saying this is 66 percent of adults sit around a lot. 
So, what are we suppose to do to help motivate ourselves to move our ever expanding, cushion crushing, rumps? 
The Journal of Family Practice, a journal written for primary care medical doctors, suggests that if the MD tells their patient to walk, not much happens, but if they suggest, “walk 2000 steps per day”, people seem to like the challenge. With the help of a pedometer, many people seem to get into walking more as they track their progress. 
FYI: “2000 steps is about 1 mile. 10,000 steps is a common daily step goal.”
I checked Amazon to see what others are saying about pedometers. I was surprised by the number of reviews. The #1 ranked pedometer, the Omron HJ-112 Digital Pocket Pedometer, had over 3000 reviews, almost all 5 stars!  Just for fun I checked Kit Kats to see how many people reviewed my sugar of choice. 0. 
The cost range for the top 10 pedometer models was $15 - $20. (Kit Kat 78¢)
Here are links to pedometers that were well rated:

Happy walking!