Thursday, March 05, 2009
What you should know about using 'if, then' statements
By Anthony Policastro, M.D

Children are often smarter than we think. I often will have parents tell me about a child who behaves for one parent but not for the other. Parents often think this is strange. It is not. Children very quickly learn when a parent means what they say and when they do not. They are more likely to disobey the one that they think is not serious. I often hear parents use what I call the "If, then" statement in the office. Sometimes, it takes the form of "If you do not do something, then I will" At other times it takes the form of "If you do something, then I will" There are several problems with using this statement. The first is that children very quickly learn whether you mean it or not. If you carry out the threat every time, they will pay attention to it in the future. If you sometimes do what you threaten and sometimes do not, they will learn to ignore it. They can't be sure when it is real and when it is not. Therefore, they always assume it is not real. They continue doing whatever they please. A second piece of this is making sure what you tell the child is what will happen immediately. Children have short memories. You cannot promise a reward or a punishment later. It has to be right now. Therefore, every "If, then" statement needs to have a consequence that can be carried out immediately. That means it should be something simple. It means it should be something easy to do. Any "If, then" statement that talks about things like TV or video games later in the day will have no effect on the child. They figure that by the time that this happens, they can negotiate a lesser punishment. It is not real because it is not there at the time. Children will very quickly learn when to pay attention to parents who say "If, then" because they mean it and when parents are just saying it and have no intention of carrying it out. What I tell parents is that they should only use the "If, then" statement when they know for sure they are going to do what they threaten. It is a lot better to not say it to begin with, then to not be able to carry it out. In most cases, "If, then" statements are somewhat automatic. We do not think about what we are saying ahead of time. Therefore, we say something that we have no plan of enforcing. Children learn that and take advantage of it. The bottom line is that there are several important issues about "If, then" statements to remember. The first is to not use it in the first place if you can avoid it. The second is to not use it unless you mean it. The third is that if you use it, you must be planning to follow it through 100% of the time. The fourth is that the planned action must be immediate. The fifth is that the planned action should be relatively simple to carry out. That leads me to my own "If, then" statements. If you use them correctly, you will find they are very effective. If you use them incorrectly, they will just make a child ignore you and make his/her behavior even worse.

Cancer Center hosts program Women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer can now receive free professional help to cosmetically disguise the appearance-related side effects of treatment. Look Good...Feel Better, a program developed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cosmetology Association, trains volunteer cosmetologists to help women with cancer conceal loss of hair, skin problems, and other side effects that can result from cancer therapy. Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host the program on Monday, March 16 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Cancer Care Center's 2nd floor conference room. The program is free to all patients in active cancer treatment. Registration is required and space is limited. To register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center at 629-6611, ext. 2588.

Buffet benefits at LifeCare LifeCare at Lofland Park will host a buffet dinner at the Georgia House Restaurant in Laurel on Monday, March 30 from 5 to 7 p.m. Dinner includes an all-you-can-eat buffet consisting of Mississippi Cajun catfish, Yankee pot roast, buttermilk fried chicken, pasta marinara, salad, rolls, various sides, assorted desserts and non-alcoholic beverage. Carryout is available. Adults are $16.99 each, ages 4 to 12 cost $8.99, and ages 3 and under eat free with a paying adult. All money raised will be used for entertainment costs for residents at LifeCare at Lofland Park. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact LifeCare at Lofland Park at 628-3000, ext. 8300 or via email at

Safe Sitter class offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospital is offering a Safe Sitter class for girls and boys ages 11 to 13 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 7. The Safe Sitter program is a medically accurate instructional series that teaches youngsters how to handle emergencies when caring for younger children. Cost is $35 and participants are to bring a bagged lunch. All medical information will be taught by a certified professional. Instructors provide tips to make sitters more confident caregivers. They teach safety and security precautions, such as what to do if a stranger comes to the door and when and how to call for help. They give information on child development and suggest age-appropriate activities. Participants will also learn about the business aspects of babysitting. To register or for more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 2540.

Autism Ball & Auction is planned The Lower Delaware Autism Foundation's Autism Ball & Auction for Hope is Saturday, March 7 at the Bay Center in Dewey Beach. The cocktail attire event kicks off at 6 p.m. with a silent auction followed by dinner, live auction and dancing to the live sounds of Big City Band. There will be an open bar during the silent auction from 6 to 8 p.m. and a cash bar from 8 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are on sale for $125. i.g. Burton of Milford is the lead sponsor. "This year's theme for the Autism Ball is Dream," said Melissa Tice Martin, LDAF Executive Director. "I.G. Burton's support means LDAF can continue to provide quality programs and services to individuals with autism. Their support means more than they know especially in this economy." For more information or to purchase tickets, call 302-644-3410 or visit

Lee promoted to ICU director Nanticoke Health Services has promoted Lori Lee, RN, BSN, to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) director. As ICU director, Lee is accountable for the delivery of medical-surgical and specialty surgical care services in collaboration with physicians and other health care providers at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. Lee is a graduate of Tidewater Community College in Virginia and Wilmington College and has over 15 years of nursing experience. She started at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital as an ICU nurse in 1997, transitioned to the Education Department, then back to ICU as interim director and now director.

Cancer Networking Support Group The Wellness Community of Delaware offers a "General Cancer Networking" support group the third Monday of each month from 4:30- 6:30 p.m. held at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center second-floor library, Seaford. Professionally led cancer support programs offer hope, education, and emotional support for adults with cancer and their loved ones who want to fight for recovery and the quality of their lives. Learn how to feel less isolated and more in control. All programs offered through The Wellness Community of Delaware are free of charge to people affected by cancer. For further information, or to register, call 645-9150.

CHEER plans healthy living expo On Tuesday, April 21 the CHEER Community Center in Georgetown will host a free Healthy Living Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Healthy Living Expo, which is open to the public, has room for more vendors to set up a table at the expo. The fee is $75 or $50 if you offer a health screening. For registration or more information, call 302-854-9500.