10-Week Workshop for Parents of Challenging Children


Mothers or Couples Groups

  • Learn easily grasped strategies and techniques
  • Improve your relationship with your child
  • Understand the role of healthy relationships in brain development
  • Learn how your child’s slow-to-emerge abilities affect academics and behavior
  • Develop a calm, problem-solving approach
  • Establish and maintain reasonable expectations

 Call or email to sign up.

Julia Murphy, LMFT (818) 388-1526








18321 Ventura Blvd., Suite 955, Tarzana, CA 91356

Contact: Julia Murphy, MA (818) 388-1526



8 Important Parenting Practices

With the busy schedules parents juggle, few of us can find the time to read an entire parenting book. Sometimes biting off just a little bit of wisdom is enough to start navigating your family’s day with more mindful ease.

1. LISTEN. Be an attentive audience. Take the time to listen to your child’s concerns, ideas and stories.

2. ENCOURAGE. Be sure to praise your child in response to her good efforts. Try to have praise outweigh corrections or discipline.

3. OPEN UP. Share information about yourself to help normalize your child’s experiences.

4. PLAY. Find time to bond over activities you both enjoy. Finding something you like, too, increases the likelihood that you will make time for your child.

5. APOLOGIZE. Admit mistakes and say you’re sorry now and then. Children are quick to forgive and will respect you for it.

6. AVOID COMPARISONS. Resist the temptation to compare your child to siblings or peers. Instead of motivating your child, comparisons tend to be shaming and undermine your child’s growth and happiness.

7. REFLECT. Learn to monitor your responses to problem behavior, rather than reacting quickly and punitively. Resisting an anxious response gives you the emotional space to gauge how serious a problem is and to solve it in cooperation with your child.

8. CONSIDER YOUR LIMITS. When prioritizing expectations and deciding with your child how to get them met, carefully consider what you can handle. Do you have the time or emotional resources to help your child follow through or to enforce consequences if he doesn’t?

5 Point Parenting Plan To Relieve Holiday Stress

Talk to any parent: The holidays bring out the best and worst in families. As parents of children whose emotions are running high, you may find yourselves struggling to keep the spirits bright. Here are 5 helpful hints for a happier holiday with your kids.

1. Remember, all children struggle with processing strong emotion. Every child learns to regulate their emotions at a different pace as they mature. In the meantime, they look to you to help them quell anxiety, so try to stay as steady and patient as possible even in the face of an eruption. If you lose your composure, your child is left feeling like no one is in control and this can heighten the intensity of a meltdown.

2. Begin by helping your child label the feelings she is experiencing. If you can put language to feelings, it helps her to  make sense of her experiences and calm down.  She will also feel that you care about her and are trying to understand.  Be sure to do this before her feelings become too intense.  Problem solving when feelings are too strong may only aggravate the problem.

3. Identify situations where your child is more vulnerable to experiencing strong emotions and losing self-control. Plan for these situations in advance. Explain what is going to happen, what emotions she may feel and how you will support her, as well as what she can do for herself to keep calm.

4. Be tolerant of your child’s feelings. That doesn’t mean let him be inappropriate or destructive. Reassure your distraught child that you are going to listen to him, but he first needs to get his feelings under control with your help. He needs to be able to discuss his feelings in a respectful manner.

5. Once emotions are under control, you can make every effort to understand the experience from your child’s perspective. Taking this approach does not mean you agree with your child. It simply means you are trying to understand how he experienced a situation and what meaning it took on for him.  Efforts invested in this process will also create more space for you to offer alternative explanations and perspectives on the situation.

Healthy Dependence vs. Enabling

“When am I helping my child too much and when should I step back?
“Am I enabling my  child by providing help with homework or other responsibilities?”

Parents, as well as teachers, often struggle with this conflict.  Understanding that children will do well if they can and that all children possess the natural human drive for mastery will help to resolve this conflict.  My advice to parents?  If your child is struggling, chances are demands are exceeding the capacities he possesses right now.  Work with him to complete certain tasks, rather than doing the work for him.  We all learn new tasks by watching others or by collaborating with someone who has more skill.  Why should this process be any different for learning new academic concepts or completing tough assignments?

The truth is, when you don’t provide support for tasks that are over your child’s head, you run the risk of disabling him.  If you insist your child complete his work independently when he is not ready developmentally, how is he going to make sense of this struggle? Most children will assume that if they are experiencing difficulty, something must be wrong with them.  This is not the belief parents want their children to internalize about themselves.  This belief not only undermines a child’s confidence in his ability to learn, but it also contributes to feelings of frustration, anxiety and discouragement, which further interfere with learning.

Healthy dependence promotes independence in children.  If we teach our children how to approach difficult tasks and guide them through the learning process, ultimately they will acquire the necessary skills and be able to do their work on their own.

Have you found ways to decide when to let your child learn on  their own and when to help them?


Why So Many Children Struggle at School and Home

There have been hundred or thousands of research studies conducted over the past 20 to 30 years in the fields of neuroscience, neuropsychology and education that help us better understand the brain, learning and child development.  But, despite all of this knowledge, we have more children struggling in school than ever before.  How do we make sense of this?

One factor is that with teachers under such heavy pressure to cover so much academic ground, there is little time to consider their relationships with the children in their classroom. The quality of this relationship between child and teacher influences the child’s emotional experience and can make the difference between a child who is open to learning and one who is shut down and unwilling to take risks.

Another factor is the tremendous stress on adults and children given the uncertainty of our times.  The world economy is changing daily and completing a college degree does not assure one of a solid career as it once did.  Parents have to work long hours to keep pace with the needs of their families, placing significant strain on the quality of relationships within that family.  Stress is one of the greatest threats to the health of any relationship.

Some things you as a parent can do to manage stress, change the climate in your own home and help your children:

1. Manage difficult emotions: Your ability to identify and reflect on your feelings without acting on them in the moment is critical to healthy relationships.  When you react impulsively to your negative emotions, you increase the likelihood of saying something to your child that you might later regret.  You are also more likely to be punitive, which also ruptures your connection to your child.  I am not suggesting that you not hold your child accountable for certain responsibilities; however, I am suggesting that this be done in a thoughtful way.

Look for more parenting tips for managing stress tomorrow.  Peter Murphy, Ph.D.

Investing in a Child’s Strengths

Peter Murphy, Ph.D.

Adage for the day: When it comes to raising children, time is your ally.

Sometimes we discover the strengths in children by looking at the flip-side of what appear to be deficits.  For example, you might have a child who becomes single-minded and relentless when “locked onto” something she wants.  She can wear you down until you either lose your cool or just give in to maintain your sanity.  While this trait aggravates you at times, it could be a great asset in a different context.  Perhaps your child will be a great attorney whose single-minded focus contributes to her personal success.  Obviously, she will need help to learn how to manage this trait in personal relationships, but this will come about with your help and support over time.



How Do You Invest in Your Child’s Strengths?

 A good illustration of parents being attuned to their child came during the 2012 Summer Olympics.  Jonathan Horton of the United States Gymnastics team was featured in a television commercial explaining  how he climbed all the way to the ceiling in the middle of a department store at 4-years of age.  For some  parents this could be viewed as a behavioral issue requiring swift discipline to prevent a repeat performance.  However, after observing his athletic ability, Jonathan’s parents gave him gymnastics lessons, instead, to develop his innate ability.  AT 11-years-old, Jonathan committed himself to making the United States Olympic Gymnastics Team.  While not everyone has the makings of  an Olympic ahtlete, this is a great example of parents who were aware of their child’s strenghts and interests and who invested in those natural abilities.

Do You Believe All Children Want To Succeed?

I have yet to meet a child who does not want to succeed.  We all possess a natural drive for mastery over appropriate developmental tasks.  There is a robust pleasure for learning built into our brains.  We are driven to create connections between neurons and to master skills under the right conditions.  This concept is well supported by neuroscience research.  It is up to us as parents and other adults working with children to engage our curiosity about why a child sometimes has trouble in school or with friends and at other times seems to function so smoothly.

All adults working with children have a responsibility to communicate confidence in a child’s capacity to learn.  We also have to let children know that we are committed to helping them master whatever challenges stand in their way.  This approach will help these children develop resiliency and self esteem.  With encouragement and support, a child will learn to tolerate feelings or frustration and discouragement that sometimes come with the learning process.

When we observe our children struggling, we sometimes make assumptions about their motives in the form of character labels.  “Lazy,” “manipulative,” “self-centered,” “oppositional,” and “disrespectful” are a few of the common labels used to interpret poor performance.  When bright kids struggle it may seem to be the only way to make sense of their difficulties.  Learning differences can be confusing to observers because they are invisible, unlike physical disabilities.

A typical question I hear from parents is “Why can he play video games for hours but not focus on his homework?”  The truth is, video games activate the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain that enhances focus.  Most homework assignments don’t provide the same kind of stimulation for the brain.  It can be very stressful for an intelligent child to engage in a tedious academic task in the classroom or at home.

When we reduce our child’s struggles to character flaws, we are not considering the demands placed on her in different settings and whether or not she has developed the capacities and skills to meet those expectations.  Also, our understanding as to why she struggles is going to influence the way she understands her own difficulties.  For example, I often ask children with learning differences whey they think they are having problems in school or with homework.  It is not uncommon for them to respond, “It’s because I am lazy.”  Such a response tells me that adults in these children’s lives have fostered this belief in them.  If we are curoius about our child and willing to broaden our understanding of her struggles, we will help her develop a broader understanding of her strengths and challenges.  This mindset allows both parent and  child to work together to consider many more potential solutions to the problem at hand.

Finally, character labels limit our capacity to help.  What are we left to do if we determine that our child is lazy?  This mindset increases the likelihood that we will become more frustrated and possibly punitive about getting your expectations met.  In response, our child may become frustrated, angry and therefore resistant to doing what is asked.  A narrow perspective on our part sets up a negative dynamic with our child.

(Peter Murphy, Ph.D. To Be Continued)

How Do We Help Our Children Succeed?

The first thing any of us as parents, teachers and other adults working with children can do is to improve the quality of our relationship with them.  This idea is more than a philosophical shift in approach to childrearing.  It is a scientifically supported concept that needs to be put into practice on a daily basis to foster the social, emotional and academic development of our children.

The focus on a healthy, connected relationship takes priority over considering specific strategies for managing behavioral problems or addressing specific learning issues that show up in the classroom or at home.  The quality of our connection to our children directly influences their openness to our direction and support.  It is the difference between turning a child’s brain “on” or “off” to learning.

Learning involves emotions and cognition.  The two cannot be separated.  If a child is feeling anxious about completing a difficult academic task, it will interfere with his ability to think clearly, as well as to store and retrieve information for long-term memory.  He will need help with effectively managing anxiety before much learning can take place.

Look for specific strategies to help your child manage anxiety in future posts.

Peter Murphy, Ph.D.