Dr. Steven Lazarus is an expert child psychologist and teen psychologist in Littleton, CO. This page is dedicated to giving parents different parenting strategies in their work with their children and teenagers.

How To Help Your Child Succeed Financially

As tax season is upon us, finances are one of the biggest things on many people’s minds. Many people would be surprised to know that many parents talk with their child psychologist in Littleton to figure out when, how, and why to talk with their kids about finances. Read on to find out expert advice for helping your children grow to be financially successful.
Be Responsible
The first thing you must consider when talking to your children about finances is if it is responsible to do so. While therapists in Highlands Ranch don’t like to start with a list of things not to do, it is important to keep the safety and integrity of your child at the utmost importance. As such, do not share frightening financial news with children who are not old enough to understand it, do not “guilt trip” your child by pointing out how much money they cost you, and for families of divorce, do not criticize your ex’s financial skills or contributions. In fact, don’t mention those at all!
Be Transparent
Keeping the above caveats in mind, you should try to be somewhat transparent with your children about finances so that they can see how handle them. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to tell your child “we are not going to buy that very expensive iPhone now, because it costs $700. We are going to buy you a nice refurbished one so we use our money wisely.” In general, you can also give your children an idea of the way adult finances work, such as explaining why adults have so many bills to pay, and explain that payment is like a reward for good work.
Set a Good Example
If you want to raise a child who grows up to be good with finances, start early. Set good examples, such as showing your child how the bank works and talking about why we save money instead of always spending it. Handle your debts promptly and make it clear that money must be respected, as must borrowing from friends or family members. Show your children what’s important by putting priorities first—even if that means waiting on new clothes or gifts. Promote the value of time and energy instead of just encouraging mass consumerism. Always convey an attitude that you, as a responsible parent, have the finances under control
Give A Chance to Practice
One of the things that child behavior psychologists in Littleton enjoy is giving kids a chance to practice and get hands-on skills with what we learn! To raise a financially responsible child, consider starting them with a junior savings account that earns a little interest. Most children enjoy visiting the bank, and most bank staff are happy to explain some things in a child-friendly manner. Use this account to work toward meaningful goals or purchases, and let your child experience the pride of watching their account grow. Praise efforts to delay gratification and spend wisely. Of course, if your child would rather spend, let them—this is all part of the experience.
For more tips on teaching your children life skills at any age, check back on this blog often. For a custom solution and advice, set up an appointment with a child psychologist today.

Harness the Power of Praise in 4 Simple Steps

Power of Praise

As social beings, we love doing a good job—and we love hearing the feedback on our successes! However, in an attempt to praise more, many people take the “easy” route—a simple “good job,” “nice work,” or “that was great” becomes a standard reply. And, just like other standard replies, this makes the praise less powerful and effective. Kids, being the apt little learners they are, catch on quickly, and tend to stop responding to praise. So how can you help your child to feel confident, proud, and accomplished, without “blowing smoke?” Read on to find out the 4 steps to harnessing the power of praise from a Littleton child behavior psychologist.

  1. Evaluation vs. Description. Consider these two statements: 1. “Your drawing is the best!” 2. “Wow! you used my favorite color, you drew a flower just like the one we saw yesterday, and everything is so creative and expressive!” Which would you prefer? The first is an example of evaluative praise, or praise that creates a judgment. The second is an example of descriptive praise, or praise that describes the reasons why you like something. Descriptive praise does not imply judgment, and clearly outlines what caused you to feel the way you did.
  2. Praise descriptively. Now that you know the difference between evaluative and descriptive praise, it’s time to start describing! Challenge yourself to replace at least one “good job!” or other generic praise statement with descriptive praise. It may surprise your child, and may be a challenge for you, but everyone can learn how.
  3. Observe your child “putting the pieces together.” Evaluative praise tells the child what to think. “You are smart,” “you are a great soccer player,” or “you are nice” all create a self-image for the child—that may or may not seem dependent upon effort or action. Worse, what if that “smart” child does poorly next time? Are they still smart? You know they are, but kids have a harder time. Instead, descriptive praise is more clear and effective, as it allows your child to put the pieces together to figure out their own judgment, and provides a great way for parents to model emotional reasoning. Instead of “that was nice,” try something like “when you offered to let your friend borrow your game for the weekend, that was a big sacrifice for you, I bet he is so happy and excited!” This will help your child see that his actions, not him as a person, are creating these feelings and making him a nice and generous person.
  4. Practice makes perfect! The great thing about praise is how many opportunities you have to practice it. This demonstrates your own gratitude and helps to point out the specific things that you want to see more of. Even when those things don’t happen, your child will not feel down on herself, but will continue to have a strong inner feeling of self-worth and pride.

When I work with children and parents in Littleton for ADHD counseling  or play therapy, we have plenty of opportunities to practice praise. Sometimes we try it out on Zeke, our therapy dog, and other times, we incorporate other evidence-based, proven strategies to help you and your child succeed. To find out more, or to set up an appointment, use the contact section on this website.



Top Four Active Listening Tips for a Strong Relationship

Strong Relationship

What’s the number one reason why people seek counseling and couples therapy in Highlands Ranch? Based on my clients, communication is the main reason! Too many couples find themselves constantly on “different pages,” missing one another’s messages, and struggling to communicate about the good, the bad, or the in-between. Some of the past blogs on this website have addressed ways to communicate with your partner in a healthy way , but that only deals with one side of the equation. When people seek to improve communication, they must address both parts: “sending” the message, or talking, and “receiving” it—listening. This post will review the five basic steps of active listening and how they can help you to build a stronger relationship.

  1. Pay attention! Easier said than done, but reminding yourself to pay attention is key to listening actively. This includes not looking at your phone, eliminating distractions, and setting your mind intentionally to listen. This shows the listener that you value their time and their thoughts.
  2. Show attention. How does the speaker know you’re listening? It’s usually obvious. Your body language speaks louder than words, so make sure you show it. You can accomplish this by making good eye contact, nodding or shaking your head at appropriate times, facing your speaker, and using small gestures where needed. This lets the person speaking know that you are actively listening and valuing their statements, strengthening the bond between you and the speaker.
  3. Check for understanding. A good deal of verbal communication is missed or misunderstood—check with the person speaking to make sure you truly understand what they are saying by asking a clarifying question (“is this your friend, John, or your brother, John?”), rephrasing their comments (“I hear you saying that your car is having problems and you’re not sure if you want to sell it”), or reflecting their emotions (“you’re sad about the business loss, but still feel motivated”). These statements demonstrate your understanding and open doors to correct miscommunications.
  4. Be polite. Don’t judge, interrupt, or dismiss someone who speaks to you. Easily said, but remember, this requires active, mindful effort!

Active listening means that you are focusing your thoughts, energy, and attention 100% (or close) on the other person and what they are saying. It requires your brain to be working hard, not to think of your next statement or argument, but working hard to truly understand and hear the person you are speaking with. This is just a small sample of the various skills that you would learn in intensive couples therapy in Littleton. To find out more or develop a personalized plan to improve relationships and communication, set up an appointment with Dr. Lazarus today.



Annoying Habits that Might Have a Purpose

Anyone who has or works with kids knows that they can do some pretty annoying things—in fact, most parents state that their children have at least one annoying habit that they would love to make disappear. But before you start digging out the reinforcements, you may want to consider the purpose of these annoying habits! That’s right, some of the most annoying things that your children do actually do serve a purpose—and those purposes might surprise you.

Putting things in their mouths. From thumbs, to fingernails, to pencils, some kids just love to put something in their mouth whenever they get the chance. For parents, this is not only annoying, but may trigger concerns about germs. The surprising finding? Kids who engaged in nail-biting or thumb sucking in childhood are less likely to have allergies by the time they reach their 30s, making this a potential immune booster.

Keeping a messy room, desk, locker, or other space. Do you feel like you are constantly begging for clean? Is it a battle to clear a walkway? If so, you may think your child is doomed to a life of disorganization . While this may or may not end up being true, recent research has found that messy people are often more goal-oriented—the effort that some would spend keeping a tidy space gets redirected into seeking order and goal achievement elsewhere. Turns out, your kid was right when he said “but mom, I have good grades even though my room is messy!”

Um… like… uh… If you have teens, you probably recognize these terms, otherwise known as “filler words.” Little sounds that fill in during a conversation are quite popular amongst teens, and can make even the most patient of listeners cringe. We have all been taught not to use these terms in presentations, but recent research actually shows that listeners understand and remember a speech better when there are a few filler words included, and that people who are highly conscientious often use these words in their conversations.

Chewing gum. Parents might remember the days when gum in school was linked with sticking on their noses—others just remember the “smack, smack, POP” noise that their children make  while chewing gum. But before you lose your cool à la the musical Chicago, consider this: kids who chew gum are more likely to feel awake and alert, which can help to support Littleton ADHD counseling. Some studies show that those who chew gum report a better mood and reduced stress hormones.

Do your kids have any of these annoying habits? By considering them from an adaptive, purpose-serving framework, you may just find yourself being a little more understanding… or at least resisting the urge to rip your hair out! Of course, any habit, big or small, that causes distress or poor functioning at school, at home, or with friends should be brought up with a trained child behavior psychologist in Littleton. Otherwise, try to see the silver lining—and don’t forget, adults have annoying habits, too!

If your child is showing a destructive or problematic behavior that goes beyond “annoying,” contact Dr. Steve Lazarus today to find out how to live a happier, healthier life!



Teach Your Kids to Set SMART Goals for the New Year

Setting “New Year’s Resolutions” is a tradition in many families, and for good reason: resolutions draw attention to the behavior that we would like to change and provide great motivation to do so. Unfortunately, most of the resolutions your kids make will likely fizzle out within a few days or weeks. While this is true for all children, children we see in Littleton with ADHD often struggle the most with following through with plans and staying organized. To help your child meet their goals, New Year’s or otherwise, consider helping them learn how to set SMART goals.

The acronym “SMART” comes from the business world, and refers to setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. For small children, the phrase “actually doable” can replace “attainable.” The idea is that, by setting better goals, behavior can be changed more easily. Consider this example: Your 10 year old is a motivated student, but always ends up turning in his math homework late because he forgets it. His New Year’s resolution is “turn my math homework in on time.” To change this into a SMART goal, the first thing that must be adjusted is the specificity. What is your child going to do to get that homework in on time? Is he going to put it in a special folder each night after mom and dad check it? Can he set a quiet reminder on his watch or phone to help him remember? Can he structure his environment so it is impossible to forget—such as by putting the math homework in the way of pencils and other tools? By being more specific, success is more likely!

The next elements that would improve this child’s goal-setting is to make it measurable—and, along with this, attainable and realistic. While some may strive for perfection, parents can help to set reasonable goals—and to update them over time! For example, if the child only manages to get his homework in on time once per week, a good goal might be to get it in on time three days per week. If he does well, the goal can always be changed! Finally, set a time-limit so the goal is not an endless chore. Good markers occur naturally, such as “for the month of January” or “until Spring Break,” and can be a good reminder to update goals.

SMART goal planning is not only a great way to express goals, it is a great way to process them mentally and ensure that all the steps are considered. For adults, this might come naturally, but kids can benefit from some assistance. If you are skilled in this area, teach these skills to your children; if you need more help, consider consulting with a Littleton child behavior psychologist for a parent and child skills boost. Dr. Lazarus has helped people old and young to feel more confident, achieve goals, and enjoy life to its fullest.


The Psychologist’s Guide to Gift-Giving for Kids

As the holiday season is in full-swing, many parents are wondering what to get the kids as gifts. Decades ago, gifts were a special occasion, and were likely to include anything from toys, to clothing, to uncommon fruits sold only during the holidays. However, today’s capitalistic culture means that these “gifts” are now found in everyday purchases. Chances are, your kids aren’t excited about a new pair of gym socks or a juicy orange, because these sorts of things are now viewed as necessities. In fact, toys are purchased just as often, which can lead parents, family, and friends wondering just what they can still buy for the kids… and, more importantly, what will be a valuable addition to the child’s growth. If you’ve met with a Littleton child behavior psychologist lately, you know that too much “stuff” can be a burden, and that many kids today are becoming overly materialistic. Here are some of the best gift-giving tips to help your child grow and succeed!

  1. Give experiences, not commodities. If your kids are buried under mountains of toys they never play with, give them something that will stand out—an exciting experience doing something they love! For example, consider taking a little one with an army of toy dinosaurs to visit a dinosaur museum, bring a teen with hair accessories strewn all over to the hair salon, schedule some time at the batting cages, go sledding—the sky is your limit! This shows the child that you value him enough to want to spend time with him, not just spend money. For “something to open up,” consider wrapping the tickets in a creative manner or including a little something that will be needed at the experience (a baseball bat for the batting cages, a new scarf for the sledding excursion, etc.).
  2. Give the joy of giving. People feel good when they give to others. Share this joy by taking a child with you on a volunteer trip! There are so many holiday opportunities at food kitchens, gift collections, coat collections, and so on. These are great opportunities to develop and practice strong social skills.
  3. Give gifts that promote connection. For example, a board game is pretty boring for one, but a great chance for family to engage. Some other great ideas include cooking sets, construction/building sets, or other activities made for two or more.
  4. Make “re-gifting” a family activity. We all have stuff we don’t use… challenge each family member to re-gift at least one possession to others who might use them more or like them better, emphasizing the fact that presents do not have to be new to be appreciated by someone else.

Of course, never be too inflexible! If your child is in love with the newest stuffed toy of the season, would climb a mountain to get credit for a video game, or anything else, this is still an okay time to splurge—however, for those who just seem “over” their material goods or need a boost toward something more meaningful, these ideas can help. To find out more about child development, check back on the blog regularly or call Dr. Steve Lazarus for children’s play therapy in highlands ranch.

Categories: parenting strategies, psychology news

How to Build Social Skills

One of the most common things that parents call a Littleton child behavior psychologist about is helping their child to develop and strengthen their social skills. While social skill development can be a challenge for any child, these skills can be particularly challenging for kids with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, or communication disorders. No matter what challenges your child may or may not face, building strong social skills can help him to succeed throughout his life. Read on to find out some starter tips for social skills development.

What are social skills?

Social skills are the processes that we use to socialize and communicate with others. This can include meeting and greeting, building friendships, communicating effectively, being assertive, resisting peer pressure, and handling conflict, among many other skills. Social skills often develop naturally, but some kids (and adults!) have a harder time with them than others.

How do I promote social skills?

A great way to help your child build social skills is to expose her to a variety of social situations throughout her life. This can involve meeting with friends, family, or neighbors, engaging in group activities, or joining clubs. Think about it: if you spent your life staying inside your house, only engaging with mom and dad or a few siblings, you might not learn the flexibility and communication that will help you in the wider world. It’s never too early—start bringing your child out as an infant to expose her to all sorts of different cultures and people.

Why do some children have a hard time with social skills?

A large number of factors play a role in social skill development. A child must have a good grasp of language, both verbal and nonverbal, the ability to control his or her behaviors, and the ability to take the perspective of another child. In some cases, these core processes are unsettled by things like distractibility or hyperactivity with ADHD, difficulty reading nonverbal language such as with Autism spectrum disorders, or inhibited by anxiety or depression. Some kids don’t have a diagnosis, but just aren’t as strong in social skills—though they might do great in other areas of intelligence and functioning. Some kids just don’t have a lot of social exposure.

My child isn’t getting it!

If you’ve taken plenty of steps to promote social skills development in your child and they just don’t seem to be working, it can help to work with a professional. In an individual or group setting, a psychologist in Littleton can help your child to understand how to engage in a “give and take” relationship with others, communicate feelings and needs clearly and respectfully, engage assertively with others, and build strong friendships. Dr. Steve Lazarus has helped many children to develop the social skills needed for success in life, and regularly runs groups that can help build these skills as well.

Sexuality and Relationships: How and When to Talk to Your Child

A question that child psychologists in Littleton often receive is “when do I talk to kids about sexuality and relationships?” Many parents are rightly concerned that today’s world and pop culture are far too sexualized, and that children are being exposed to these messages from a very early age. Unfortunately, unless you and your family live in a very secluded area, you will not be able to avoid these messages. From TV, to smartphone ads, to billboards on the highway, children are exposed to messages about sex and relationships that they may not understand. This can cause confusion and discomfort, or may encourage a child to become precociously interested in these topics—even though they have never experienced them firsthand. Here are some suggestions for handling sex and relationships in a modern age.

Work from your value perspective. By building up your family values to be as strong as they can be, all future discussion will be easier. This includes local culture, religion, and your own family’s unique way of doing things. Many people use their spiritual beliefs to teach children about the world, this area is no different.

Attend to biology. Especially with young children, the interest is more about the “what?” and “why?” of the situation, not the emotions. Children understand from a young age that creature of all types, including humans, pets, and bugs outside, engage in mating rituals and have body parts for those rituals. Explaining the biological purpose of these things will help children to feel more confident and can give them a leg up in biology class.

Set clear boundaries. Infants and young children have no “shame” or sense of privacy about their bodies. This is a social structure that only humans enjoy, and that has to be shaped over time. This is also area with many different boundaries. For example, while it may be perfectly acceptable for everyone in your household to walk around in underclothes, explain to your child why this behavior might not be acceptable in other people’s houses. Help your child to learn why his or her “private parts” are supposed to be private, and set clear boundaries about touching or talking about those private parts with others. Approach this issue not from a place of shame or embarrassment, but as keeping something very special (your child’s body) safe and respected.

Start early. As much as you might not want to believe it, most children have learned at least something about what sex is by the time they are in middle school, and are already thinking about dating relationships. Even if you forbid talk of these things in your house, chances are, they have heard it from friends. Make sure your child has the most accurate and responsible information by discussing it yourself. By the time they are old enough to leave the house, they will have heard your feelings on the topic enough times that they have taken it to heart!

If your child is showing sexualized behaviors that do not resolve with conversation and monitoring, or if you would like to find out more about how to talk to your child about issues like sex and relationships, contact a skilled psychologist. In Highlands Ranch, children’s play therapy can help your child to express confusion or thoughts about these and other difficult topics, and can help build strong skills for success in the future. Contact Dr. Lazarus today at to set up an appointment!

A Parent’s Guide to Social Media

Unless your kids are living under a rock or punitively banned from the internet, chances are, they are on social media. While younger kids aren’t always into this communication phenomenon, most are showing interest by the time they have finished grade school. But is social media really a place for your kids to be? Read on to find out more!

What is Social Media?

Social media may show up in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or any variety of new and different social networking outlets available online. This guide won’t go too far into detail about any particular social media outlet, because by the time you finish reading it, your kids might have already moved onto the next! These sites allow users to share stories, videos, pictures, and more, and to easily search the content through the use of hashtags, categories, or other tools. The goal of social media is to promote socialization; however, keep in mind that the goal of most social media businesses is to generate advertising revenue.

Why Should Kids Use or Not Use It?

Like visiting a playground or talking on the phone, social media is a way for people to connect—especially when working with tweens and teens, this connection can seem like a “vital” part of being “cool” and fitting in. Responsible kids might use social media to share a funny photo with their best friends, “check in” at popular locations, or share the deep and exciting ideas they have on their minds. Unfortunately, social media is also a place for a variety of predators, including bullies, adult predators, advertisers, and other teens who may not be on the best path in life. Social media may be a way for students to exercise peer pressure, expose kids to drug or alcohol use, sexualized activity, violence, and “drama” with peers.

How Can I Keep them Safe?

When thinking about your kids using social media, you might have the urge to say “no. Nope. Never!” but that might not always work. Consider a similar event of taking your child to busy shopping mall. You can’t control who or what your child will see there, and there are risks—but eventually, using public facilities and social networking are skills that your child will need to build. Consider these tips to keep them safe:

  • Start together. Explore the sign-up, registration, and settings with your child. That way, you both know these tools work.
  • Set boundaries. Just like you might tell a teen that he is absolutely not allowed in women’s lingerie stores, it’s okay to tell him that he cannot visit sexually explicit sites or engage with that material. Likewise, a “no spending” or “no sharing personal information” boundary should be established early on.
  • Plan for disaster. What should your daughter do if her new crush sends her a “snap” of his privates or requests one of hers? Your teen may not know how to respond to these situations, and it’s your job to give her these tools! When you discuss these situations in advance, your teen is less likely to “freeze up” or hide these things in the future.
  • Check in. Sign up for your own account, and let your child know when and how you will be checking in. Don’t “butt in” and try to be his friend on social media—just keep a watchful eye, just like when he has friends over.

If your child or teen is struggling with social media issues, consider seeking the advice of a Littleton child behavior psychologist. Dr. Steve Lazarus has plenty of experiencing helping kids (and parents!) navigate the challenging world of social media, and would be happy to share these insights with your family. To get started, fill out the Contact Form.

Categories: Parenting Strategies

Why to Continue Reading and Math this Summer

When summer break is on the horizon and the last few days of the school year approach, many kids start dreaming about leisure time, freedom from homework and responsibilities and long days spent relaxing in the sun with friends. The problem is that while summer is a great opportunity for kids to take a break and recharge, they don’t need months to do this.


In fact, the extended break actually does more harm than good, and results in a process known as summer learning loss. There are many reasons why this is detrimental, especially for kids who are preparing for college, so it’s important that parents encourage their kids to continue their studies— especially math and reading—throughout the summer months.

Summer Learning Loss in Reading and Math


Over the summer holidays, school children lose an average of two to three months’ worth of knowledge in certain subjects, particularly math and reading. As a testament to this, students perform worse on tests taken at the end of summer versus ones taken at the beginning. The reason is because humans learn best when education is continuous and without extended pauses.


Worse yet, these learning losses are cumulative; meaning a student finishing high school will have lost a great deal more knowledge due to extended summers than a child who’s only a few years into school.

Effects of Lost Knowledge


One of the most noticeable effects of summer learning loss is that teachers spend upwards of six weeks at the beginning of every new school year reviewing material from the previous year, rather than picking up where they left off. This can lead to children being bored and apathetic, and this is never a good way for children to approach their education.


Children who are bored or who don’t care about school aren’t likely to excel academically, and this can impact the rest of their lives, including whether they can attend college and what kinds of job opportunities are open to them.


Creative Ways to Encourage Summer Learning


While most children won’t want to spend extra time during their summer holiday focused on school, there are ways that parents can make summer learning more fun and enjoyable. For one, ask your child to keep a daily journal in which to chronicle events, write a continuing story, or practice other writing techniques that will fend off summer learning loss for literacy.


You can also start a book club with your child, where each of you reads the same book over a one- or two-week period, and at the end of the time you can get together to discuss things like theme, plot, the characters, and how you enjoyed the story. And along with being a vital life skill and a great way to spend quality time together, cooking is also an excellent way to keep up your child’s reading and math skills, thanks to things like recipes, grocery lists, ingredient quantities, and measurements.

Many Littleton child behavior psychologists have seen what happens when kids aren’t challenged at school, and this includes poor academic performance, behavioral problems, and disruptive behavior in the classroom. One easy way to prevent learning loss is to encourage your child to participate in educational activities during the summer months, particularly as they apply to reading and math.


The good news is that summertime affords many opportunities for parents to encourage fun, unique, and engaging methods of learning that will help kids retain the information they worked so hard to learn during the school year.