It's the smaller behavioral problems that are most common among children. However, those problems are also the ones that get the least attention, sometimes to the detriment of the child, a Missouri pediatrics professor says.

(Written by SLPM Self-care staff) His advice: Enlist the child's pediatrician to help head off little problems before they grow into big ones.

"Parents can't get their children to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom. These are the things that get parents frustrated. They're not exciting, but they affect a lot of people," says Edward Christophersen, a psychologist and pediatrics professor at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

"Yet, while we have professionals in the mental health field to work with those children who have severe problems, common behavioral problems are not addressed. It's a missing piece," Christophersen says. "A parent isn't going to take his child to a psychologist three times at $150 for each visit because his son won't brush his teeth."

Christophersen outlined his recommendations to pediatricians during a workshop this week at the American Academy of Pediatrics' National Conference and Exhibition in Boston.

What's needed, he says, is for pediatricians to be on the lookout for common behavioral problems -- such as trouble getting along with other kids -- when children come for checkups. Then the doctor can advise parents on the best course of action.

"Parents see their pediatricians as the best source of information for their children, but that expertise is not being capitalized on," Christophersen says, adding that only 40 percent of parents ask their doctors questions about their child's behavior.

"People say, 'Oh, he'll grow out of it.' But if problems are identified at age 3 and left untreated, by age 9, 67 percent of those children will still have problems," he says.

Mindful of the limits on a doctor's time, Christophersen suggests that when parents bring their children in for a checkup, they could fill out a simple questionnaire in the waiting room.

Two short tests that have been developed are called "PEDS" and "IEYBERG." They ask parents questions like, "Do you have a concern about your child's behavior?" And, "Does your child get along with other children?" Christophersen says.

"This is much better than asking parents if they have any questions, or asking, 'How's this boy of yours?'" he says.

The results of the questionnaires would give the doctor a much better idea of how to help the child -- and the parent.

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