Dr. Rebecca Hershberg and Dr. Alison Locker
Little House Calls
How your clients refer to you:
Dr. Hershberg and Dr. Locker when we meet, then Rebecca and Alison
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, Ph. (347) 480-8704, Website: www.littlehousecalls.com
How many years have you been in business?
Rebecca started LHC in 2013, and Alison joined the practice in 2016.
How did you get your start and what was your initial inspiration?
Rebecca: In 2013, a friend asked me to give a talk for parents at the preschool she directs. At the time, I was working at Healthy Steps for Montefiore, an infant and toddler mental health promotion program integrated within a variety of outpatient pediatric practices in the Bronx. “I’ve heard you describe what you do,” she explained, “and I think that our parents could really benefit.” I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant. In the Bronx, I worked with parents and children in highly stressed, resource-poor communities, many of whom had been exposed to trauma. And my friend wanted me to come speak to parents on the Upper West Side?
I’m glad I decided to trust her. The talk I gave to the Parents’ Association at my friend’s school was the day that Little House Calls was born. As I spoke — about infant brain development, toddlers’ social-emotional skills and ways to promote positive behavior in preschoolers — parents began raising their hands — and asking really good questions. Several parents approached me afterward: “Do you have a card?” They asked. At the time, I didn’t. And then one mother laughed, “Can’t you just come to our house during bath time one day,” she joked, “and see our daughter in action?” Unfortunately, of course, I couldn’t. But then, why not?
The first of my two sons was born the following March. And despite all my experience with parents and their kids, being a first-time parent was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I couldn’t imagine becoming a mom without all of the training I’ve had, and yet the training had all been for professional, not personal, reasons. Most new parents are, obviously, not early childhood psychologists; somehow, though, they’re expected to know how to handle every unexpected curveball they’ll be thrown simply by virtue of their decision to have a baby. And if they can’t, or if they need some extra support, then reading a book, or a few articles, is supposed to do the trick. Except it rarely works out that way. Because our children and our parenting — let’s face it, our lives — are complicated. There’s no such thing as one size fits all.
And thus, was born Little House Calls.
Alison: Parent work has always been my favorite part of working with young children, and while I loved being in schools, I wanted to work with families in a deeper way. I met Rebecca when I was the psychologist at Avenues, and I knew immediately I had found my perfect partner! We think and practice in the same way, and both of us are focused on the connection between parent and child as the building block for child development.
What do you feel differentiates you from others in your field?
Our approach is flexible and pragmatic, underscoring both the critical role of a healthy parent-child relationship and the recognition that early childhood has a wide developmental track; sometimes kids (and parents) just need a little nudge to set them back on course. We recognize every family has different needs, and we tailor our approach to accommodate these differences. We see families in our offices (Columbus Circle, Tribeca, and Lower Westchester), and also do house calls and day care or school observations as needed. Our model is rooted in the idea that very often parents need short-term consultation rather than long-term therapy, although we do offer the latter as well.
What do you feel gives you longevity?
We hope that our longevity will grow from our flexible approach. Parenting young children can be incredibly rewarding and joyful, but is also really hard! We offer support that meets families exactly where they are, providing guidance around a range of developmental challenges, including how to manage tantrums, picky eating, fears and anxieties, bedtime, setting limits, sibling issues, and "trouble listening." In some cases, parents want to meet for one session to ask a few targeted questions and get some tools for a particular situation, and in other cases we spend more time with families undertaking a deeper dive into the more complicated interactions and dynamics at play. Our flexibility extends beyond our approach, however, and into our interpersonal styles as well. We’re both not only experienced child psychologists, but also moms who live the ups and downs of parenthood day in and day out. We want our clients to know we can help them, but also that we get them, and get this whole stage of life – if you can’t bear the thought of changing out of your spit-up covered sweats to make it to our offices, then we’ll happily come to your home instead. We work with, and are ourselves, real parents – which comprises the good, the bad, and the ugly (read: caked spit-up sweats).
What is your favorite part of your job?
Alison: As parents we all have emotional blind spots, and it is incredibly gratifying when parents begin to understand how their own “stuff” may be impacting their parenting. When parents recognize their own challenges, they are much better able to connect and to be attuned to their children’s needs. Once that happens, shifting children’s behavior is the easy part!
Rebecca: Helping parents learn how to simply be with their little ones – stop moving for a few moments, stop doing, stop controlling – so that they’re able to tune into their own parenting instincts. It’s when parents get out of their own way that the miracles happen. Being there for that, let alone helping to create it, feels like a true gift every single time.
What is your favorite secret NYC spot?
Alison: It’s not exactly secret, but the Hall of Mammals at the Museum of Natural History is the best indoor play space for NYC kids. All three of my kids learned to walk there. The bars in front of the exhibits are exactly the right height for little kids to pull themselves up, and the room is as big as a football field so there is lots of space to explore!
Rebecca: The Ramble in Central Park. Genuinely feels like the country up there. Right after it rains, there’s no one around, and it’s a beautiful, serene place to enjoy nature within the confines of the city – with or without the little ones in tow.
How do you benefit mamas?
Our entire practice is designed to support mothers (and fathers too). There are endless questions that mothers face when raising young children (as moms we have both had them and continue to have them), and it’s hard to sort out all of the childrearing advice of grandparents, teachers, online “experts” etc. We have both worked with countless parents who are all facing different versions of the same kinds of parenting challenges, so part of our work is helping moms be a little more forgiving of themselves. We recognize that when a child needs to be asked 12 times to brush his teeth, it’s a source of endless frustration for parents, and those small struggles can explode into unnecessary battles. Saying “no” and yelling all the time is no fun for anyone. We try to offer simple tools that help moms preserve their sanity through the trickiest moments with their little ones!
What is your most memorable feedback a client has given you?
Alison: I still have a card from the mother of a child patient I saw in graduate school. She said that when her son first started to see me she felt like a failure as a mother, but that changed in our work together. She told me at the end that I helped her see her son in a way she hadn’t before, and she felt proud of him and proud of herself for raising him.
Rebecca: I once had a mother tell me that I had helped her become the mom she always wanted to, and knew she could, be, and the one she herself had never had. It was an incredibly poignant moment that touched me deeply.
Pay it forward and name your top colleague in the same field or related field:
Alison: Dr. Arietta Slade, my mentor and friend, taught me everything I know about attachment theory and gave me all the best tools to work with parents. Dr. Kate McKnight is a psychiatrist and childhood anxiety specialist with a totally different set of tools, so I refer to her often when children have serious phobias and suffer from other types of acute anxiety that may require a different kind of expertise.
Rebecca: I work collaboratively with some amazingly skilled professionals (and moms). Dr. Deena Blanchard is a pediatrician at Premier Pediatrics in Manhattan and Brooklyn, whose medical skills are paralleled only by her warm bedside manner and sense of humor (premierpedsny.com/dr-deena-blanchard/). Dr. Elizabeth Cohen is an adult psychologist with expertise in both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Somatic Experiencing. When I’ve worked with parents who needed more long-term work than I could offer, I’ve referred them to Dr. Cohen for treatment, with striking results (drelizabethcohen.com/).
What is the best advice anyone’s ever given you? Or what is your “mantra” / words to live by?
Alison: When my oldest daughter was in her first year of nursery school and having a hard time with separation, Nancy Schulman, then the director of the 92nd Street Y and now at Avenues, offered a piece of wisdom that is still relevant for my three teenagers (ages 19, 17, and 13). She said, “when you are getting ready to leave your daughter DO NOT ask her if its ok. Of course it’s not ok! She won’t be happy about it, but leaving is not a question, so don’t ask her permission.” I use that line with parents all the time. I say that asking a 3-year-old if it’s ok to leave them alone at school is like saying to my 17-year-old “I’m going out for the night so no party in our apartment OK?” You realize very quickly that you don’t need to add the “ok.”
Rebecca: I often think about Maya Angelou’s famous quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I often share these words with clients and try to internalize and draw on them when I’m with my own boys. As parents, we get so stuck on the little things, the content of our interactions with our kids, what we did or didn’t say or should or shouldn’t have said in a particular moment. In the end, though, it all comes down to how your child feels when he (or she) is with you. Which is not to say he’ll never feel upset or frustrated or cranky – he will (we all do). But overall, if a child feels safe with and loved by his parents – as the context for those other emotional experiences – then everything else is icing on the cake. And it’s not just Maya Angelou – the research says this too!
Our LHC mantra is “Love and Limits.” To expand on that, decades of research demonstrate that “good enough” parenting – the kind that most frequently leads to the development of healthy, well-adjusted children – involves two equally important dimensions: warmth and structure, that is, Love and Limits. Young children not only need to be loved, but also to feel loved. Part of feeling loved is feeling safe, knowing that the grown-ups in their lives are making the rules and calling the shots in predictable, consistent ways. So, while love and limits may feel like conflicting priorities, the latter is in fact part of how we demonstrate the former.
As moms, the day can escape us, what is your best time-saving trick?
Alison: The teachers I’ve worked with over the years always roll their eyes when I say this, but just put your kids’ shoes on for them in the hall or in the elevator or on the street or wherever. Honestly, none of us have 20 minutes to wait for a 3-year-old to put on his/her own shoes. I promise you that someday you will not be putting on your 14-year-old’s sneakers! That goes the same for getting dressed in general. They are so little. Just help them put their shirts or pants on (always elastic waist to avoid accidents because little kids need to save time too!) They will all figure out how to get dressed by themselves eventually, for better or worse!
Rebecca: As parents, we get so focused on crossing off items on our to-do list that we end up neglecting self-care. And by self-care, I don’t mean getting a massage, or going to yoga, or getting a mani-pedi – though sure, those things are great. I mean simply eating when you’re hungry, sitting and resting when you’re tired, or going to the bathroom to take a few deep breaths when you feel like you might lose your mind. We don’t do those things because we say, and truly feel, we don’t have time. Yet when we don’t care for ourselves, other things – particularly tasks involving our kids – take longer, because we come at them from a more irritable, exhausted place. And so, we snap when our little ones dawdle, and we get into power struggles, and we feel resentful – all of which makes everyday tasks take much more time. In the end, spending those few moments taking care of ourselves is actually a time-saver.
Don't forget to check out their book The Tantrum Survival Guide available here: https://www.amazon.com/Tantrum-Survival-Guide-Toddlers-Craziness/dp/1462529712/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1523970359&sr=8-2&keywords=tantrum+survival+guide