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The Secret to Staying Positive

I sent this blog out on Jan 24th of this year, before COVID, quarantine, remote learning, the publicizing of the many racial injustices, and the Presidential Election. Even though our world has changed, the concept hasn’t. What we say to ourselves and what/who we surround ourselves with can keep us positive, or drive us to the negative. You have a major impact in managing you. I’ve changed one word in the blog below.  

Parenting Life can be very hard! The stakes are high, we don’t want to mess it up. It’s really important to us, and many of us are also juggling a job, caring for our parents, staying healthy, contributing to our community, keeping socially connected, and managing a marriage or other significant relationship, among other priorities. Many people have done some self-reflection work and made an effort only to surround themselves with people that are encouraging, supportive and aligned with their values. The fact is that it’s not someone else’s job to be responsible for our encouragement. As the quote states above, YOU are the most critical person in managing your balance, attitude, and perception of yourself. 

Below are some typical things parents say to themselves that don’t serve them. After that are some replacement affirmations to encourage and help you keep perspective.

Negative thoughts on parenting life – Are you saying some of these? What might your feelings and actions be if you are?

  • Why is this so hard?
  • I know better than to say that.
  • Again?!?!
  • I have too many things to do.
  • I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • My kids are so selfish.
  • What a brat.
  • They never think about anyone else.
  • Oh my God I’m creating monsters!

Try saying some of these affirmations to yourself and see how differently you feel. 

  • I’m doing the best I can given the resources I have.
  • I’m learning and growing as a parent everyday, just as they are learning and growing as children.
  • The things that need to get done will get done.
  • This too shall pass.
  • My kids don’t need me to be perfect, just to be me.
  • Taking care of myself is not selfish, it’s self-full.
  • Tomorrow is a new day. 
  • Things always look better in the morning.
  • There’s always a belief behind the behavior and it may not be what I’m assuming.

What are some positive things you say to encourage yourself?

If you’d like to surround yourself with positive parents who are learning and growing just like you, come to the Co-Co on Nov 11 for Office Hours to ask questions and talk positive parenting. Everyone is welcome. Details and registration HERE. Get 20% off with my code PARENTING.

Building Disappointment Muscles

Your preschooler cries everyday when you drop her off at school, your 9-year-old just found his sneaker was chewed up by the dog, or your teen didn’t make the varsity squad and is crushed.

All of these situations are upsetting to your children, and may be to you as well. We all want to jump in and take the sting away for our children, to protect them from sadness and disappointment. However, when doing that we are not strengthening them and helping them grow, we are buffering them from the reality that there will be disappointments in life. As well, we are subtlety communicating that we don’t think they are strong enough to handle negative feelings. Here are 3 (of many) ways you can look at these opportunities as a way to build resilience.

Have faith
Noticing when your children have been strong and reminding yourself that they are capable of handling tough situations will enable you to communicate that as hard as this is in the moment, that they are strong enough to get through. Also have faith in yourself that you can get through too. You can!

Remember the value of practice
If each time our children face disappointment we soften it or take on the feelings for them by spending an extra 10 minutes with the crying preschooler at drop off, immediately replacing the chewed shoe, or badmouthing the coach that didn’t put our kid on the team, we’re removing the opportunity for our children to experience the feeling and depend on themselves. Each experience is an opportunity to practice being disappointed and build the muscles to work it through.

Manage yourself
Resist the urge to succumb to your feelings of guilt, anger, injustice, or sadness as you won’t be able to attend to your child. Focus on validating their feelings and their ability to handle them.

Given all this, what do you specifically do?

Give your preschooler a big hug. Say “I love you and I know you’re going to have fun. I’ll see you right here when school is over,” turn her  over to the teacher, and walk away. Show up on time at pick up and acknowledge how brave she was to spend the whole time as school.

To your 9-year-old, say “Oh wow, Rocky did a number on your shoe, that’s so disappointing that it’s ruined. 😟 What other choices do you have to put on your feet today?” Give a hug.

To your teen, offer “I know you had your heart set on playing varsity this year, I’m sorry it didn’t turn out the way you pictured it. I’ve seen you handle disappointing things before, and I’m confident you’re going to handle this one too. I know it just hurts right now.”  Give a hug, if he’ll let you.

With opportunity, practice, and support from you, your children will come to learn that things don’t always turn out the way we want, and we are strong enough, and creative enough, to navigate the disappointments. We have strong muscles.

If you’d like help more consistently empowering your children to handle their own challenges, book a 30 minute consult with me HERE.

Until next time remember, parenting matters.

Just Pause – The “Hmmm” Response

The idea of a pause before reacting keeps appearing in my life, from a meditation teacher I spoke with recently that helps moms be more mindful, to a reference to Le Pause, the way French mothers are encouraged to wait 5 minutes when a sleeping baby starts crying to help the child learn how to get themselves back to sleep. It reminded me of this article I wrote a few years ago.

The “Hmmmm” Response

Your 9 year-old child tells you about a problem. For example:

  • “I forgot my worksheet at school.”
  • “I left my jacket at practice.”
  • “I need poster board for the project that’s due tomorrow.”
  • “My jeans are in the wash and I have to wear them today.”

Kids are not perfect. We all forget sometimes. We all make mistakes. How do we typically handle their comments? We come up with an answer, we problem-solve. In our minds it happens in a split second because we’ve been doing it our whole lives.

It might go like this:
Child: “I forgot my worksheet at school”
Mom: “Well I guess we’re going to have to be late for dance class and go back and get it.”

Quick, efficient, problem solved, right? Maybe for the moment, however, how is the child feeling? (guilty, inadequate, stupid) How is the parent feeling? (aggravated) Is the child going to do something differently next time? Maybe, maybe not. 

Kids have much less experience than we do. The question is, if we solve the problem for them, how will they get that experience if they don’t have to solve it themselves? That’s where “Hmmmm” comes in. Rather than immediately giving them a solution, stop and think “Who’s problem is this?” and if it is theirs, acknowledge with empathy that it is a problem for them. The conversation could go like this:

Child: “I forgot my worksheet at school.” **

Mom: “Hmmmm, that is a problem. I wonder what you could do to solve that?”

Child: “Can you take me back there now?”

Mom: “We’ll be late to your dance class if we do that. What other ideas do you have?”

Child: “Mom, why can’t you take me?”

Mom: “You have a commitment to be at dance class on time. I know you are a good problem solver, let’s think about other ways you could get your worksheet or a copy of it.”

Child: “I can’t think of any.”

Mom: “Who might be in your class that would have a copy?”

Child: “Ashley.”

Mom: “Can you call her and ask if she could scan it and send it to you?”

Child: “I guess.”

Mom: “If that doesn’t work out, what will happen if you don’t hand it in tomorrow?”

Child: “I’ll get a zero…but my teacher lets us miss one assignment per semester, I could use that, or I could get to school early and try to finish it before school starts.”

Mom: “Those are possibilities too. Which one would you like to try?”

Child: “Can I use your phone to call Ashley now?”

Mom: “Sure, we have to leave for dance in 5 minutes.”

Refusing to take over the child’s problem and coaching them through solving it themselves trains the child to think of many solutions, empowers them to take responsibility for their own actions, and encourages them to depend on themselves. Over time the child will stop trying to turn the problem over to you because they’ve prevented it or solved it themselves already. 

“Hmmmm” gives you the opportunity to pause and remember to leave the responsibility for solving the problem where it belongs, and grow more responsible, confident, empowered children.

**Note: At the initial statement of the problem, watch your self-talk. If you say to yourself “I can’t believe she forgot AGAIN!”, you will immediately be annoyed, stressed, and unable to calmly deal with the situation. If you can replace that with saying to yourself “How can I use this to help her learn how to solve this problem herself?”, you’ll stay calmer and see it as a training opportunity rather than a huge emotional inconvenience.

Book NOW for a complimentary 30 min breakthrough parenting phone session with me to hear how you can do this at Book a Session. There are more ways to help kids develop problem solving skills and manage your self talk. 

The Power of Choice

Many parents strive for a relationship of give-and-take, cooperation, and harmony with their children. One way to encourage a more cooperative atmosphere is to give choices.

It’s important that the choice is not IF something will be done, it should be WHEN or HOW. It’s not, “Will you put your pants on?” rather “Which pants will you put on, the blue or the black?” or for older children, “We’re going out to dinner at 6, what time will you be home so you can get ready?”.

Many parents don’t like this idea of choices as it gives them less control and predictability. For the same reason, our children don’t like NOT having choices, because they don’t have control or predictability. It’s not a matter of who has power or control, it’s a matter of distributing the control in such a way as to help the child gain experience while getting the work of the family done. Thus, it is important that the choices are acceptable to the parent. Free choice for children to do whatever they want, whenever they want, is not acceptable either. Freedom within limits is healthy and promotes problem solving, decision-making, and responsibility.

Here are some ideas about choosing when something will be done:

Allow them to choose if chores or homework get done immediately after school, before dinner, or right before bed (depending on the task). If it is a job that needs to be done at a certain time (for example, the dog needs to be fed before school), let them choose if they will feed upon getting up, after teeth are brushed, or after breakfast. If the dog follows them around for 30 minutes until he’s fed, the child is experiencing the consequences of not feeding the dog early enough.

Here are some ideas on choosing how something gets done:

Given that you’ve trained them on the task, for example, that the clothes need to go in the bathroom hamper, the books are put away in the book shelf neatly standing up straight, and the toys are put into the toy box neatly enough to put the top on, you agree to when the room will be cleaned up.

The process they use may be to:

  • Pick up all the clothes from floor (from all areas of the room)
  • Put away all the books (from all areas of the room)
  • Put the toys in toy box (from all areas of the room)
OR, they may:
  • Go to one corner of the room, put the toys, books and clothes from that corner away, then move on to next corner.
You may have a preference of your way of getting it done (and of course that is the “right way” – haha). Guess what…they have their “right way” too! As long as it’s getting done by the agreed-upon time, who cares?Allowing them to select the method and the timing gives them some freedom and control. As well, it gives them the opportunity to learn what is efficient for them and what is not. Insisting on your logic and process takes away the necessary process of thinking it through, a process that develops their problem solving. It also diminishes their power and control by keeping you the one in charge. This will spawn power struggles in other areas. As well, it communicates that they don’t have to be responsible for anything because you will take the responsibility and just tell them what to do. How can they take responsibility if you don’t give it to them?

Try giving your children more and more choices as they grow and you will see more cooperation, greater independence, and competence.

Be the Parent

I saw an article in The Wall Street Journal yesterday titled:
Be The Parent Your Teen Needs. Most parents of teens that I work with say things to me like:

I need my teenager to clean their room.

My teen needs to study for SATs.

My teen thinks I’m an ATM and always needs money!

When we look at it from the perspective of the teen, what do they really need, and are you providing it?

The article talks about intellectual, social, emotional, and physical (brain) development at different specific ages and that as your child grows their needs change. What strikes me most is that teens need firm and friendly training, boundaries (appropriate ones!) , trust, connection with you, and an atmosphere that allows them to make mistakes and to learn from them.

The point is: when teens are receiving support, encouragement, coaching, and some control over their choices, they start cooperating, are motivated, and participate with the family. They are also developing decision-making, problem solving, and relationship skills that will serve them once they leave the nest and last a lifetime.

So if you find yourself over-focusing on a clean room, SATs, or why they keep putting their hand out for money, look at what they are learning and focus more on what they need to learn while they are still under your roof, and, how as parents you can help them learn it.

How are you serving their needs for growth and development?

A link to the article is below:

Lying and Labeling

What do you do when you know  your child did something that you consider wrong?

When we know that our kids did something wrong, it’s better, more respectful and less threatening, to talk to them using a statement and not a question. A question accuses them and sets them up to lie to us.

For example:

1. Instead of asking “did you brush your teeth?” you can say “today we brush our teeth twice”, giving them a second chance to brush. The child knows he didn’t brush and he knows that you know he didn’t brush. This statement prevents labeling him as a liar. Also, we would never ask our boss or friend to open their mouth and let us smell to see if they remembered to brush their teeth, and that is why we shouldn’t do it with our kids. It’s disrespectful and trying to catch them in a lie.

2. Instead of asking the child “did you take this from Johnny’s house?” you can say “This is not ours. Looks like we need to drive to Johnny’s house and return it.” This statement prevents labeling him as a liar or a thief.

There are risks to labeling our children. If one child in the family is known as “the student” and another “the athlete”, they will most likely not try to develop any skills outside of that as that is what they perceive they are good at and nothing else. As well, if one child excels in an area, the siblings will likely choose not to compete in that area because that position is already taken and they don’t see an opportunity of competing for that skill. The risk of labeling your child is that they may end up believing the label and limit their potential to experience and develop themselves in other areas.

Labels that can be harmful or limiting:

The Baby
The boys
The girls
The smart one
The pretty one
The responsible one
A slob

Also, once we’ve dubbed our child “The _______” we cannot think of or operate as if they are anything but that. Our behavior will subconsciously communicate that that is our belief.

Seeing your child as a unique individual and calling them by name is more empowering, and gives them the gift of seeing them for who they are, not who you wish they were (or weren’t).

What labels do you use when describing your kids? What could you use instead?

School’s Out

I think it was the end of 2nd grade, I remember the feeling on the last day of school, a euphoria, school was out!!! What freedom I felt! No more responsibilities, 3 months of lazy days, great weather, fun activities, sleeping a little bit later, getting to play outside, what a great feeling!

That feeling continued each year, regardless of my summer plans, even when I had various summer jobs and in college when I was going home for the summer. I did have responsibilities, but it was different. I didn’t have “the work” hanging over my head. Don’t get me wrong, I liked school, my friends, activities, and even some of the schoolwork, but the feeling of freedom from the school responsibilities was still wonderful.

As a parent of school-aged children, the end of the school year still held that euphoria. Less management of their activities, less structure to our days, more leeway in what we needed to accomplish, and more enjoyment of each other with fun activities.

At least that was the vision. The reality at times was being the referee to sibling squabbles, an urge to be the ultimate planner of everyone’s activities, and resistance from my children to follow the plan that I had made. All of that led to exhaustion.

The solution for me to get more enjoyment out of our summers was to shift from being the Family Brain, to a team leader of sorts. To realize that our family was just that, OURS, not just mine and to make it a smooth running, thriving team, it meant I needed to share some of the responsibility, recognize how capable my children were to solve their own problems (see The Joy of Boredom article for ways to do this), and train and encourage them to manage their own lives. The shift to that new positive family took a long time, however, it was worth every ounce of effort, minute, mile, and dollar. It was an investment in my children to allow them to grow, an investment in myself to know I was being the best parent I could be, and an investment in the future relationships I would have with my husband and children.

So, school’s out, are you looking for a summer of euphoria or are you anxious about extra free time and the difficulties it may cause? Take some time to start your shift to positive parenting that creates a loving family that works, grows, and enjoys together by taking a class. In the meantime, here are some extra tips to help immediately:

Give Your Child Everything He Wants (What!?)

Sometimes our children ask us for things that are unreasonable, inconvenient, against our good judgment, or just not possible. Rather than being annoyed, trying to explain and use logic, or even flat out saying “No”, give your child everything he wants in wishful thinking. This is a very powerful tool that can tremendously decrease tantrums, whining and power struggles.

Here are a few examples:

  1. When your child says “Take the baby back to the hospital” you can say “You wish you were still our only child in the house and we would only play and love you.”
  2. When your child wants a cookie before dinner you can say “I bet you wish you could finish the whole package of cookies right now.” You can also take one cookie, put it in a bag, and write his name on it.
  3. If your child is whining for chocolate milk, you could say “You sound like you wish you had a whole swimming pool of chocolate milk right now.”
  4. When your child wants to play a game and not do homework or chores you can say “Most kids wish they could play all day long and have no homework or chores.”
  5. When you are driving in the car and your child says he is thirsty, you can say  “Wouldn’t it be great if the back of the seat had a faucet that poured cold water out of it.” “What would you want to come out of the faucet, apple juice or milk?” or “Maybe we could have another spout that gave M&Ms.”

Many parents are very skeptical when hearing about this tool. Most of the time it takes them one try to see that it works. Wishful thinking works because it is fun, playful and empathetic (and not sarcastic or mean).

Make sure that you don’t talk after saying this one sentence. Just give your child what he wants in wishful thinking and continue your business, leave the room or just stay quiet.

What does it mean to feel valued?

A number of years ago I went for a checkup with my doctor. She was at a new practice and when I asked her why she switched from the old practice she told me that she hadn’t been happy there for a while. She was having trouble putting her finger on why and had a conversation with her sister to try to talk it through. Her sister asked:

  • whether she was having conflicts with the other doctors, staff or the patients?
  • had the work lost its luster for her?
  • was the job interfering with her family life?
  • The answer to all of those questions was no.

When the sister then asked, “Do you feel respected in the practice?” The doctor replied, “yes”. Then, “Do you feel valued?”. The doctor thought a moment and said, “That’s it! I’m just another good doctor that works here. I am not a part of things, I’m not asked about my opinion of where we are going or what we are doing as a practice. I don’t belong, I just follow instructions and that is not OK with me. I want to be important, I want my opinion to matter, I want to help improve the way we all work together.”

Don’t we all want to make a difference? To belong to the group? To have a say in things, a say that matters? I venture to say that your children (and partners) feel the same. We are social creatures living in a social world. That requires us to set a course, get along, create together, and be important. How are you valuing your family members today?

Here are some suggested ways to value the contributions made by the individuals in your family:

Express your appreciation

for who they are as well as for the things they do to help. Illustrate how it benefits the whole group. “Cleaning up all those toys in the family room made it a lot more comfortable for everyone when we watched the movie last night. Thanks.”

Ask for input and consider everyone’s opinion without judgment.

“So I hear 4 ideas for how to celebrate Grandma and Grandpa’s anniversary: Make them a special card, have a party, take them to dinner, make up a play and act it out for them.”

Take turns with chores

or picking out what’s for dinner, or deciding who gets which seat in the car and follow through with the choices. (Adults take a turn too).

Children will be a lot more flexible when they know that they get to make contributions too and that those contributions are valued.

Why do I have to say everything 10 times?

Almost all parents who attend my classes say that they are sick of being ignored. They don’t understand why they have to constantly repeat themselves until the child listens or acts.

Nagging and not responding are very frustrating, annoying, and disrespectful for both parents and children.

One simple solution is to say your request only one time, and when tempted the second time, take action. Here are a few examples:

  1. When your child is playing with his food, you can ask him “would you please finish your lunch.” If he continues to play, you need to act – just calmly take his plate and say “It looks like you’re not hungry. The next meal is dinner.”
  2. Your child agreed to clean the living room at the end of a TV show. If he forgets and continues to watch, you can say “toys on the floor”, and if that doesn’t help, just act – turn off the TV.
  3. When it’s time to go to school and the child is dawdling, you can say “I am leaving in 5 minutes.” When the child is not ready, just pick him up as he is and get in the car (you can have his clothes and shoes in a bag). No need for words just action.

We need to respect ourselves, in order for our kids to respect us. Repeating and nagging teaches the kids not to take us seriously. This interaction has to be low key and in a firm, friendly, and respectful voice. This is not a punishment, it’s an opportunity to teach your child to follow his agreements (picking up toys at the end of the show) or the needs of the situation (meal time, getting to school/work on time).



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