"Every child deserves Great Parenting & every parent deserves the Joy that Great Parenting can bring."


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).

The Joy of Boredom

How is your winter break going? Are the natives getting restless? Are you? Are you battling your children’s boredom from unstructured time?

As a child when my brothers and I would whine to my mom, “I’m bored.” She’d say, “Boredom is a high space!”. We had no idea what she was talking about, yet we moved on and found something to do. As a parent I understand now what she was saying, out of boredom, comes creativity. We, as parents, can nurture that creativity with a few simple actions.


Frequently the “I’m bored” statement is a call for some connection time. When Mom or Dad are too busy for too long, the kids just need to reconnect. Find a stopping point and give them 5 minutes of your attention.

Don’t solve, do brainstorm

Hearing “I’m bored” can be a huge burden on the parent if the parent is taking on the responsibility of solving the problem. It is not your job as parent to be the constant entertainer and when you are, you are only perpetuating their boredom and robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to entertain themselves. Let them know that it’s their job to find something to do and offer to brainstorm some potential activities, and make sure they are offering up as many ideas as you are. You can also create an activity jar full of ideas. Whenever they are bored, they can pick 3 ideas and choose which one to do. Just coming up with ideas to put in the jar is an activity in itself.

Just a few sample ideas are:

  • Pet the dog
  • Make a club
  • Create a tongue-twister
  • Get a ruler and measure things
  • Match the socks
  • Straighten a cabinet
  • Create a recipe
  • Count how many times you can bounce the ball
  • Build a fort
  • Make an I love you card
  • Plan and put on a show
  • Invent a game
  • Make an obstacle course
  • Write a story
  • Limit the screens

It is so easy to let the screens (tablets, phones, tvs, computers) be the babysitter.

However, since that technology is designed to be dopamine producing and will restrict development of problem solving, creativity, physical activity, social activity, (shall I go on), it’s critical to limit the use of the screens so that kids can practice self-directed play. Remember the value of books, toys, crafts, even a cardboard box.

If you’re finding the kids complaining of boredom too frequently:

  • Examine how structured their time is, maybe they need some practice with unstructured time.
  • Look at whether they regularly have the opportunity to solve this problem themselves, or if the parents or babysitters are providing the solutions.
  • Set aside some time for focused attention from you on a regular basis, they may be discouraged and need some connection time with you.

Giving your children the chance to navigate their way through the “high space of boredom” can be a valuable lesson.

The Greatest Gift

Many of us struggle with the right gifts to give our children around the holidays. It’s fun to give them gifts that light up their faces and they enjoy. The things, as we all know, tend to be temporary and won’t last all year. There is something, however, that will be a gift that you can give your children all year long and that will last a lifetime.

The gift of appreciation

Communicating to your children everyday what you appreciate about them is a practice that will build and encourage them as well as train them to become appreciative of who they are and what they have in their lives.

The definition of appreciate is: to recognize the full worth of. What if we were communicating regularly that our children are fully worth it, just because?

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Note how they belong to the family: “You’ve got my eyes and Daddy’s chin.”
  • Step back and look at them like you did when they were newborns, what do you see?
  • Perhaps a strong sense of humor, or a desire to figure things out, tell them your observations: “Your curiosity will help you learn a lot.” or “I enjoy laughing with you!”
  • Acknowledge their contribution: “You setting the table tonight gave us a nice place to eat together as a family.”
  • Make observations about their strengths: “You know how to look at an argument from many viewpoints!” or “I notice how generous you are when sharing your snack with your friend.”
  • Express your confidence in them: “I know this is hard and I’ve seen you handle hard things before, I know you can do it”.

There are so many adults driven by the question in their own minds of whether they are worth it or not. Let’s help our children see that they are not defined by their accomplishments, or only how they behave, that they are appreciated just because and we appreciate and love them for who they are, not only what they do. That’s the greatest and longest lasting gift we can give.

12 years to learn to love them

When my kids were fairly young I was chatting with a mom with older kids. We were talking about teenage kids and she said, “It’s a good thing you get 12 years to learn to love them!” I was silently appalled. Her negativity and cynicism didn’t sit right with me. Although I had some parenting frustrations, I loved my children more than anything and knew my kids wouldn’t be like “that”. It did, however, spark some fear of the unknown. What did this experienced mom know that I didn’t? Why did teenagers have this reputation, what challenges would it cause for me?

Would my kids be moody, need more privacy than I was comfortable with, and experiment with dating, drinking, and different social circles? Would I know what to do and accept my changing role as parent of a teen versus a parent of a younger child? How would I help them navigate the difficult teen years, and how would I navigate them myself, especially with 3 children of varying ages?

Fortunately by the time my kids entered the adolescent years, I had some go-to resources. I had been taking parenting courses and the courses for parents of teens were available just when I needed them. The experiential style of the programs drove the messages home about what was needed from me (setting limits while giving up some control-scary!), and how to do that. I found other parents going through the same things I was and leaders that offered information, support, and great advice.

Were the teen years perfect for us – by no means!! We had our share of disagreements, calling on the carpet, anxious thoughts about what their future would hold, and tearful late night support sessions. Along with that scary stuff, we also had, celebrations for hard work that paid off, family fun hanging out and enjoying each other, dinners with everyone helping out, and respectful appreciation for each other as individuals.

There’s no avoiding the tough things that teens and families have to go through, AND, there is a way to handle it so those years are not just about surviving, but about thriving with confident respectful communications that keep the relationships intact. Twelve years is a turning point, and you embracing this new phase of development with knowledge, confidence, and a clear understanding of your role will deepen the love rather than make it more volatile.

I don’t like my sandwich cut that way!

I remember being really surprised when my son came home from school one day and announced that they weren’t allowed to trade at lunch anymore. It prompted me to ask some questions and apparently a number of kids didn’t want their own lunches and traded their food with their friends. I asked my son if he liked to trade and he said no because he wanted the snacks that he had packed for himself but some of the other kids had snacks their moms’ gave them.

Because the morning is such a busy and stressful part of the day, parents find themselves making their kids’ lunch. They say it’s faster this way. The problem is it robs the child of the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lunch, learn how to make choices, prepare food, and remember to bring the lunch to school. It also eliminates the whining over how the sandwich is cut, or what kind of fruit they have, and ensures more of the food will be eaten.

The short-term benefit of saving a few minutes does not exceed the long-term developmental opportunities. In the long run, as well, it saves the parent time, since the child is handling the lunch himself.

Here are a few tips for training your kids to prepare their own lunch:

  1. Consider making it the night before – ask yourself what’s more important – having a fresh sandwich or having a quiet morning?
  2. Prepare a system to succeed. You want this to be an easy process for your child. He needs to be able to open the refrigerator, quickly pick 2 or 3 things and put it in his lunch box. If he wants to eat pasta, you can boil it ahead of time and put it in small plastic containers, so the child just needs to grab the container.
  3. Teach him to pack a nutritious lunch that includes protein, fruits/vegetables.
  4. Even toddlers can help make their lunch. They can make choices, put food in zip lock bags, put in the ice pack, close the lunch box, etc.

Help your child in the beginning and train them in an encouraging way. Preparing lunch with your child can take 5 minutes. Consider making/finding the time.

The training period can take a few days or weeks. Whenever you do something for your child that he can do for himself, you’re sending him a discouraging message that he is not capable of doing things. Acquiring independence helps your child feel better about himself, and have better self esteem.

My daddy is mad at me

I used to volunteer to sell lunch tickets in the lobby of my children’s school. One day a little girl in pre-k got dropped off and as she walked into the lobby where I was sitting, I noticed she was upset. I asked her what was wrong and she started to sob uncontrollably. She could barely get the words out, she said “My…daddy…is…mad…at…me…” through her sobs. My heart broke at that moment, and to this day when I tell this story, I get a lump in my throat. My heart broke not only for this little girl who was starting her day very upset and thinking that her father disapproved of her, but also knowing that I had been that parent. I had, more than once, been so frazzled making sure everybody was was up, dressed, had eaten, brushed their teeth, had their backpacks, had their shoes on and was in the car on time that I was angry and had yelled at my children before school. I started my day stressed and I was the reason they started their day stressed.

I am grateful now that our school had parent volunteers like me and teachers that could help my kids on those difficult days, and, that I found some help through parenting classes to help me be a better parent. I discovered a better mindset, good strategies, and calming support. Come to my Conquering Morning Mayhem workshop on December 2 and find out how you, too, can have better routines that help create more harmony and less stress for you and your family. You will have more days that start off right.



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