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"How do you hit the happy medium between Strict and Permissive parenting? I don't want to be mean, but I do want my kids to do what I say." -- Mike

Most parents seem to struggle with questions about whether they're being too strict or too permissive.  We don't want to be mean, of course, and we want to take our child's desires into account. Not to mention, sometimes we're just so tired. So we compromise all the time on what we'd really like (less screen time, or daily music practice, or more help around the house.)  But then we wonder, what if we had higher expectations? Would our child be more helpful, more self-disciplined? Where's that sweet spot between permissive and strict?

It's easier to find than you might think.   READ POST

Friday, October 03, 2014 | Permalink

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change." -- Carl Rogers

"Our wounds can heal and become our source of power." -- Gail Larsen

Sages say that raising children is one of the best paths to enlightenment because it stretches the heart and teaches us to love.  And indeed, every one of us raising children has daily opportunities to dig deep in search of patience  and compassion! Luckily, we're strongly motivated by our love for our children, so we stretch.

Sometimes, of course, we get stuck.  We find ourselves fighting the same battle over and over.  It's natural that we will have to remind our children repeatedly to do things they aren't motivated to do. That normal childish behavior is best handled with a sense of humor. They do learn, with time and repetition, as long as they feel connected and therefore WANT to follow our lead.

But what about those times when the cycle escalates? When we're stuck in resentment, or the assumption that it's all our child's fault, and he should be different?  It's only human to think we should be able to make our child to change.  But children (and adults!) naturally rebel against force, so you can't actually control anyone except yourself. That's why change needs to start with us.  READ POST

Wednesday, October 01, 2014 | Permalink

“Before the plane takes off, the pilots have a flight plan…but during the course of the flight, wind, rain, turbulence, air traffic, human error, and other factors act on the plane…90% of the time the plane is not even on the prescribed flight path...During the flight, the pilots make constant adjustments to get back on track. The flight of that airplane is the perfect metaphor for family life…it doesn’t make any difference if we are off target or even if our family is a mess. The hope lies in the vision and in the plan and in the courage to keep coming back time and time again.” – Stephen Covey

You may have noticed that you aren’t perfect. That sometimes you aren’t the parent or the person you want to be. Sometimes you blow it.  We all do. Welcome to humanity.

The bad news is that even if we’re committed to being the best parent, and best person, we can be, we will never be perfect. Life happens. We get off track. We get disconnected -- from our child, our partner, our own deepest guidance. We see the other person as making our life more difficult, rather than realizing that they're having a hard time. We feel hurt, we feel frustrated, we feel trapped. We lash out.  READ POST

Friday, September 26, 2014 | Permalink

"We need 4 hugs a day for survival.  We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth." -- Virginia Satir

We all crave those close moments with our children that make our hearts melt. Connection is as essential to us parents as it is to our children. When our relationship is strong, it's also sweet -- so we receive as much as we give. That's what makes parenting worth all the blood, sweat and tears.

That connection is also the only reason children willingly follow our rules. Kids who feel strongly connected to their parents WANT to cooperate. They trust us to know what's best for them, to be on their side. I hear regularly from parents that everything changes once they focus on connecting, not just correcting.  READ POST

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 | Permalink

"How much more love and affection can I give him? .... Because once you pee on your brother, you've gone too far, and we have to fix this now."

What's a parent to do when a child acts out in a big way? In a recent post, we evaluated some options: spanking, time-out, sticker charts. Bottom line, they're unlikely to be effective, because they don't get to the root of the behavior. We can assume the toddler is showing his baby brother who's boss because he's feeling major jealousy. Punishing him will just reinforce the sibling rivalry, because it convinces him that he really has lost you.

Then, in our last post, we talked about how connecting differently with your child can turn a situation like this around. Instead of punishing, nip this behavior in the bud by focusing on prevention. Refill your child’s love tank and give her an emotional tune-up on a daily basis, so you don’t end up in the breakdown lane. Hard, yes--but it works. When you connect with your child in the way she needs, most of the time her behavior improves dramatically.

But what if it doesn't? "Just how much more love and attention can I give him?"  I call this the leaky cup syndrome. The answer is, if you're really giving him all the love and attention you can, and it isn't changing his behavior, it's because you aren't healing the feelings driving the behavior.   READ POST

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | Permalink

"Whereas he was once the center of your universe, he has been displaced from this paradise. He is now in time out, while you coo at his tiny rival. You cannot, of course, push back the clock to a time when he, alone, was the apple of your eye. All the same, trying to imagine how frustrated your 3 year old must often feel can help you counteract his sense of loss. Your expressions of love, gestures of devotion, and moments of intimacy with your son can help him feel less deserted and alone. Helping your son recapture a sense of shared joy in his relationship with you will turn down the fuel of his hate, and--in addition--smooth the pathway to his identification... as a loving, protective, sharing person." -- Elizabeth Berger

Every parent with more than one child knows that some sibling rivalry is inevitable. But what about when your child really acts out -- like when your almost-3- year old pees on the baby? In our last post we considered whether sticker charts work for a crime of passion like this, and why spankings and timeouts just increase the amount of anger and jealousy your little one is feeling and make it even harder, over time, for him to control himself.

If you missed that post, it's here: When You Pee On Your Brother You've Gone Too Far.  Bottom line: Kids "act out" when they have big feelings they can't put into words. So they act them out, to show you. If you want to change the behavior, help the child with the emotions driving the behavior.

In other words, don't get stuck in reacting and punishing, which is likely to make the child more defiant and aggressive. Instead, focus on prevention, to nip this behavior in the bud. Remind yourself that your child's acting out is a red flag that he needs your help with his emotions, so he doesn't act out like this again. Sure, you should set a limit, but every child knows he shouldn't pee on the baby. He just couldn't manage those big feelings enough to stop himself--or maybe he simply didn't care, which is worse, because it’s a symptom that the child considers his connection to you less important than doing what he wants.  READ POST

Tuesday, September 02, 2014 | Permalink

"This morning, he really pushed me to my limit when I realized he had peed on his 9 month old brother. And then when I put him in time-out in his room (instead of spanking him, which is really what I wanted to do) he peed in his heater vent. I feel like I try to be a good parent, so I don't know what I'm doing wrong. How much more love and affection can I give him? We'll start a sticker chart today and hope that works. Because once you pee on your brother, you've gone too far, and we have to fix this now."

I'm so impressed with this mom, who has held her natural outrage in check and is trying to go positive with a sticker chart. And I couldn't agree more with her: When you pee on your brother, things have gone too far.

But I'm afraid that a sticker chart isn't going to work any better than the timeouts are working. Why?  They don't get to the root of the problem, which is the child's hurt and fear. He thinks his Mom got a replacement for him. As my three year old son said before our second child "We don't need another boy. If it's a boy....we can send him back, right?"

This little guy defines "acting out."  He's acting out feelings he can't express in any other way.  He might not even be able to express those feelings to himself, but they're bursting out and making themselves known, as feelings have a way of doing. (Even when they're repressed. In fact, especially when they're repressed.)

Peeing where they know they shouldn't is a common way for children to express anger that they can't put into words. Male mammals often pee on things to stake out their territory and warn off intruders. And from the fact that he peed on his brother, we can guess who the intruder is!

What's a parent to do?  Let's consider our options.  READ POST

Thursday, August 28, 2014 | Permalink