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'Now when my daughter starts whining, I hold her. Sometimes it takes ten minutes, but then she tells me when she's done, and goes off. It seems to ground her. It grounds me, too." -- Kelly

Whining can drive any parent crazy. It's tempting to tell them we can't listen until they use a more grown-up voice. But kids aren't grown-ups, and their whining is a plea for help. Quite simply, children whine when they're overwhelmed. They need to borrow our calm love so they can self-regulate.

Kelly put it beautifully -- when we reach out to hold a whining child, we really are like a lightning rod, helping our child to ground herself. Once she's restored to a state of balance and well-being, she no longer needs to whine.  READ POST

Tuesday, June 03, 2014 | Permalink

"2 year-olds argue with their parents 20 to 25 times an hour." -- Study reported in Child Development Magazine

Between 11 and 15 months, we learn a wonderful word:  "No!"

It's an ecstatic discovery. We learn we are separate, autonomous beings with a will of our own who can impact what happens in the world.  We delight in saying, "No!" at every opportunity.

Our "No" is actually a big "YES!"

It's an awesome, pure expression of our life force.

After the first cute "No" or two, our parents are usually less than delighted.  In fact, this developmental stage launches what's often called the "terrible twos."  Rarely are our ecstatic expressions of primal life force affirmed.  Do you remember your father or mother saying:
"I love your independence and autonomy!"
"I see that you're learning to stand up for your own truth, which will really help you later in life."  READ POST

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 | Permalink

"Dr. Laura -- Your 'Spring Cleaning for Your Psyche' series says that all emotion comes from our thoughts, so if we change our thoughts, it will change our emotions. But one of the most important things I've learned from you over the years is that we need to acknowledge our emotions and "feel" them, rather than ignore or stuff them--both for ourselves and our kids. I’m confused." -- Corinne

The simple answer is that there's a difference between honoring our feelings, and preventing them.  READ POST

Thursday, May 22, 2014 | Permalink

"Realize that now, in this moment of time, you are creating. You are creating your next moment based on what you are feeling and thinking. That is what’s real. We can let go of the unconscious belief that being anxious about the past or the future will somehow protect us and instead reprogram our cells with new ways of responding.” -- Doc Childre

Do you worry about your child?  Join the club.  It's part of the job description. But when we say "Be careful!" to our child, we're not giving the message that we care, even though that's what we feel. We're giving the message that the world is an unsafe place and we don't have confidence in our child to navigate it.    READ POST

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 | Permalink

"Seeing your child in distress, and particularly if that distress is directed at you, is the most dysregulating experience there is. Wild, out of control thoughts of epic disaster come unbidden. Rage, self doubt and other destructive feelings quickly cloud your thinking. What if you could work to push those thoughts aside, and in a way analogous to meditation, concentrated on being in the moment, concentrated on remembering to breathe? It would help you focus on your child, and on the immediate task before you rather than its global implications." – Claudia Gold

When our child acts out, lashes out, or is simply in distress, it's natural for us to panic.  We're plunged into "fight, flight or freeze" because it feels like an emergency. And if our child's distress is directed at us, then he looks like the enemy.

But it's natural for children to have big feelings, and to act them out. If we "lose it"  when our child gets upset, we give her the message that her feelings aren't permitted, which doesn't help her learn to regulate her emotions. Worse, we're saying that we can't control ourselves until she controls herself! Whether she's 5 or 15, that's not what we want to model.   READ POST

Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Permalink

"Dr. Laura, I was wondering if you could do a post about empathic limits. What is an appropriate response to bad behavior from an unconditional parenting approach? For example, every time I come home with my daughter I remind her that when we go inside she must take off her shoes. She often will immediately run to the couch and climb onto it with her shoes on. I know she does this precisely because she knows she's not supposed to, and now I warn her if she doesn't get down she will get a timeout. Usually she gets a timeout. I can't not respond when she does something like this. What can I do instead of a timeout?"

“You don't seem to ever discuss discipline in terms of teaching acceptable behavior.  I really think its a lot of bull to give people an excuse not to have decent expectations. Sometimes these kids are brats and they need to be aware of it.  I'm not saying that Screaming is good but screaming or other tactics besides hugs are necessary."

The Aha! Parenting website is loaded with hundreds of pages of examples of how to teach acceptable behavior using empathic limits, so if you aren't getting enough from these posts, please do some exploring on the website.  I'm hoping you'll have an Aha! moment, which is this: 

There is no such thing as a brat, only a child who is hurting. When our starting point as parents is a close bond with our children, we are their North Star, the point around which they orient. They want more than anything in the world to protect that relationship and meet our expectations, as long as that doesn't compromise their own integrity. If our child is acting like a "brat," she's either signaling that she needs a stronger connection with us, that she's got some big feelings she needs our help with, or that she can't meet our expectation without some tailored support. After all, that (along with modeling) is how we teach acceptable behavior!

So given that Aha! insight, which would be the most effective tactics to transform "bratty" behavior into cooperative behavior?  READ POST

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 | Permalink

“The key is unconditional kindness to all life, including one’s own, which we refer to as compassion.” – David R. Hawkins

All parents know that children need unconditional love to thrive. But how can we give our children something many of us haven't really experienced?

The answer is that each of us CAN experience unconditional love -- by giving it to ourselves.  We do this by actively, thoughtfully, accepting our selves -- imperfections and all.  When we miss the mark of our own standards -- as we all do, all the time -- we give ourselves a compassionate hug, and resolve to give ourselves better support so we can keep moving in the right direction.  READ POST

Thursday, May 08, 2014 | Permalink