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"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

"It’s like a big stick that I hit myself with from the inside. Really, would I want anyone I love to do that to themselves? Certainly not! And, I’ve made a commitment to support my kids and myself in putting that stick down. For good.  The other day...the part of me that is Unconditional Love stood up, turned towards the Critic, and embraced it. In that moment of love and connection, the critic dissolved. Now I make it a practice to embrace the Critic, over and over again. I am learning that whatever has a hold on me, that which we most want to turn away from, is exactly what needs undivided, loving attention." -- Jennifer Mayfield

The inner critic's goal is to protect us. It thinks its job is to constantly scan for threats: future dangers, past problems we keep reliving to prevent their recurrence (or prove we were right!), defects in our children that we need to correct, and deep flaws in ourselves that we fear make us unlovable and thus threaten our very survival. No wonder we feel worn out!  READ POST

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 | Permalink

"More often than not, fear doesn’t emerge as nail-biting, cold-feet terror, but surfaces instead as anger, perfectionism, pessimism, low-level anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.  In these many disguises, fear can permeate life, leaving room for little else.  It morphs from one pseudoemotion to another, rarely declaring itself, poisoning each moment it touches." -- Dan Baker, Ph.D.

You may think your moods just come out of nowhere.  But scientists now believe that moods are mostly a response to what we think, usually without even noticing.   READ POST

Thursday, May 01, 2014 | Permalink

"Dr. Laura....When I stop and take a breath, I am amazed at the amount of negative thoughts in my head—typically criticizing my ability as a mom, or a wife, or an employee, or a daughter or a friend. It’s so hard to feel like I’m doing anything well at all.  How do we get out of the negative thought patterns?" -- Amy

We all feel at times like we aren't good enough.  Sometimes it's because we're in an impossible situation where there simply isn't enough of us to go around.  (Anybody out there the parent of multiples, or very closely spaced children, or really, any two children?) But often -- regardless of the objective situation -- we get stuck in negative thought habits. We beat ourselves down, which makes a bad situation worse.  If we could only support ourselves to feel like we were more than enough, we might be able to make peace with our situation -- or take some step toward making it better.  READ POST

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 | Permalink

"A journalist visited a town famous for its rampant unhappiness to see if he could understand its origin. Walking down the street, he noticed a man ahead of him. Suddenly, a little man, no more than a few inches high, appeared and ran up the man's leg. He started sticking pins into the man and sewing things to him. Instantly, the man was covered by these tiny tailors, all sticking him with pins.  He looked completely miserable as he shuffled off. The journalist saw this happen to one person after another, until he was ready to give up and go home. The town was completely infested with tiny tailors; no wonder everyone was unhappy. Then the journalist noticed one woman covered with tiny tailors who apparently said something, and the tiny tailors just melted away. The journalist ran over to her. 'What did you say to get free of them?!" he exclaimed. 'Oh,' she answered, 'It was nothing. I just told them I've decided to stop measuring myself.'”  -- Guy Finley

Most of the time when we find ourselves anxious or unhappy, it's because we've been measuring ourselves and come up short. We're constantly comparing ourselves to an ideal in our minds of what we should be.  Unfortunately, no live human can ever live up to an ideal.   READ POST

Thursday, April 24, 2014 | Permalink

"I try to use positive parenting, but there always comes a point where I'm stuck and threaten a timeout. Without punishment, how do I enforce my limits?  I can remind him until I'm blue in the face about the things he's supposed to do, but I can't actually MAKE him. What do I do to make my child behave, if I can't use force?" – Lisabet  READ POST

Thursday, April 17, 2014 | Permalink