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"All communication is either an SOS or a care package." -- Kelly Bryson

You’ve probably heard the term “Acting out’ refer to misbehaving.  It actually means to act out a feeling that you can't express in words.

So when your three year old hits the baby, or your five year old throws a toy at you, or your seven year old slams the door, they’re acting out.  You could respond with punishment.  After all, the behavior is clearly unacceptable.  But you would be missing the feeling that your child is finding so unbearable that he has to act it out. You would be missing your child’s SOS.  READ POST

Friday, March 21, 2014 | Permalink

"I watch their softly tousled heads slumbering on their pillows, and sadness wells up in me. Have I drunk in their smiles and laughter and hugged them, or have I just checked things off my to-do list today? They're growing so quickly. One morning I may wake up and one of my girls will be getting married, and I'll worry: Have I played with them enough? Have I enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of their lives?" -- Janet Fackrell

It's part of our job description as parents to guide our kids and keep them moving through the daily routine. All too often, that means setting limits, denying requests, correcting behavior.  Sometimes we're skillful enough that our child doesn't perceive our guidance as "negative."  More often, kids give us the benefit of the doubt because all the other loving, affirming interactions create a positive balance in our relationship account.  That's why creating those positive interactions with your child matters so much.

Research shows we need at least five positive interactions to each negative interaction to maintain a healthy, happy relationship that can weather the normal conflicts and upsets of daily life. So when we're short on positive interactions, our relationship balance dips into the red. As with any bank account, we're overdrawn. That's when kids resist our guidance and develop attitude, whether they're two or twelve.

Life is busy, and you don't need one more thing for your to-do list. Instead, why not create a few daily habits that replenish your relationship account with your child? After thirty days, any action becomes a habit, so you don't have to think about it.  Here are 20 things you can start doing today to build a closer relationship with your child.  READ POST

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 | Permalink

Dr. Laura, I see how all your mindfulness techniques make me a more patient mother.  But when I find my temper rising, what can I do in that moment?  I know yelling doesn't work. I know that my inner critic that tells me I'm a bad mother just makes things worse. But what do I actually DO?" -- Cara

Nothing. Really. You notice what you're feeling, you breathe your way through it, and you DO nothing.

When our temper rises, we all feel an urgent need to DO something, anything. But that's our emergency response system operating. And parenting, despite how it feels, is not usually an emergency.

So the most effective thing you can do is restore yourself to calm before you act. Why? Because the rational brain stops working when you're angry. So when you act from anger or fear, you're never taking constructive action.

I define mindfulness as just noticing our own feelings and thoughts without acting on them. Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg says it more directly: "Mindfulness is not hitting someone in the mouth."

Sure, it feels like we MUST intervene at that moment. Otherwise, our child will "get away with" bad behavior, and will become a terrible person. But that's fear speaking, and it drives us to take actions that make things worse. Later, we realize that we let our emotions run amok. We didn't guide our child with love. We didn't help her WANT to be a more responsible or cooperative person. Instead, we dumped those yucky feelings from our full emotional backpack onto our beloved, vulnerable, child.

So what can you actually DO when you feel your temper rising?  READ POST

Thursday, March 06, 2014 | Permalink

"Yesterday my husband and I had an argument at dinner time in front of the kids. My four year old daughter yelled at us to ‘Be quiet!’ …  My two year old had a tough time going to bed, which is unusual for him. Could that have had to do with mommy and daddy arguing?”

In honor of Valentines Day last week, my posts this week are about the intersection between being a parent and being a couple -- specifically, how to work through conflicts when you're in front of the kids. Next week, we'll get back to our Beyond Discipline series, with 10 Alternatives to Consequences and When Kids Just Won't Cooperate.

Conflict is part of every human relationship. If we live with children, those conflicts will sometimes come up in front of the kids. In the past, most experts reassured parents that there’s no harm in children seeing them fight, as long as the kids also see the parents make up afterwards. However, recent developments in neurological research challenge this view. Not surprisingly, it turns out that when children hear yelling, their stress hormones shoot up. In fact, even a sleeping infant registers loud, angry voices and experiences a rush of stress chemicals that takes some time to diminish.  READ POST

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 | Permalink

"Behind the anger, behind the disrespect, and behind the manipulation is a scared child in desperate need of connection, love, and acceptance. ... If you show up for your child in a different state, he can only be different...When you are in a loving state, you automatically do the right thing...Love never fails." - Heather T. Forbes

"Whatever the question, love is the answer." - The Dalai Lama

What does Valentine’s Day have to do with parenting?  Love. The purpose of Valentines Day is to celebrate love of all kinds. The purpose of parenting, quite obviously, is to raise children. But I believe that parenting has a secret purpose -- to transform us, the parents. Loving our child helps us to heal ourselves, so that we can live more fully.   READ POST

Thursday, February 13, 2014 | Permalink

"Dr Laura....I'm trying stop yelling, but I can't. And I can't imagine getting my kids to listen if I don't yell at them. ...Can you move in with me for a week?!” - Cheralynn

Like Cheralynn, most parents think they "should" stop yelling, but they don't believe there's another way to get their child's attention. After all, it's our job to teach them, and how else can we get them to listen? It’s not like yelling hurts them; they barely listen, they roll their eyes. Of course they know we love them, even if we yell. Right?

Wrong. The truth is that yelling scares kids. It makes them harden their hearts to us. And when we yell, kids go into fight, flight or freeze, so they stop learning whatever we're trying to teach. What's more, when we yell, it trains kids not to listen to us until we raise our voice. And it trains them to yell at us.  READ POST

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | Permalink

"Dr.  Laura....I've already given up on my New Year's Resolution to be a more peaceful mother because I've blown it over and over...and it's only the first week of the year! -- Sylvia

How are you doing at keeping your New Year's resolution? 

(a) Great!
(b) Not so great.
(c) I've given up on keeping my resolution.
(d) I gave up making resolutions a long time ago because they always fail.

If you answered anything other than (a), join the club.  Change is hard.  If it were easy, we wouldn't have invented the idea of using the new year to give us some momentum.  READ POST

Thursday, January 09, 2014 | Permalink