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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

"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

“Whatever they grow up to be, they are still our children, and the one most important of all the things we can give to them is unconditional love. Not a love that depends on anything at all except that they are our children.” -- Rosaleen Dickson



We've reached the final step of our series Ten Steps to Unconditional Love.

Step Ten? 
Repeat daily to rewire your brain for love. Watch your life transform. 



Healing our ability to love unconditionally requires daily practice. Most of us don't wake up overflowing with love every morning.  So each day we start over. Managing our moods. Finding ways to reconnect with the deep springs inside that replenish us. Choosing love.

Research shows that certain habits do rewire our brains. Habits like meditation, exercise, feeling gratitude, and serving a higher good actually change our bodies and brains so that over time we can regulate ourselves better emotionally. (Our immune systems work better, too!)  

And every time we stop ourselves from sliding into a "parent tantrum," we're building our ability to self-soothe so we can stay centered. The only catch? These habits have to be "practiced" daily.  READ POST

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | Permalink

"You may become flooded by feelings such as fear, sadness or rage. These intense emotions can lead you to have a knee-jerk reaction instead of thoughtful responses.  When emotional reactions replace mindfulness, you're on the low road and it is very unlikely that you will be able to maintain nurturing communication and connection with your child." -- Dan Siegel

You know what the high road is. When you’re feeling really good, nothing fazes you. You respond to your child’s foibles with patience, understanding, and a sense of humor.

You know what the low road is, too. It’s when you’re stressed, exhausted, resentful.  When you insist on being right or wringing an apology out of your child.  When your fuse is so short that you feel justified in having your own little tantrum. When you're in the grip of fight or flight emotions and your child looks like the enemy.   READ POST

Thursday, December 05, 2013 | Permalink

 "Dr Laura....I only found Aha! Parenting a month ago. Already things have improved so much with my kids and I no longer act like a crazy person when I get frustrated with them.  But I  keep wondering if I have messed my children up forever...."

"Understanding alone cannot prevent disrupted connections from occurring.  Some will inevitably happen. The challenge we all share is to embrace our humanity with humor and patience so that we can in turn relate to our children with openness and kindness. To continually chastise ourselves for our "errors" with our children keeps us involved in our own emotional issues and out of relationship with our children.." -- Daniel J. Siegel

Have you made mistakes as a parent?  Join the club.  The bad news is that you're human, like all parents. So we all fall short.   READ POST

Wednesday, December 04, 2013 | Permalink

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom." -- Victor Frankl

"Where there is great love, there are always miracles." – Willa Cather


I know, you never actually stop loving your child, even when she acts like a monster and you can't stand being with her another minute.  But unfortunately, the love you feel isn't the most important factor in your child's emotional development.  READ POST

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 | Permalink

"Try to see your child as a seed that came in a packet without a label.  Your job is to provide the right environment and nutrients and to pull the weeds.  You can’t decide what kind of flower you’ll get or in which season it will bloom." - Anonymous

Unconditional love isn't just what we feel.  It's what the object of our love feels: love without strings attached.  That means our child doesn't have to be, or do, anything in particular to earn our love.  We love her exactly as she is.   READ POST

Thursday, November 14, 2013 | Permalink