Everyone’s “Baby Self”

Some of the most entertaining parenting books I’ve read are those written by Anthony Wolf. Like his other books, The Secret of Parenting: How to Be in Charge of Today's Kids--from Toddlers to Preteens--Without Threats or Punishment is filled practical advice using plenty of humor.

In this book he defines two different sides to everyone’s personality: the baby self and the mature self; “… the baby self must be fed and fed now, and it has zero tolerance for any form of stress. The baby self feeds itself by indulging, collapsing, relaxing, unwinding – soaking up all the good stuff.” He contrasts that with “the mature self is willing to work, will tolerate stress, has patience, has self-control, and can and is willing to delay gratification.”

Parents often see more of the baby self while children save their mature self for situations outside the home. He gives many examples of how to deal with familiar baby self favorites like “You can’t make me!”, “I hate you!”, “It’s not fair!” and “I’m bored.” Wolf presents his parenting wisdom in an amusing way making his books a pleasure to read.

Lighting Hope

In this season of holy days and holidays, find a time to gather your family and light a candle. Share a moment of peace together. Ask everyone to think of one wish they have for the world and one thing they could do to help make that wish come true.

When Your Teen’s Viewpoint Is Wrong

Part of being a teenager is separating and individuating your parents. This includes trying on new ideas, especially ideas that don’t match your parents’ ideas!

Mark was exasperated with his son’s lack of appreciation for learning a foreign language. Zach was taking Spanish in school and it happened to be his worst subject.

Wanting Zach to put more effort into his Spanish class, Mark tried explaining the importance of understanding a foreign culture. Zach responded that he lives in America and has no need or desire to learn about other cultures. The more Mark worked on convincing Zach on the benefits of learning Spanish, the more adamant Zach became about why it was a waste of time.

In retrospect, Mark realized he should just have listed to Zach without trying to change his mind. In the future he plans to ask questions about why Zach feels a certain way without trying to convince him to think differently. By detaching himself from Zach’s viewpoints on controversial subjects, Mark believes he can more easily listen without insisting Zach adhere to his philosophy.

Family Gatherings: Fun for Everyone?

When families gather together for a celebration, each participant brings their own history, behavior and expectations. When these different expectations and behaviors clash, the celebrations are often far from the peaceful, loving gatherings depicted in TV holiday commercials! However, when common problems can be anticipated and planned for ahead of time, there is a greater likelihood of a joyful celebration rather than a stressful experience.

To make these events positive and fun for everyone, it's helpful to consider the areas that cause stress for many families: preparing and hosting the gathering and monitoring the interactions between children from different families.

Planning, Preparing and Hosting the Family Gathering

One mom wrote seeking ideas for changing her family gatherings. "I come from a largish family (5 children) who still live in the general area. We're all in our fifties now, married with our own children aged 13 to 25. We still get together at one of our houses for every holiday, four times a year (usually numbering 18-23 people). I have to admit, I absolutely dread these get-togethers. For one thing, my sister, aged mother and I do most of the work. The three brothers do less, and the sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews do nothing. As we get older, it gets more and more exhausting, and it seems like I hardly see my siblings other than these get-togethers, where I'm usually irritated and too busy to really talk much to anyone. Is it unusual to get together this often at our ages? Shouldn't the nieces and nephews be contributing by the time they're out of college?"

Sharing the workload is a key ingredient to making family gatherings fun for everyone. If you're encountering this type of problem, think about some new ideas you'd like to try out and discuss them with your spouse or partner. These new ideas which might include:

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Carrying Past Problems Around

Ann described how she helped her foster daughter, Megan, appreciate the impact all her past problems were having on her current life. Ann gathered a big pile of different size rocks. For each problem from Megan’s past, like how poorly she was treated by her mother, Ann instructed Megan to pick out a rock to represent it. They went through all the different terrible things that had happened to Megan. For each one Megan picked out the size rock that represented that horrible event.

Once she had selected all the rocks, Ann asked Megan to get a backpack from her room. She then instructed Megan to put all the rocks in the backpack and put the backpack on. How does it feel to wear the backpack? “It’s really heavy.” Take the backpack off. How does that feel? “Much better!

Ann then compared constantly carrying around all those past problems to carrying the heavy backpack filled with rocks. She encouraged Megan to consider which rocks she could leave out knowing that she could always come back and pick those rocks up later. This exercise really helped Megan feel how she was allowing her past problems to influence her current situation.

New approaches to challenging behaviors

When our children’s misbehavior continues despite our efforts to change it, whatever we are doing clearly isn’t working! It’s easy to get into parenting ruts where we continue to use the same response to our children’s misbehavior even though it isn’t having any positive effect.

One mom told me about how angry she was when her boys were supposed to be napping but instead they were goofing around in their bedroom. This had been going on for months despite her efforts to stop it by spanking them or yelling at them. We worked on thinking through other approaches that were more likely to succeed.

When the limits you trying to set on your children’s behavior are not effective, you will often see the behavior continue and most likely escalate. The
Priceless Parenting Guidebook
is filled with ideas for handling everyday parenting challenges. It includes a challenging behavior worksheet for tracking new approaches. By focusing on changing one behavior at a time, parents can build on their successes without becoming overwhelmed by trying to change too much all at once.

When We Can’t Prevent Pain

The mom of a teenage girl called me in tears. One of her daughter’s classmates had told mutual friends something about her daughter’s character that simply wasn’t true. This mom wanted to somehow protect her daughter from the pain of this situation. Unfortunately, we really can’t protect our children from this type of pain.

What we can do is give our children our support. We can listen to their struggles while avoiding trying to solve the problem for them. Allowing them to develop their own emotional resources to deal with unpleasant situations gives them the tools they need to succeed as adults.

Setting Limits with Babies

When do you need to start thinking about setting limits with your baby? As soon as your baby is capable of doing something that causes a problem or hurts someone, it’s time to set a limit. Behaviors that call for parents to set a limit range from throwing food off the highchair to pulling hair and biting.

When my son was 10 months old, he decided to crawl over to his 3-year-old sister and bite her. This certainly hurt and we definitely needed to help him learn that biting was not part of feeling safe together. So whenever he bit her, I’d gently pick him up, carry him to his room and place him on the floor while saying “Uh oh! It’s so sad you decided to bite Kristie.” The door was open so he could crawl back whenever he was ready.

As I left the room, he would start crying and of course Kristie was already crying from being bit. Yikes! The good news is that it only took him a handful of times to learn that biting always meant a trip to his room and he stopped biting her. He also never bit anyone else. Lesson learned!

Responding to tantrums with cuddling?

You know you need a new approach to handling your child’s misbehavior if that same misbehavior continues occurring or begins to escalate. One mom, Mary, described how frustrated she was when her 3-year-old daughter threw tantrums. Mary’s response was to spank her daughter but this didn’t seem to be causing the tantrums to decrease.

One day while her daughter was throwing yet another tantrum, Mary picked her up and held her. Her daughter immediately stopped crying. Mary felt terrible that she had been spanking her daughter when all she really wanted was a little attention. From then on Mary made a special effort to spend a little more time each day just cuddling her daughter and it worked wonders!

If you’re interested in exploring new ideas for more positively handling misbehavior, check out the Priceless Parenting Guidebook. Ideas for Handling Everyday Parenting Challenges:

Giving Thanks to Parents


by Mary Rita Schilke Korzan

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you hang my
first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately
wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you feed a
stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind
to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make my
favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little
things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a
prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always
talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make a
meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I
learned that we all have to help take care of each

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you give of
your time and money to help people who had nothing,
and I learned that those who have something should
give to those who don’t.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you take care
of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have
to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw how you
handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t
feel good, and I learned that I would have to be
responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw tears come
from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things
hurt, but it’s all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw that you
cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I learned most of
life’s lessons that I need to know to be a good and
productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I looked at you and
wanted to say, "Thanks for all the things I saw when
you thought I wasn’t looking."

Surprising research on children

The recently released book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, reviews some things researchers have learned about raising children – often counter to popular belief. For example:
  • Specific praise is better than general praise in positively effecting children’s behavior. Children who are given general praise for their intelligence are less likely to choose challenging work in the future while children who are praised for their effort are more willing to choose a difficult task.
  • Getting enough sleep is essential for learning to solidify and for children to do their best at school. NutureShock reports on research from Minnesota which found “Teens who received A’s averaged about fifteen more minutes sleep than the B students, who in turn averaged 15 more minutes than the C’s, and so on.”
  • Teens who argue with their parents may be showing respect, not disrespect.
  • Preschoolers who are given the opportunity to participate in structured role plays through the Tools of the Mind program developed the ability to focus and stay on task. These higher-order thinking skills led to significantly better academic test scores.
While the book isn’t prescriptive in telling parents how to change their behavior based on the reported research, parents will gain some interesting insights.

What's the tone of your home?

Parents play a lead role in setting the overall tone in their families. Parents whose overall tone tends to be negative often have homes filled with stress and tension. While parents who take a more positive approach create calmer, happier homes.

A Home Filled with Tension

One mom told me about all the stress in her home. One of her three sons was doing very poorly in school. She and her husband were constantly nagging Joe to do his homework although it didn't seem to help much. Sometimes Joe even skipped school and they responded by yelling at him and grounding him.

However, Joe would leave the house even though he was grounded. Home was not a welcoming place for Joe. This family turned things around when they made the tough decision to let Joe worry about his homework and grades instead of them. When they stopped nagging him, he started spending more time at home and he actually began taking more responsibility for his homework.

Replacing Negative Statements with Positive Statements

Sometimes parents get in the habit of interacting with their children using negative statements and commands. Read the following statements one dad made to his children and think about how you would feel if you were a child hearing these remarks:
  • "You aren't going outside until you put sunscreen on."
  • "Stop messing around with that!"
  • "If you don't hurry up and get your shoes on, I'm not taking you."
  • "You've already watched too much TV. You should not have turned it on again, now turn it off."
  • "You're not eating dinner until you wash your hands."
  • "You are dawdling and we're going to be late!"
  • "Stop bugging your sister!"

How do you feel after reading these statements?

Let's look at how these same ideas could be expressed more positively:

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Orders disguised as questions

Parents sometimes use questions when what they are saying is really a statement, not a question. For example, when it was time to get ready for bed one mom asked her daughter, Anna, “Do you think it’s time to get ready for bed?” Believing she had a choice, Anna responded “No, it’s not time.”

When mom told her that in fact it was time to get ready for bed, Anna threw herself on the floor sobbing and complaining. This wasn’t exactly the result mom wanted! Mom may have gotten a better response had she either just stated it was time to get ready for bed or given Anna a choice like “Do you want to start getting ready for bed now or in two minutes?”

When we ask our children a question that indicates they have a choice when they really do not have a choice, we may unintentionally trigger an argument.

Setting expectations ahead of time

One Mom explained how much better her son behaved when she went over her expectations for his behavior beforehand. For example, as they were driving to the park, she would go through what was going to happen:
  • We’re going to park our car by the playground.
  • We’ll hold hands when we walk through the parking lot to the playground.
  • You can play for 30 minutes.
  • I will give you a 5 minute warning before your time is up.
  • We will walk calmly back to the car.
She would ask him questions like “What will it look like when we’re walking back to the car?” “Will you be kicking and screaming?” When she helped him think through the situation ahead of time, she found he was much more likely to behave in appropriate ways.

New parenting guidebook!

Parenting is the most important job we’ll ever have. How we choose to parent our children will significantly impact both our current and future happiness. Parents have told me they wish their children came with an owners manual to tell them how to handle the tough situations without breaking a sweat!

Unfortunately, babies don’t come with manuals. However, there is a universal body of research and knowledge about how effective parents raise respectful, responsible children.

The new Priceless Parenting Guidebook: Ideas for Handling Everyday Parenting Challenges captures this knowledge. Practical ideas for building a positive family life are presented through real parenting stories.

  • Identify conversation roadblocks you may unintentionally be using with your children. (p.13)
  • Discover a process for guiding children to solving their own problems (p. 21)
  • Find out how to avoid food battles (p. 47)
  • Learn how to get children to respond the first time you make a request. (p. 60)
  • Discover how to stay out of power struggles by using repetitive responses. (p. 64)
  • Find out how to shape the desired behaviors you want. (p. 68)

Annoying kids with unwanted help

Bill described how much he wanted to help his 5th grade son with his math homework. Bill enjoys math and was looking forward to sharing his knowledge with his son, Mark.

He joined Mark at the table where he was doing homework and asked Mark to explain the problem he was working on. Mark explained the problem but was clearly annoyed with having to do this. Bill interrupted Mark’s explanation when he saw that Mark was taking the wrong approach on solving the problem. Eventually Mark and Bill became so irritated and frustrated that they blew up at each other.

Bill left feeling rejected. After discussing the situation with other parents, he decided that next time he will wait for an invitation to help with homework. If he does get in a similar situation and realizes that Mark is annoyed, he will try saying something like “I can see you are annoyed. I’ll be in the other room, just give a shout if you want my help.”

Problems with praise

Researchers studying the effects of praising children for general abilities like their intelligence or their artistic ability have found that this type of praise encourages children to take fewer risks and not try as hard. General praise might sound like:
  • “You’re really smart.”
  • “You’re an awesome soccer player!”
  • “Your drawing ability is remarkable.”
What could possibly be wrong with general praise? Children receiving this type of praise may conclude that all they need is their natural ability and do not need to work hard. They may also become afraid of trying anything risky that might prove they aren’t as gifted as others think they are.

In Po Bronson’s article, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids”, he describes an experiment by Carol Dweck which found that students praised for their intelligence instead of their effort were far less likely to choose a more challenging puzzle. According to Bronson,
Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
Parents who expect their children to fail as part of the learning process and who also guide them in overcoming failures give their children a wonderful gift.

Children irritating others

Recently I’ve read a number of stories where people are upset by parents who are not appropriately responding to their children’s misbehavior. When children are irritating others or destroying other’s property, parents have a responsibility to step in and set some limits. These are some examples of situations where parents were not responding and others were becoming upset:
  • A young boy was ripping up church brochures and leaving a mess. His parents were nearby but didn’t do anything.
  • A girl made a rude comment to a stranger. The parents ignored it although it upset the stranger.
  • A young girl was screaming for an extended period of time in a store. A number of customers were upset that the mother was not responding to this girl.
  • A child was kicking the back of the seat ahead of him in the airplane. The parents did not intervene to stop this behavior.
Although it can be especially difficult to handle misbehavior in public situations, parents have a duty to do so. If you’re struggling for effective ways to handle your children’s misbehavior, taking the Priceless Parenting online parenting class will give you plenty of practical ideas.

Teaching babies sign language

Babies as young as 5-months-old can learn to use sign language to communicate. Parents can teach their babies how to sign things like:

  • “Milk”

  • “I would like more.”

  • “My head hurts.”

  • "My diaper needs to be changed.”

Nancy Hanauer, founder of Hop to Signaroo, explains “Signing reduces the frustration you and your baby feel when your little one can't express his or her needs.” You can learn basic sign language from various websites, books and classes (if you live near Seattle, you can take one of Nancy's awesome classes!). Nancy recommends Li'L Pick Me Up! Fun Songs for Learning Signs (ASL) Baby Sign Language.

Dealing with potty talk

At a recent parenting presentation, one mom of 4-year-old twins and a 5-year-old complained about how tired she was of hearing potty talk. One child would say something like “poopy pudding” and soon the others would join in with “fart face” and more potty talk. She had tried everything from ignoring it to giving time outs and nothing stopped it.

Another mom explained what worked for her. She told her children that potty talk needed to be done in the bathroom. They were welcome to go into the bathroom, shut the door and enjoy as much potty talk as they wanted!

Birds + Bees + Your Kids

What exactly do you do if you walk in on your preschoolers and find they are “playing doctor”? What is normal behavior and what isn’t? What are your beliefs about teens and sex? Thinking through some of these questions ahead of time can make discussions with your kids much easier.

Birds + Bees + YOUR Kids by Amy Lang provides practical information on what kids should know by when along with facts on various aspects of love, relationships and sexuality. It provides questions to help parents think through their beliefs about sexuality and how those beliefs influence the discussions they have with their children.

From discussions of “playing doctor” and self stimulation to sexually transmitted diseases, this book provides a solid foundation for parents. Reading this book can help you be better prepared for these sometimes tricky conversations!

Motivating kids in the morning

Do your kids ever moan about getting out of bed in the morning? One dad explained that his young daughter often complained about getting out of bed. However, he realized that the key was finding her “hot buttons”.

When he reminded her about something going on that day that he knew she would love, she got out of bed much easier. Saying things like “Today is sharing day!”, "You get to paint at school today." or “Guess what? It snowed last night.” would quickly get her out of bed without any complaints.

Beware of Boomerang Words

Do your children's words ever take you by surprise because they sound remarkably like something you've said? These "boomerang words" can be a good thing or not such a good thing.

When we hear our children repeat our words, it's a strong reminder of just how much they are picking up from us. We also get a new appreciation for how those words feel to the person receiving them!

Where have I heard that before?

One mom told me that she was in her 6-year-old daughter's bedroom when she accidentally knocked a toy off her dresser. Her daughter exclaimed "Mom, next time could you be a little more careful!" This mom was taken aback by this rather rude sounding comment.

Sadly she realized her daughter had learned these precise words from her. She remembered how often she reminded her daughter to be more careful when she made a mistake. Hearing these words directed back at her, she understood how harsh they sound. She's now working on showing empathy when her daughter accidentally spills something instead of admonishing her to be more careful in the future.

Repeating Familiar Phrases

When his children had problems, John often responded to them "Well, it's not the end of the world." This phrase came back to haunt him one night when they were out camping in a trailer.

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Helping kids learn to share

One mom reported that she and her husband had gone shopping with their two children. They purchased a scooter for their 4-year-old daughter and a large toy plane for their 2-year-old son. Both children were happy with their selections at the store. However, when they got home her son also wanted to be able to ride the scooter.

Since both children wanted to use the scooter at the same time, Mom helped them figure out how they could take turns. Although she taught them to use a timer to keep track of how long each child had, her daughter sometimes “helped” the timer along when it was her brother’s turn. He then protested that his turn was too short.

Mom got tired of the arguing and approached her husband about buying another scooter to fix the problem. Her husband thought this would only be a temporary fix and that the children really needed to learn to share. How would you have handled this situation?

Responding to “I hate you!”

When children yell “I hate you!” strong emotions are certainly being expressed. Perhaps you just told your child “no” to something she requested so you know why she is upset. In this case, you may want to respond with something like “I know you’re angry and I want you to know I’ll always love you.” This shows empathy while avoiding arguing.

Responding with “Don’t you ever say that to me!” or “How dare you talk to me like that!” will fuel the fire. While we would prefer our children not to say “I hate you”, by demanding that they not say it we are setting ourselves up for a potential power struggle. We are also teaching them how to push our buttons!

If it’s unclear why our child said “I hate you!”, find out by asking “I hear you’re upset. What’s going on?” This response gives us the opportunity to better understand our child.

It can be hard not to get defensive and yell right back at our child. However, taking the high road will build a more positive relationship.

Teaching children using debit cards

Jane described how her 11-year-old son, Nick, learned how easy it was to go through money after he got a debit card. He started his account with $250. Jane explained to him that if he withdrew money from an ATM with his bank, there was no fee otherwise there would be a $2.50 fee per withdrawal. He quickly replied that he understood.

He loved using his debit card to get money out for spending! While on vacation, he found many items to purchase like a cool stunt kite for $40. The campground game room had video games which took quarters. He bought some for himself and his brother who currently was out of money.

Jane reminded Nick that the reason his younger brother didn’t have money was that he didn’t save and may not be able to pay Nick back for awhile. Nick was happy to share his money with his brother since he had plenty of money he could get with his debit card.

Since Nick spends half his time at his dad’s house, Jane didn’t always know when Nick was using his debit card. One day Jane got an email notice from the bank that Nick was out of money in his debit account. Nick could not believe he was out of money! Jane printed out the statement of all the withdrawals. A number of withdrawals were from ATMs not associated with their bank. Nick was surprised to see that taking $2.50 out for each withdrawal really added up.

Nick decided to give his mom the debit card to hold. He thought the temptation to use it was too great and he wanted to work on saving up some more money. Jane used this experience to also discuss how easy it is for people to get in debt with credit cards. Nick learned a lot from his debit card experience!

Teaching sharing and fairness

Emma bought a Nintendo DS game with the understanding that her older sister, Brooke, would allow her to play the game using her Nintendo DS. Brooke told her sister that she would let her use the Nintendo DS sometime today but she didn’t know when.

An hour passed and Emma asked if now she could use the Nintendo DS. Brooke told her not yet. She explained “It’s my Nintendo DS. I bought it with my own money so I get to decide when you can use it.”

Although the girl’s Dad witnessed this exchange, he did not say anything. Unfortunately, he missed a golden opportunity to teach Brooke about sharing in a more appropriate, fair way. He also missed showing Emma how to successfully negotiate to get her needs met. Our children need our guidance to learn to treat others in caring, respectful ways.

Negotiation versus manipulation

When we negotiate with our kids, there is give and take with both parties cooperating towards a common agreement. On the other hand, when someone is being manipulative, they are working to get their needs met regardless of the other person’s needs. It does not feel good to be manipulated.

When we teach our children negotiation skills, we are showing them how to appropriately work towards getting their needs met while also taking into account the needs of others. For example, if our children want to listen to Radio Disney in the car but we want to listen to jazz music, we might agree to listen to two songs on one station and then two on the other one. This negotiated agreement is fair to both parties.

Our children may try to manipulate us by making irritating noises whenever the jazz station is on or saying “If you really loved us you would leave it on Radio Disney.” If we give in at this point and turn back to Radio Disney, our children will learn manipulating us works. This is not the lesson we want to teach them!

Windows of opportunity

As our children grow, there are moments when they are ready to tackle new skills. If parents miss these windows of opportunity, learning the skills later on can be more difficult. It also slows children’s growth towards independence.

One preschool teacher explained that 4 and 5-year-olds are ready to take responsibility for self care skills like:
  • Taking off their jackets and hanging them up.
  • Putting their lunch box on the appropriate shelf.
  • Checking off their name on an attendance sheet.
She reported that some parents keep doing these things for their children long after their children are capable of doing it for themselves. At her preschool there is a 5-year-old girl, Abby, who simply walks into the school and stands with her arms straight out as her mother takes off her coat and boots and puts away her lunch. While other children are doing these tasks themselves, Abby is not.

Abby has difficulty making decisions in the classroom and knowing what to do without being told. For example, one day when it was time for lunch, the teacher asked Abby what she thought she should be doing. Abby looked confused and sat down. The teacher explained that actually she should be washing her hands before lunch.

It’s hard for children to learn to think for themselves when their parents do too much thinking for them.

Shaping children’s behavior

When parents discipline their children, the children learn what not to do. However, they may not learn what they should be doing instead.

Dr. Kazdin, a psychologist who has helped many defiant children, has carefully studied and applied research on shaping children’s behavior. He’s seen great success in using programs where kids collect points for doing certain behaviors and then turn those points in for rewards. He’s captured this process in his book The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child.

The method begins with parents thinking of the positive opposite of whatever behavior they want to stop. For example, if a child throws tantrums whenever it’s time to go to bed, then the positive opposite would be getting ready for bed, going to bed and staying there without screaming or hitting. Kazdin describes how to set up a reward system that encourages children in moving towards this new behavior.

One key aspect is that children are rewarded for small steps along the way. Parents are taught to give enthusiastic praise and points whenever a child performs a portion of the new behavior. The child can then earn rewards which can range from choosing what to have for dinner to earning a trip to the zoo. The reward program usually lasts only a few weeks until the child masters the new behavior.

You can learn more about the Kazdin method is his book:

Developing positive parenting habits

When we continually repeat a behavior, it becomes a habit. Once it becomes automatic, we don’t usually think before doing it.

What are some parenting behaviors that we do not want to make into habits?
  • Nagging and reminding our children
  • Yelling at our children when they misbehave
  • Ordering our children around
  • Swearing when something goes wrong
  • Lecturing our children
To break a negative habit first takes awareness and then dedication and practice to change it.

I was recently with a family where the parents consistently pointed out what their girls were doing wrong or could potentially do wrong. I thought these girls would be in tears with all these negative messages; however, I noticed the daughters dealt with it by tuning their parents out.

The parenting habits we develop have a huge impact on the overall joy in our families. Monitoring and changing our own behavior is the key to increasing positive feelings for everyone. It certainly isn't easy but taking the seven lesson Priceless Parenting course can help reinforce positive parenting behaviors.

Yelling at Kids in Anger

Have you ever become frustrated with your children when they are begging you for something? If so, you can probably relate to this mom's story.

Begging for Ice Cream

One mom told me how exasperated she was while driving her 10-year-old son to Baskin Robbins to order cake for his upcoming birthday party. Her son started pleading with her to get an ice cream cone at Baskin Robbins. Mom said he couldn't have one since he had just had ice cream yesterday.

He didn't give up hope and instead kept asking her if he could please have an ice cream cone. Completely fed up, she pulled over and stepped out of the car for a few minutes explaining she needed a break from his behavior. After getting back in the car, he soon asked her again about the ice cream!

Feeling quite angry now, she yelled at him for continuing to ask after she had already told him no. By the end of her rant, he was crying. Needless to say, this wasn't exactly the pleasant outing she had envisioned.

Alternative Parenting Responses

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Children arrive without instructions

If children did come with a manual, parenting would be much easier! There is a wonderful Huffington Post article describing the importance of parent education.

The article begins "You'd never hire someone to do the most difficult and important job on Earth, give them the responsibility to care for your most valuable asset, and toss him or her head first into the job without any training. Yet, we do it every day as new parents, each time a child is born."

The author goes on to describe specific examples of the impact of parenting and parent education. How we choose to parent certainly affects our family's future happiness.

Dealing with defiant children

Defiant children can really drain energy from their parents. Fortunately there are ways to deal with rebellious children that make them far less likely to act defiantly. In his counseling practice, Dr. Jeffrey Berstein has helped a number of parents change their behaviors in ways that greatly reduce the defiance in their children.

Berstein has captured the techniques he teaches parents in his book 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. The book’s introduction includes this description of defiant children: “Your child is defiant and he is driving you up a wall. He is colossally resistant to following even the simplest requests. He is moody, seriously stubborn, overly dramatic, rude, and disrespectful – not every once in a while, but quite often. He doesn’t just question your authority; he actually thinks he has just as much authority as you do.”

His deep appreciation for the struggles of parents with defiant children comes from counseling families over the past 20 years. From understanding what causes defiance to practical ideas for handling defiant children, this book is a valuable resource for helping parents better cope with their defiant children.

Cyberbullying - are your kids affected?

The internet and cellphones enable kids to quickly and sometimes anonymously harass other kids. According to Common Sense Media, 43% of teens have been victims and 53% admit sending a hurtful message. The problems can begin as young as second grade.

Common Sense Media has more information about cyberbullying along with a thought-provoking four minute video. Check out the video and then view it with your children. The video provides a wonderful way to start the conversation with your kids.

Giving silent approval

When our children start misbehaving and we do not do or say anything, we are giving our silent approval. We are also likely to see the misbehavior continue and escalate. At this point we will probably wish we would have intervened earlier!

I witnessed a 10-year-old girl teasing and taunting her younger sister while playing a board game. Their dad was also playing the game but didn’t say anything. The older girl’s teasing continued until someone else finally stepped in and told her it really wasn’t ok to tease her sister like that.

When we notice bullying behavior in our children, it is important that we let them know that this needs to stop. Our children need our guidance in learning to be respectful of others.

Teaching moral behavior

We’d like our children to be kind, respectful and fair to others. However, those behaviors don’t occur naturally so how do parents encourage acting ethically?

Michelle Borba discusses this issue in her book Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing. She discusses each virtue along with ideas for how parents can help their children to develop each virtue. The seven virtues defined in the book are:

“1. Empathy is the core moral emotion that allows your child to understand how other people feel.

2. Conscience is a strong inner voice that helps your child decide right from wrong and stay on the marl path, zapping her with a dose of guilt whenever she strays.

3. Self-control helps your child restrain his impulses and think before he acts so that he behaves right and is less likely to make rash choices with potentially dangerous outcomes.

4. Respect encourages your child to treat others with consideration because she regards them as worthy.

5. Kindness helps your child show his concern about the welfare and feelings of others.

6. Tolerance helps your child appreciate different qualities in others, stay open to new perspectives and beliefs, and respect others regardless of differences in race, gender, appearance, culture, beliefs, abilities, or sexual orientation.

7. Fairness leads your child to treat others in a righteous, impartial, and just way so that she will be more likely to play by the rules, take turns and share, and listen openly to all sides before judging.”

This book is a terrific resource for ideas on how to encourage these virtues in your children.

Scaring kids into behaving

One Mom wrote that her 4-year-old daughter did not want to leave Chuck E. Cheese’s when it was time to go. She solved the problem by telling her daughter “That’s fine. The hobos will come and take you away.” Her daughter immediately got her shoes on!

While scaring our kids may work in the short term, in the long term the consequences aren’t so desirable. What are they learning? We are teaching them that what we say may or may not be true. We are also showing that they can’t always count on us to protect them. Are these really the messages we want our kids to be hearing?

Learn better ways to handle situations like this in the Priceless Parenting online parenting class!

Exhausted mom feels like maid

One mom described her frustration with coming home from work to a house where her three teens had left a mess. Although the kids were home all day due to summer vacation, they didn’t manage to pick up after themselves. Seeing their stuff lying around the house, she wanted to scream “Do you think I’m the maid?” To add fuel to her fury, her kids told her that she’s always in a bad mood.

She reported feeling like she hates them right now. She also revealed how rotten it felt to say those words and wondered if she were being too demanding or expecting too much.

Her expectations were quite reasonable; however, she hadn’t found a way to get her kids to do their share around the house. In situations like this, it can be helpful to list out all the tasks that need to be done to keep your family going (including things like going to work to earn money, paying bills, providing rides). Next, sit down with your kids at a time when everyone is calm and discuss how to divide up these tasks.

It is perfectly realistic to expect teens to do more house work in the summer when they have free time. Giving teens responsibility for things like planning and preparing a dinner will help them learn important life skills while also contributing to the family.

For more ideas on handling chores, see Lesson 6 of the Priceless Parenting online parenting class.

Understanding tween/teen girls

Raising a daughter through her tween/teen years can be a lot like white water rafting down a mountain river – periods of relative calm followed by some rough waters! As in rafting, it can be very helpful to have a guide who understands the territory and can describe what’s coming up plus point out potential dangerous areas.

As a school psychologist for many years, Dr. JoAnn Deak provides this type of guidance in her book Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters. Deak has counseled many girls and their parents through the challenges of growing up. Parents will be able to relate to the poignant, real-life stories she uses to demonstrate her points.

Whether it’s the very real need for 5th – 6th grade girls to have a best friend or the problems with girls who always try to please everyone, this book is a wonderful resource for parents of girls.

School mornings: calm not chaotic

Do you ever find yourself rushing around in the morning desperately trying to get your kids off to school? Feeling rushed and hassled first thing in the morning is not a good way to start a day! Unfortunately many parents and children report this is exactly how they feel in the mornings.

How can we change our behavior so that mornings feel calm instead of chaotic? It can help to take a step back and look at what needs to get done in the mornings and how we want to interact with our children.

Adding Stress by Nagging and Ordering

One thing that adds to morning stress is when parents feel they need to give their kids lots of orders to get them out the door on time:
  • "Eat your breakfast."
  • "Brush your teeth."
  • "Get dressed right now!"
  • "Remember to bring your clarinet."
Whenever we order our kids to do something, we are setting ourselves up for a possible power struggle. We are also sending the unspoken message "You're not smart enough to think of this for yourself so I'm telling you what to do." This is not quite the message we want to be sending!

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Lots of words = lots of attention

When we respond to our children’s misbehavior using lots of words, we are giving them a lot of attention. This may be negative attention but any attention will encourage a behavior to continue. So it’s a good idea to limit the words we use.

For example, one dad described a situation where his daughter was begging him to buy a stuffed bear at the store. He had already told her he wouldn’t buy it for her and then she started in with “oh p-l-l-le-e-e-e-e-a-s-s-e Daddy, I’ll be really good the rest of the day if I can just have it.” Instead of launching into an explanation of why he wasn’t buying it, he just responded “What was my answer?”

Short responses to behaviors like whining and begging will help extinguish those behaviors. The more attention we pay to a behavior, the more likely we are to see that behavior. Save your words for the good behavior!

How do you make your kids feel?

A Dad wrote me that he is working on treating his children with more respect. He mentioned that this quote helps him remember the importance of treating his children well:

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -- Maya Angelou

When we show respect to our children, we make them feel appreciated and loved. We also model how to treat others with respect.

Think back to your last interaction with your children. How do you think they felt afterwards? How did you feel? If we want to build warm, loving relationships with our children, paying attention to these feelings is essential.

Modeling responsibility

One mom’s two daughters are taking summer school. When the bus brings them home, it drops off five kids at an old, vacant school. Parents are supposed to pick their kids up at 12:30 but sometimes the bus drops them off early. Often this mom is the first one to arrive to pick up her daughters. However, instead of leaving the other young children alone at the school, she waits around until all of them are picked up.

One day her daughters were complaining that they were hungry and wanted to go home. She calmly explained that they would not be leaving until all the children had been picked up because it wasn’t safe to leave them there alone.

This mom is teaching her kids an important lesson about being responsible for not only one’s self but also others. When we act with this level of integrity, our children learn about the values we hold most dearly.

Bribery works immediately

Why do parents turn to bribing their kids to behave? One reason is that it often gets the desired results right away.

One mom told me about how her son was begging her to watch a Star Wars movie that they had bought the previous night. They were planning to watch it as a family the following night but that wasn’t soon enough for him! He kept on asking to watch it and proceeded to try to persuade her even when she was on the phone.

Since her phone call was for business and she really needed to complete the conversation, she took a quick break to promise her son an ice cream cone if he stopped bugging her. He immediately agreed and stopped nagging her!

While she achieved the desired behavior, he learned that nagging her may result in a treat. Do you think he’ll try nagging her again? Whatever behaviors we reward, we can expect to see more of those behaviors in the future!

Talking to tweens about drinking

The average age in the United States for alcohol initiation is 13-years-old. This fact along with other important research data is reported in Stephen Wallace's book Reality Gap: Alcohol, Drugs, and Sex--What Parents Don't Know and Teens Aren't Telling.

If your child is 11 or 12, it's a good time to start discussing issues around drinking. You might begin a conversation by stating that you recently learned that the 13 is the average age for kids to start drinking. Ask your children for their thoughts on drinking. Share concerns you have about underage drinking.

For these types of ongoing issues, plan on having many short conversations while your children are growing up. Knowing that you are open to discussing tough topics will help your kids feel more comfortable approaching you in the future.

What's wrong with just wanting our kids to be happy?

"I really do just want my kids to be happy! What can possibly be wrong with that?" The potential problem is that it appears there is a connection between parents focusing on making their kids happy with those children actually being increasingly unhappy.

What does the research show?

Although it seems that children who have their basic needs met plus enjoy many extras would certainly be happy, this appears to not be the case.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed over 14,000 students in grades 9-12 in 2007. They reported "During the 12 months before the survey, 28.5% of students nationwide had felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities."

How do parents play a role?

Loving parents can unintentionally raise self-centered, unhappy children. How does this happen?

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

If I could just hit him!

An exasperated dad of a 12-year-old boy told me “I wish I could just beat him! That would straighten him out.” He went on to explain that as a child he had been frequently beat for misbehaving and he quickly learned not to misbehave. His son had just been suspended from school that day for fighting and he was at wits end trying to figure out how to deal with this boy’s behavior.

Hitting an adolescent is a very bad idea. In Dr. Michael Bradley’s book, Yes, Your Teen is Crazy, he explains it this way:

“You are now officially discharged from the army of hitters of children (if you were ever in that group). As the parent of an adolescent, you must assume the status of conscientious objector. You don’t do violence anymore. You don’t hit, smack, butt, throttle, jab, or even look like you might ever do any of these things. You draw an invisible circle around your kid and you never cross over that line uninvited.

You do this for two reasons. The first is that hitting doesn’t work anyway. The second is that smacking an adolescent is an experience very much like whacking at an old stick of dynamite. Often, it doesn’t explode right away, but when it does, it will demolish everything around it. The question is why would anyone whack at a stick of dynamite or at an adolescent?”

When you’re experiencing this level of challenge and frustration with your child, it’s time to get some outside help. Hitting your child is definitely not the answer.

Following instructions but not the intention

I recently saw a young boy and his teenage brother doing some challenging skateboarding tricks. Both kids had helmets with them; however, those helmets were in their hands, not on their heads! I imagined that their parents had told them to take their helmets and that’s exactly what they did.

While the boys had followed their parents’ instructions, they ignored the intention of those instructions. Clearly the helmets do not do any good if they’re not being worn. Perhaps the parents could have been more specific by saying something like “You’re welcome to go skateboarding as long as you wear your helmet.” Then if they observe the boys skateboarding without wearing their helmets, they could impose a consequence like taking away their privilege to skateboard for awhile.

Challenges with bringing the baby home

New parents are often shocked by just how much work one baby creates! All this extra work combined with a lack of sleep frequently causes marital stress. In their book, And Baby Makes Three, the Gottmans document their research findings that "67% of these couples had become very unhappy with each other during the first three years of their baby's life".

If couples fail to successfully navigate these challenging times, their unhappiness unfortunately can lead to divorce. When my children were in preschool, I was both saddened and amazed by how many couples with young children were divorcing.

This book can help couples expecting their first child anticipate some of the challenges and develop strategies for dealing with these challenges. It is also filled with practical advice for all parents with young children.

I’m going to start smoking

A mom told me a story about her 15-year-old daughter announcing one evening that she had decided she was going to start smoking. Although the mom strongly felt this was not a good idea, she resisted the urge to share her viewpoint. Instead she replied, “I hope smoking doesn’t interfere with your singing.”

The next morning when her daughter came down for breakfast she declared that she had decided against smoking because she really wanted to have the best singing voice possible. Her mom was thrilled that she had changed her mind! She was also happy she held herself back from giving her daughter a lecture about the evils of smoking.

Children swearing

A mom told me about a problem that occurred when chaperoning a 4th grader’s birthday party (children ages 9 – 11 years old). One of the children was asked to leave a laser tag game because he was using obscenities. He was disappointed and angry that he had to stop playing the game.

This mom spoke to him about why his language was inappropriate. She found out that he regularly watched comedians on late-night TV where he learned this type of language. He hadn’t developed the ability to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate places for using these words.

Later when she let his parents know what had happened, they appeared to be shocked. They quickly learned that the unmonitored TV viewing was having some negative consequences! Although it can be challenging to monitor what are children are viewing on TV and computers, it is essential for parents to do this so that they can provide much needed guidance.

Learning when not to trust

One of the hardest things is watching your children learn that not everyone in the world is kind and honest. My 13-year-old son recently learned this at his school. He had been bringing his IPOD to school to listen to music on the bus ride to and from school. He always kept it in his backpack which was with him.

However, during a track practice, he had left his backpack unlocked the locker room. While he was practicing, someone went through his backpack and took his IPOD. He was shocked and disappointed that someone would do this. It was a valuable lesson but certainly a tough one to go through.

Begging children to behave

I was shopping at Trader Joes when I overheard a mom struggling with her young daughter who was sitting in the front of their shopping cart. Mom was agreeing “OK, I’ll give you one money.” The daughter whined “Nooooo, I want TWO monies!” Mom fished around her purse and handed her a couple coins. The daughter then yelled “That’s not enough!” and began crying.

Mom begged her to please stop crying because she really needed to get this shopping done before they could go home. Mom was exasperated as her daughter continued to cry.

If you find yourself begging your kids to behave, it’s time to find some better parenting approaches! Learn some effective ways to set limits with your children while building loving relationships by taking the Priceless Parenting online parenting class.

Wisdom for handling challenging teen behavior

Teens provide parents many opportunities to grow their parenting skills! One of the most insightful and helpful books I've read for dealing with challenging teen behavior is Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! by Michael Bradley.

Bradley, a psychologist, provides practical parenting advice for dealing with difficult teen behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, casual sex, rage and violence and skipping school. His writing is humorous while directly addressing difficult topics. He uses real life stories to contrast normal teenage behavior with behavior that requires parents seek professional help immediately.

All children's brains go through enormous changes during adolescence. Sometimes these changes combined with other stresses can lead to some crazy behavior. Bradley provides sound advice for parenting teens.

How much media is too much?

When parents discuss how much media they allow their children, the answers vary wildly. Some parents have very strict time restrictions on their children's media viewing while others give their children more control over the time they spend on media.

How do you know when your child is getting too much media?

One mom knew she needed to allow less video game time when her 7-year-old son started not wanting play outside or do things with the family preferring his video game instead. He was so attached to playing his video game that he often pitched a fit when he was told the game had to go off. His games didn't have a good way to save the game for later so he was reluctant to stop playing and lose his place in the game.

She decided to reduce his video game playing to one hour twice a week. She started giving him a 10 minute warning before his hour was up. When the 10 minutes were up, he could either choose to shut the game off or she would turn the power off. It only took a couple times of turning the power off to get him to shut the game down in time.

What are signs that digital usage is becoming a problem?

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Parenting discussion on talk radio

This week's "A Life on Fire" radio show discussed parenting through difficult times. We used the book Willow, a story of a teen who turns to cutting to deal with emotional pain, to begin the discussion. We branched into a number of other parenting topics. You can listen to it here (the parenting discussion starts about 9 minutes into the show recorded on June 17, 2009):


I had fun working with the show's hosts Elise Kloter and Jill Pagano. I hope you'll have a chance to listen to it!

Warning signs for parents

Parenting would be easier if there were warning signs along the way similar to the warning signs along a road. All parents want to know when sharp curves are approaching, where to tread lightly because of thin ice and exactly where the dangerous drop-offs are located!

By understanding the potential problem areas, you are more likely to able to steer clear of them. For example, knowing that two and three-year-olds will have tantrums can make handling these inevitable meltdowns easier by allowing you to plan your response. Likewise, knowing that multi-player internet games are highly addictive can help you decide whether or not those games are something you will allow your children to play.

Taking a parenting class is one way to learn what to expect along the bumpy road of raising children. The Priceless Parenting online parenting class is available wherever you are located and is designed to help you avoid parenting pitfalls!

Fostering Growth using the Mentoring Parenting Style

What is your normal parenting style?  Do you give your kids orders?  Do you do a lot of things for them that they are capable of doing thems...