All Your Discipline Questions Answered. No, Seriously.

How to discipline kidsFor many of us, our job as parent is fairly easy until our children begin to be able to voice their wants, needs and opinions with some vigor. At this point we adults are faced with issues we didn’t anticipate, and many of us are sorely unprepared for how we react when our previously lovely children no longer do what we want them to do when we want them to do it!

And this is probably just about when the questions about “how can I discipline my children?” begin.

I remember asking those questions. I remember feeling so frustrated, and so exhausted, and so useless as a parent when my son and daughter would do the exact opposite of what I told them to do, or when they would fight endlessly about nonsense, or when I would end up screaming because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I read every book and asked every expert and tried every technique (some of which worked, many of which didn’t). Ultimately, all of this is why I started this blog – to help those of you who became parents after me short cut to the good stuff.

Today I have some super AMAZING good stuff for you (so good that I am actually writing a post on my blog which lately has been sorely neglected because of other writing projects – I am so sorry and thank you to all of you who are sticking with me and I promise I will be back here soon). And yes, this amazing good stuff has to do with discipline, and your kids, and making parenting easier! And don’t forget to read to the end because I have a little surprise for one lucky reader.

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while – or follow me on social media – know that I am a huge fan of Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson. Together they wrote one of the most ground-breaking and widely read parenting books of the last couple of years, The Whole-Brain Child (which has been since translated into 18 languages and if you haven’t read it yet, you must). This book introduced parents to the latest information on how their child’s brain develops and responds to the world – therefore showing parents why children behave the way they do.

The fact that this book is being shared around the world with parents, grandparents and teachers is an amazing testament to how many of you out there are hungry for information on how to understand, respond to, and connect with the children in your lives.

No Drama DisciplineI was thrilled when I learned that Dan and Tina had written a new book called No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. This book not only gives us a deep understanding about what is happening in our child’s developing brain when she is acting out, but it also gives adults a window into understanding the best way to respond in the moment.

Best of all, No-Drama Discipline educates adults in understanding the true meaning of the word “discipline”: To Teach. The book is filled with science-backed explanations for why a connection-based response to children’s behavior gives you the results you’ve been looking for. So, instead of being a book full of gimmicks to get our kids to “behave” (a short term survival goal), this book teaches us how to use those difficult parenting moments to create connections in the brain – and between people – in order to build skills, self-discipline, and health (a long-term goal to strive for)!

Ultimately, I know that what we all want for our children is for them to grow into being resilient, happy, kind and respectful people who make their way successfully in the world. And, as Tina says.“I really believe that if we can reduce violent, harsh, and scary parental responses and increase more conscious, kind, and intentional ones, we can promote insight, empathy, and kindness in the world.” This book gives you the ability to do all of this, while strengthening your relationship with your children.

This video below gives you a much better idea of what this book is all about. You can read more here on the website for No-Drama Discipline which also has reviews and links for purchasing the book.

hope I’ve intrigued you enough to pick up a copy of this book for yourself – and maybe even one for friends (or teachers) who struggle with the idea of how to instill positive behavior in their children without resorting to punishment.

No-Drama Discipline is officially released tomorrow – Tuesday, September 22nd – and I’m thrilled to say that I have been given a signed copy of the book to give away to one reader! All you need to do to enter the giveaway is:

  1. Share this post on social media, tagging both myself and Dr. Tina Bryson (I’ll include those links below).
  2. And leave a comment below telling us why you think this book could be helpful to you and your family! I’ll reply to your comment below, so make sure you check back or better yet, Please be sure to include a way for me to contact you in case you win!

That’s it. I’ll choose a winner at random (thank you, this Friday, October 3rd at 1pm PST. The lucky winner will be announced on my Facebook page!

So, go forth and share! This book is going to be a game changer!

5 Ways Sportscasting Helps When Parenting Gets Tough

One of the hardest aspects of parenting for me is remaining in a calm and patient frame of mind so that I can model that way of behavior for my children. I know that being mindful in my parenting is key, as is learning how to take a mommy time out. But a third component is helping our children understand that parents have emotions, parents aren’t perfect and that everything is going to be alright even if mom or dad is upset.

Beware of him that is slow to anger; for when it is long coming, it is the stronger when it comes, and the longer kept. Abused patience turns to fury.
~ Francis Quarles

My father is, perhaps, one of the most patient men I have ever met. And he’s also one of the most sensitive. When I was younger he would experience things I did as hurtful or insulting, but would keep it to himself. Then, after a seemingly insignificant last straw would occur, he would explode. As a child, there was nothing quite so confusing as this. I was unable to connect his anger to a cause that made sense and the intensity of his anger seemed so disproportionate to the offense.

frustrated manThe ability of a parent to be aware of their feelings as they occur, and to let a child in on that process, can be a powerful way not only to connect, but to also reduce the friction with one another. As compassionate parents have turned away from time-outs as a means of stopping children’s negative behaviors, many have realized they need more tools to help themselves cope when things get out of hand.

One of the most powerful ways I have learned to reduce my own stress is by “sportscasting” my feelings. I have often used sportscasting with my children as a way to help them learn how to solve problems for themselves. Janet Lansbury recently wrote an excellent post called Sportscasting Your Child’s Struggles that describes how this is done with young children:

“Sportscasters don’t judge, fix, shame, blame or get emotionally involved. They just keep children safe, observe and state what they see, affording children the open space they need to continue struggling until they either solve the problem or decide to let go and move on to something else” ~ Janet Lansbury

For adults, sportscasting our struggles can be a gateway to mindfulness. As Janet points out, you are simply observing your state of being, and there is no judgment, fix, shame, blame or emotional involvement in your own suffering. But how, exactly, does one go about sportscasting?

1. Pay Attention To Your Body

When you’re with your children, periodically check in with yourself. How do you feel from moment to moment? Are you relaxed? Nervous? Anxious? When you notice you’re moving from relaxed to becoming angry or stressed, give some thought to what is happening in your body. Do your shoulders hunch up toward your ears? Does your jaw become tight? Does your stomach get into a knot? Do you hands form tight fists? Does your face flush? For me, a sure sign that I’m about to pop is that I clench my teeth and feel a sudden rush of heat.

But even before I reach that boiling point I have learned that I often get a sense of being overwhelmed, as if my brain can’t think clearly. I particularly get this way when multiple people are talking to me at once. I also feel my heart beating faster, as if an emergency is happening. Just thinking about this as I type makes my chest tighten and my breathing get shallower.

All of these sensations are fairly subtle and it has taken some time for me to be able to link them to my stress level and to be aware of them instead of letting them flood me. It can be quite difficult to be aware of all of these signals if you are not used to paying attention to your body and especially if you are in the midst of a conflict brewing with your child(ren), but the more awareness you practice, the easier it becomes.

2. Verbalize Your Feelings And Sensations

You’ll likely feel a little silly at first, but give it a try. In a regular tone of voice simply describe what is going on and what you feel. There is no judgment involved, just a statement of facts:

“I feel anxious right now. You are jumping on the couch again and I feel worried that you will fall. I have tension in my tummy and my heart is beating faster.”

“You are throwing your toys on the floor instead of picking them up. I feel pretty frustrated. My jaw feels very tight and my body feels hot.”

“I feel annoyed. You are teasing your sister and making her cry. My chest feels tight and I feel like I want to yell.”

What you will begin to notice as you do this is that you actually start to calm down when you verbalize your feelings. Just like when you sportscast for your child and they feel “felt” and begin to relax, by labeling what you are feeling the part of your brain responsible for telling your body there is danger (the amygdala) is less activated:

“When people see a photograph of an angry or fearful face, they have increased activity in a region of the brain called the amygdala, which serves as an alarm to activate a cascade of biological systems to protect the body in times of danger. Scientists see a robust amygdala response even when they show such emotional photographs subliminally, so fast a person can’t even see them. […] The study showed that while the amygdala was less active when an individual labeled the feeling, another region of the brain was more active: the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. This region is located behind the forehead and eyes and has been associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences. It has also been implicated in inhibiting behavior and processing emotions…”
~ UCLA Newsroom

By not judging the situation (“I’m so angry because you are jumping on the couch!), you don’t set up a power struggle where your child feels the need to defend himself. You are simply stating facts.

In addition to actually calming yourself down by verbalizing how you feel, you are giving young children language to describe their own emotions and helping them to recognize that there is a connection between the sensations in their bodies and what emotions they have. The more you do this and the more you help them connect the dots, the better the dialogue is when big feelings surface (from you or your child)!

3. Model Self-Regulation (It Helps Your Kids do the Same)

emergencyOne of the very helpful things we have learned in my daughter’s social skills class is the idea of green, red and yellow zone emotions.

The green zone is generally where we want to be and to stay — relaxed, calm, at ease, happy, focused and so forth.

The yellow zone is, as with a traffic light, a warning. This is the most subtle emotional zone and often the hardest for people to recognize. When you’re in the yellow zone you may be experiencing frustration, irritation, anxiety, silliness, nervousness, difficulty concentrating and other similar feelings.

The red zone is where you may feel fury, rage, anger, terror, explosive behavior, and other “out of control” emotions. Often people don’t notice their “yellow zone” feelings until they have slipped all the way into red — these are often people who seem to go from “zero to 60” or “flip” from being calm to being enormously angry without warning.

I often talk with my children using this traffic light analogy:

  • let them know how you feel: “I am starting to notice that my feelings are in the yellow zone now. I feel anxious and annoyed. I would like to get back into the green zone so I am going to take a few deep breaths to help me calm down.”
  • focus on the positive: “I was really in the red zone before and felt SO angry! But you reminded me to do a rewind and now I am really in the green zone and feel so calm and happy again. Thank you!”
  • get them to notice how your mood affects theirs: “I notice that when you and your brother are fighting in the car, I have yellow zone feelings like annoyance and frustration. And when it goes on too long, I go right to the red zone! How do you feel when I am in those zones? What can we do to all get back in to the green zone?”

By talking about your feelings you are letting your children know that, yes, adults feel things too! More importantly, you are showing them that you are aware of your feelings and are taking responsibility for them. Be careful not to blame children for your feelings. the point isn’t to say “When you are doing ______ you make me feel _______.” Rather, you are saying, “When you do _______ I feel ______.” A subtle, but important

4. Remember Being Real is Better Than Being Perfect

When children are young, mom and dad are god-like. We can do everything, we know everything and we never ever make mistakes.

Except we do.

By showing your children that you can get upset about things and sometimes lose control, you are teaching them that they don’t need to be perfect. By showing them that you know how to make repairs when you do get angry, you also show them that the relationship doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be cared for and to continually improve.

Our children need real, relatable role models, not perfection. Let them see you, flaws and all. Feel your feelings. Just as we tell our children that none of their feelings are bad, parents need to know this as well.

Those feelings are yours. The good, the bad and the ugly. Own them.

5. Create Safe Spaces

There are times when our children’s behavior will get to us, no matter how much we try to stay in the moment and no matter how many tools we have for helping ourselves stay regulated. It’s times like that when parents often feel the need to take a time out so we can cool down. Parents always ask me, “how can I take a time out from my child when his meltdown is pushing me over the edge? He will feel abandoned and would run after me.”

When children feel dis-regulated or disconnected from those they care about, they are not capable of thinking logically about how you might need a minute or two to calm down so you won’t flip your lid. No, children in that state need your empathy and connection so they can regulate themselves.

However, by sportscasting your emotions as you begin to notice your frustration levels rising, not only are you able to notice that you need to take a break before you flip out, but you can also notice you need to take a break before your child senses any disconnection from you. Because you have been mindful of your emotions and reactions, it is much easier to tell your child in a relaxed way, “I feel a little anxious right now so I am going to step out and cool down for a minute. I will be right back.” There is no anger, no disconnection, no need for your child to feel abandoned or concerned.

Sportscasting means you are just letting your children know how you feel, that you take care of yourself when you feel that way, that you will physically be with them again shortly and that they are safe and not to blame for any part of what is occurring.

Although I may have rolled my eyes at my father when I was a teenager or complained that he talked to me too often about his feelings, today I am so grateful that he had learned to express those emotions to me. That constant desire on his part to connect gave me a rich and expressive language to describe my own thoughts and feelings and, most importantly, made me feel that our father-daughter relationship was important to him.

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: A Review

Before I became a parent I will admit I knew less than nothing about parenting. I had no “philosophy” about how I would parent other than some vague notion that I would, of course, love my children and teach them “everything I knew”.

Under the best circumstances, this really could be enough. But for most people, myself included, when parenting starts to get a little harder we either fall back on how our parents parented (which sometimes left something to be desired) or fumble our way through trying various inconsistent methods in the futile hope that one of them will be a magic bullet and suddenly being a mom will be what we thought it was going to be like!

I do wish that in the early days I had some sort of guide book that focused on what I now have come to call connected parenting. It would have given me comfort to know that certain things I did, instinctively, were creating a better relationship with my kids. And it would have provided suggestions which resonated with me when I had difficulties.

L.R. Knost of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources has written such a guide. Her new book Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages (A Little Hearts Handbook) reads like gentle suggestions from a good friend. The author is an independent child development researcher and mom of six (6!) children ranging in age from toddlerhood to young adult. Because of this, Two Thousand Kisses a Day doesn’t just stop after the first 5 years, as so many other parenting books do, but continues on to give advice for raising great kids all the way middle school, teen years and adulthood.

In the introduction, the author makes the point that connecting with our children is:

“…about maintaining and enriching a strong parent/child relationship through all of the ages and stages of childhood so that, through a foundation of trust and mutual respect, parenting takes the form of guiding instead of punishing, encouraging natural growth instead of forcing premature independence, and creating a strong, intimate, interwoven family fabric that will stand the test of time.”

Although Two Thousand Kisses a Day covers a broad ranges of ages and stages, the chapters are short and easy to read. The author provides understandable scenarios to illustrate her points and often gives easy to follow suggestions for every-day difficulties, such as doing chores in the house or feeding a picky eater, from a gentle parenting point of view.

For those of us who give a lot of thought to how we are parenting, it is very easy to blame ourselves every time our children have difficulties. I love that the author devotes a chapter to parenting guilt and reminds her readers that “…when our efforts don’t produce an endlessly-happy, always-confident, perfectly-reasonable child, we can make the mistake of feeling like a failure as a parent instead of simply acknowledging that we are the parent of a human being with all of the normal quirks and foibles inherent in human nature.”

What L. R. Knost leaves us with in Two Thousand Kisses a Day is encouragement and simple ways to make an enormous difference in our children’s lives. She reminds us that it is never too late to start having a connected relationship with our children and, from my favorite chapter in the book, that “it’s important to be in our children’s lives but also to be intentional about making our time together count in the small ways that really matter to children.”

Ultimately, that’s what Two Thousand Kisses a Day is really about: finding as many ways to continue to be as connected to our growing children, as you did when they were infants and you kissed, cuddled and told them you loved them every chance you got.

Why We Shout In Anger: How Connection Leads To Cooperation

” The level of cooperation parents get from their kids is usually equal to
the level of connection children feel with their parents.” ~ Pam Leo

For a number of years now I have been parenting with this quote from Pam Leo in mind. Not always consciously, but always in my heart I knew this sentiment to be true. Children “act out” when they sense disconnection. They “misbehave” in a misguided effort to get needs met and return to connection. The angrier parents get and the more punitive we become, the more we can expect children to continue to give us more of the same misbehavior and acting out.

heartsI have been thinking about this a lot lately (generally because keeping connection despite my daughter’s challenging behavior can be difficult) and have been trying to write a post about it when my friend, Julie, sent me this beautiful story that clarified everything I have been trying to say:

Why We Shout In Anger

A Hindu saint who was visiting the river Ganges to take bath, found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples, smiled, and asked:

“Why do people shout in anger shout at each other?”

The disciples thought for a while. One of them said, “Because we lose our calm, we shout.”

“But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can just as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner” answered the saint.

The disciple gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples.

Finally the saint explained.

“When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.

But what happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small.”

The saint continued, “When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that is all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.”

He looked at his disciples and said, “So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant. Do not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.”

connection with child 2I sat with this story for a little while, remembering a lesson I had learned somewhere along the way: all behavior is an attempt to get a need met. Thus, children do not misbehave, but they may not have the skills to get what they need in a way that makes things easy for adults.

“Don’t interpret that children are trying to do something to you — they are only trying to do something for themselves. And this does not make them bad children or misbehaving children. But it may cause a problem” ~ Thomas Gordon

I notice that when I let go of the idea that my children are being manipulative, willful or obstinate and instead remember that they would cooperate if they could, our connection to each other returns. Once the connection is there, their challenging behavior diminishes and often I am aware that I had been trying to defend my position of authority instead of relating to them during a particularly challenging moment.

Once I am treating my kids as if they are trying to get needs met and may not know how to do it appropriately, I am less likely to be triggered by their behavior (thus, less likely to blow my top) and am more likely to have the presence of mind to be empathetic and offer help.

I think, as parents, we often feel helpless and frustrated when our children don’t do what we want them to do. Perhaps we forget, in those moments, that our children are fully formed human beings who don’t yet have the skills to explain their behaviors. Instead, they do things like whine, cry, bite, pout, hit and any other number of behaviors to express themselves.

In those moments it’s so easy to let our hearts get distant. But, as Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better”. I don’t beat myself up for what I didn’t know to do before, but now that I know better, it keeps me honest and on the right track as I continue growing as a mother.

No more distant hearts in our family. No more shouting in anger.

Help For Hitting And Aggressive Behavior

Among the handful of blogs and websites I turn to over and over to find advice and support, is Hand in Hand Parenting. Patty Wipfler, who founded this organization more than 20 years ago, has been teaching and supporting parents since the early 70’s.

From sibling rivalry to agressive behavior to common childhood issues like whining, transitions or separation anxiety, the advice and insight offered by Patty and her team always leave me feeling as if I better understand what is motivating my children’s behavior and what response from me will work best.

I was very excited when Hand in Hand Parenting contacted me a few weeks ago to review their new online course, “No More Hitting!”.

The basic premise behind Hand In Hand’s approach is centered on everyone’s strong, innate desire to love and be loved. That is, when children act out, they are actually asking for closeness, connection and understanding. When parents’ behavior goes “off track”, they need support and a place to offload the feelings that interfere with their ability to parent well.

The new course they’ve developed focuses in on helping parents who have toddlers who bite, push or are otherwise aggressive to other kids. For anyone who just doesn’t know what to do, or is concerned about their child’s behaviors, this is a course definitely worth checking out. However, even if your child doesn’t hit and even if you don’t have toddlers, this course can still be life changing.

My Experience

I reviewed this series of 15 short videos over the past few weeks and came away with so much insight into my 5-year old daughter’s difficult behavior patterns. She has never had a hitting issue, but she does have huge emotional outbursts, difficulty handling adversity and we get locked into power struggles often. After taking this course I feel armed with some excellent ideas on how I can change the way I respond when she spins out of control into a tantrum and a greater understanding of what is behind her seemingly irrational behaviors. Most importantly, Hand In Hand Parenting’s approach has given me a stronger understanding of my daughter’s deep need for connection, especially when she seems to be pushing me away.

The Details

  • Don’t worry if you don’t have time for a course. This one is self-paced. You have 6 weeks to watch the 3 hours of video which is broken up into 15-minute long segments.
  • Your partner can watch them as well so you can both be on the same page!
  • You also get 9 eBooklets including ones on How Children’s Emotions Work, Special Time, Crying, Reaching for your Angry Child, Healing Children’s Fear and more (a $24 value).

The Bonus!

“No More Hitting” is $79. I’m excited to say that Hand In Hand Parenting has offered 10 sessions at 50% off. These discounted sessions are first come first serve and you just need to enter the code TWINCOACH when you are purchasing. But even if you don’t manage to get the course at a discount, it’s well worth the $79!

5 Ways To Regain Your Calm, Cool, Connection

If there’s anything I know about, it’s losing it with my kids and feeling awfully guilty about it 2 seconds later. I’ve written about it a few times on this blog and probably have many more scenarios I could share, but I will spare you.

What makes it worse for me is that I really do know better! I have many great tools and yet I still fall back on this old, useless tool of yelling, throwing a grown-up tantrum and making pointless threats.

Why? Because I’m not taking care of myself. Because I’m not always practicing being mindful. Because I have set it up in my mind that a particular moment is going to be hard…and then that moment lives up to those expectations. Because I have expectations that the day will be wonderful and when it’s not, I am disappointed. Because I have unresolved triggers from childhood, my first marriage, or just life in general. Oh, yes, in any given moment there are myriad reasons why I (or you) may not be parenting the way we want to be in any given moment.

But even if we behave awfully, or just lose it for a moment, we can’t wallow in those feelings. We need to make repairs and reset the course of the day. We need to get back to the real us and the real connection with our children. But how?

I think that I’m not alone in feeling these frustrations and wanting to make changes. My posts on keeping calm when you want to explode and triggers, tantrums and mommy time outs are two of the most widely read and shared things I’ve written on this blog.

Even if we are all working on the introspection to untangle triggers, the deep breathing, the stepping away when we feel stressed, there may still be times when we screw up and yell or make a snarky remark or sigh and roll our eyes. We’re human and we make mistakes. But my goal of deeply respecting these two, little people who need me, trust me and love me unconditionally is more important than any frustration I may feel momentarily.

But sometimes it can be hard to let go of the irritation. Sometimes I feel stubborn and want to hold on to my anger. I feel justified in my annoyance in that moment. But I know that not only is it not useful to anyone to stay angry, it’s actually damaging to my relationship with my children.

1. Be Kind. Rewind.

rewindOne of the best things I ever taught my children was the concept of rewinding. This was probably way easier to teach in the days of the VHS tape (where the slogan at the local video store was “Be Kind. Rewind”), but nevertheless, your children will get the point.

At whatever point you manage to catch yourself doing things poorly – whether it’s just that you notice your connection is “off” with your child or if you have already reached the point where you have been yelling and throwing things – you can stop and ask for a rewind.

When my children were little I used this when they would get stuck in a mood or seemed unable to get out of a struggle with each other. As they were too young to really get into a discussion about it, I just modeled the idea: “Oh, you really wanted that toy and he won’t let you play with it. And then you cried and hit him. Now he is crying, too! I think we need a rewind. Let’s do the rewind dance!” and I would do it by myself. Now that they’re older, they are often the ones who ask for the rewind whenever they feel the disconnect or when mommy is especially grumpy. Rewinding is also an awesome tool when you suddenly realize you’re stuck in a power struggle.

Just the act of doing something silly and out of the ordinary will likely alter the mood, but I love connecting it in their minds with starting all over again. Our “rewind dance” is just us being goofy, wiggling our bodies, rolling our arms rather like John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever” (minus the finger pointing in the air) while saying “rewind, rewind, rewind”.

We then stop suddenly, smile brightly and say, “Good Morning!” We continue the goofiness by recounting some of the days happy events as if they are just happening now: “Time to wake up! Would you like eggs for breakfast? Let’s go to the park and play on the swings. Then let’s make sandcastles that are so tall they touch the sky!” and so on.

By the time we’ve “re-lived” the day all the way back to the current moment, the bad feelings have dissipated and we can reconnect and talk about what they were feeling or having trouble with.

2. Recharge Your Patience

Obviously, as parents we each need different things to allow us to feel recharged. However, it’s not always possible to have 10 hours of sleep or a yoga class every day. So, when I am able to notice that I am feeling depleted and on edge, I have to ask for help. Most of the time there is no one to help me but my kids, so we came up with this very simple idea.

When nothing is going as intended (and things have gone “a bit pear shaped” as my British friend, Jackie, likes to say), you may feel frustrated, annoyed, and like you’ve got very little left before you blow. Try to catch yourself before you boil over, describe to your children how you are feeling and tell them that you need help to “recharge your patience”.

Verbalizing your feelings reconnects both hemispheres of your brain and helps calm you down.
It also helps your children understand that parents have feelings as well.
Doing something unexpected often halts whatever unwanted behavior is happening with the kids.
Asking for their help gets them engaged and focused on something other than the behavior that was frustrating you.

Now that you’ve asked for the help, give your index finger (or multiple fingers if there are multiple kids) to your child and ask him to hold it as if his hand were the socket that your finger plugs into. I usually add a few sound effects of buzzing and shake my body as if receiving electric shocks…which never fails to get a laugh (another mood buster).

Moving your body this way is not unlike an animal “shaking it off” after a negative encounter; it releases some of the negative energy stored in your body. Plus, a little goofiness goes a long to way to relieving tension and changing the energy for everyone involved!

3. Go To Alaska.

As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t use time outs in our family. But we do our best to continue to teach the children that at times everyone needs to cool down…even mommy. When the children were little they created a “cool down corner” that they named Alaska (as it’s very cool there. Get it?).

It’s not a punishment to go there; it’s a place to relax, collect yourself, regain composure and chill out until you’re ready to join the group again. Sometimes it’s nice to be there alone, sometimes you want company.

Make yourself your own cool down corner and be sure the space is comfortable and inviting. If you are headed there while home alone with the kids, you will probably not have a long time so have whatever you need there that will help you calm down and able to remember your priorities. It can be anything:

  • A framed photo of your children looking their happiest.
  • A gratitude journal which you can flip through to remember all you’re grateful for.
  • A memory box filled with little trinkets you’ve collected during happy outings with your children.
  • A favorite quote that always brings you back to a more present state of mind.
  • Music that helps you relax.

The earlier you recognize that you need to go to “Alaska”, the better. If you yell in the heat of the moment “I need to get away from you and go cool down!”, you’re just going to have a screaming child clinging to you for dear life. Because, of course, that kind of response from a parent feels life threatening to a child. However, if you start to notice you are tensing up, instead of ignoring the feeling, verbalize it.

You will need way less time to get past your initial tensing jaw than you will need to repair a full blown temper tantrum in which you made yourself and your children all cry. A little time in Alaska, coupled with some deep breathing, and you should be ready to re-connect with your family.

4. Reframe Negativity

reframe negativityHave you ever looked at a room full of scattered toys and thought, “What a mess!” Or listened to your children running through the house, yelping loudly and thought, “Stop making so much noise!” Or sat with your child as she has a tantrum and thought, “She is so difficult. She makes things so hard when she screams and cries.”

Consider that if you could stop and reframe those negative thought patterns you would drastically change not only the way you see your life, but the way you experience it.

That “messy room” could actually be viewed as a sign of fun being had.
The loud children could be looked at as joyful children.
The difficult child could be seen instead as one who has big emotions she needs help understanding.

Try making a list of all the things that make you frustrated, angry, unhappy. Then see how you can re-frame each of them. Some may feel like a stretch, some you may need help with in order to see them as positives, but don’t give up on it.

I catch myself getting irritated (especially with noise) and because I have been working on re-framing for a while, I am now able to more quickly switch my thinking to focusing on my positive version of what’s happening. I can instantly feel my body relax and soften when I do.

This doesn’t mean that I let my kids run wild or that my house is a mess (well, sometimes it is). It just means that by re-framing, I allow myself the opportunity to approach each of those things from a calm state of mind and am able to be the connected parent I know I can be. It felt awkward at first, but with repetition, it has become more natural.

Dr. Laura Markham explains this idea of training your mind in a recent post on her blog:

“Because we can’t switch our minds off, our inner critics are constantly looping through negative thought patterns. Brain research shows that our minds actually follow certain patterns that get etched into our neural pathways with frequent use. So when our child does something we don’t like, it starts a cascade of negative thoughts: ‘Oh, no….He’s doing that again…He never listens when I….There’s no way to get him to…..Why does he always…..I am so sick and tired of this….If I had behaved that way when I was his age….I need to nip this in the bud or he’ll be completely out of control in the teen years…..I must be a terrible parent…’

Sound familiar? The bad news is, many of us walk around in a low level of negativity. It’s so easy for our children to set it off. And the things we say or do from the grip of fear never give us the results we want.

The good news is, you can disarm your inner critic. You can develop the mindfulness to notice when you’re in a bad mood, and take steps to feel better. You can even “re-train” your mind to to make appreciation a habit, which has been proven to make us happier. Not surprisingly, you’ll find that you feel more peaceful inside, which allows you to be a more patient, compassionate parent.”

5. Give Yourself Visual Inspiration

Gina-Vision-boardSometimes we all need reminders. As much as we may know that remaining composed is a better way to parent, we can still get triggered and lose control. If you find you’re doing it often, or doing it often at one particular time (say, during the bedtime routine), then giving yourself a visual reminder of what you are trying to achieve can be very helpful.

  • Make a vision board. Use photos and quotes that sum up your parenting goals and hang it in a place where you see it every day. Or hang it in the place where you need the most help staying grounded and in the right frame of mind.
  • If arts and crafts aren’t your thing, you can simply hang Post-It notes around the house with words on them that will help you. “Nothing Is An Emergency” is one of my favorite reminders!
  • Make a public declaration to your children of your intention to change your behavior. I recently took Dr. Laura Markham’s suggestion of taking a “Vow of Yellibacy”. My kids have created a chart that they put stickers on at the end of the day if they feel I’ve done a good job of speaking respectfully to them that day. Having that visual reminder out in public is a good way for me to keep my tone in check!

The most important ingredient in all of these methods is forgiveness. You need to be able to forgive yourself in those moments when you are far from perfect. Having a few tricks that help bring you back to being the parent you want to be will allow you to have some sense of control in an otherwise very out of control moment! These are just a few of the ones I use to help me. I’d love to know what you think and what you might add! Leave me a comment below – I’m sure you’ve got some great ideas as well!


Creating A Tidal Wave Of Change. Are You With Me?

“There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“One generation full of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world.” ~ Dr. Charles Raison

There are times when I ask myself why I put so much time and effort into this blog and all that goes along with writing it. This happens occasionally on days when I feel particularly overwhelmed with juggling everything in my life. It definitely happens on days when people who come across what I write send me comments that are so full of vitriol and judgment that I question, just for a moment, my purpose and beliefs.

I am generally a rather private person and am not inclined to enjoy being the center of attention. Nor do I tend to be confrontational about things. And I don’t have the thick skin required for being judged harshly. And yet I continue, day after day, to expose myself and push myself to share what is generally a very intimate thing: my struggle to change bad habits, my missteps, my fears, insecurities and self doubts and ultimately, my attempts to overcome it all.

And for what purpose?

I was considering that question the other day. It came up again, but this time in context of being asked what my goal was in writing this blog. When I first started, my thought was to eventually write a book. I still have that goal, I’ve just had to put it on the back burner for a bit. But, in the almost 2 years that I’ve been writing, I’ve noticed that my goals have morphed a bit.

I’ve come to realize that those two quotes at the top of the page are why I do this. I persist in sharing and examining and digging deep because I know in every part of my being that we are all connected. What we teach our children (directly or indirectly) goes out into the world like a ripple in a pond. Expanding further and further to ultimately touch everyone they come in contact with. And everyone they come in contact with creates their own ripple.

Yes, it is often overwhelming to consider how certain beliefs about children that I don’t agree with are so ingrained in many people. Yes, it can be disheartening to come up against people unwilling to see things a different way. And yes, it sometimes would be easier to just live inside my bubble and let others fight for this parenting paradigm shift.

I watch parents in the playground barking orders at their children or disrespecting them in myriad ways and I physically hurt. Can I really live in a bubble and ignore the possibility that maybe I can help in some way?

“And there is no easy way to change human behaviour. There is no quick way to change human behaviour. To achieve change we must be patient, be committed, and above all be brave.” ~ Aunt Annie’s Childcare

Bravery. That’s one trait I didn’t expect to have to work on when I became a parent. Bravery is for people who fight against racial injustice. Or against brutal dictatorships. How can I look at what I am doing as being brave? But I believe bravery is in the experience of the doer. Not in the eye of the beholder. It is brave for me to share my shortcomings and be willing to be judged. It is brave for me to push myself to find the deep connection, the underlying meaning, the empathetic response instead of just the easy way out. It is brave for me to put myself out there as a parent who speaks up for a different way of doing things…even when I’m challenged by my own insecurities about being visible.

childismA recent article in Time Magazine provocatively titled “Childist Nation”: Does America Hate Kids? discusses a disturbing trend:

“There’s a general sense now that children’s rights, children’s needs, children’s wants and desires have taken on too prominent a place in our family lives. That we’ve over indulged them and now have to tighten the reins. The backlash is, at base, against ourselves — against a form of boomer and postboomer parenting that many agree has gone off the rails. But the targets of that backlash — its victims — are children.”

When I read things like this I know that I have to write. I cannot bury my head in the sand and pretend I don’t know the effects of that sort of thinking. I am just one person, but the ripple effect of the compassion, empathy and respect for children I am working to create can grow and expand infinitely. Will you join me?

Positive Parents And A Giveaway!

When I first became a mother I began reading a number of blogs and parenting pages that have guided and inspired me so much both as a parent and as a blogger myself. One of these blogs is Rebecca Eanes’ Positive Parents. I always learn something from her perspective on parenting and share many of her posts on my Twin Coach Facebook page.

Rebecca writes wonderfully about how to create connected, positive relationships with our children. She never comes across as being “better than” her readers and is always wise and thoughtful in her approach to some of our most challenging parenting moments. The manner in which she delivers this information is so relatable that even someone who isn’t familiar with a positive, empathetic approach can easily see how the methods she talks about can work for their family.

Some of the posts that I have loved most recently include:

Solutions For Siblings

happy parent and child

“Peaceful parenting is about having peaceful homes and peaceful relationships. Conflicts will always arise, and that is perfectly normal, but by setting boundaries around respect and teaching problem-solving skills, we can teach our kids how to find solutions, repair relationships, and come back to peace.”

The Right Way To Parent?

“There is certainly no shortage of articles telling us all what not to do as parents, yet few offer concrete advice on what we should do. As a parent, I know how frustrating it can be to have all of your tools yanked away because they’re all “wrong” and then being left feeling like you’re adrift on this big sea without a paddle. (No pun intended.) I was there once, too. I had this exact realization.

Okay, spanking is bad. Definitely bad. Now time outs are bad too. Wait, all punishments are bad. Oh, and consequences? Not a great idea. So what’s left?

Can you relate?

If you’re floating adrift out there, let me throw you a lifesaver. Well, its more like arm floaties and a map, but just stick with me. I’m going to give you some tools you can start using now to replace your time outs, threats, and taking away privileges, but I’m not going to give you concrete advice on what to do either.”

The Superior Parent Award Goes To…

Rebecca’s wonderful answer to the recent debate over the new book “Bringing Up Bebe” and whether French parents are better than American parents.

Positive Parents also has a terrific Facebook page, Positive Parenting: Toddlers And Beyond, where Rebecca not only shares her own posts but frequently posts other articles and pieces of wisdom that she feels will relate to her more than 17,000 (!) followers. She really is an amazing wealth of information and it’s a wonderful community of people she’s gathered. I’m a big fan of hers and I hope you will take a minute to check out her blog and Facebook page.

Now, for more good stuff.

Rebecca has just written her first ebook entitled The Newbie’s Guide To Positive Parenting. From Rebecca’s site:

“This 30-page PDF eBook will give you clarity and offer you tools and skills that will strengthen your relationship with your child while teaching values and instilling the self-discipline that will benefit your child for a lifetime. The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting provides several scenarios so you can see positive parenting in action!”

The chapters include:

  • What is Positive Parenting?
  • How Positive Parenting is Different from Permissive Parenting
  • Changing Your Mindset
  • Teaching Tools
  • Consequences, Punishments, and Problem-Solving
  • Limit Enforcement versus Punishment
  • 10 Alternatives to Punishment
  • 10 Things That Are More Important Than Discipline

Rebecca has very nicely offered to give away a copy of her ebook, but even if you don’t win it, it is priced at a very affordable $4.99, so please pass on this information to your friends, share it on your Facebook page, pin away on Pinterest and let as many people as you can know that here is some excellent accesible information for helping parents, caregivers and educators better connect with the children they love.

Giveaway rules:

Just leave a comment below and let me know if you’d like to win a copy. If you feel comfortable sharing what your biggest challenge is when it comes to staying positive in parenting, please share…I believe we all learn from each other.

I will pick a random winner (thank you on Saturday, March 3rd at noon PST and announce the winner on my Facebook page. Please be sure to include a way to contact you when leaving your comment!

8 Books That Teach Your Kids Emotional Intelligence

The term “Emotional Intelligence” has always resonated with me. It just makes sense to me that teaching my children to recognize, assess and control their own emotions and those of others, would help them grow up to be confident, resilient, self-assured people. There are many methods that help children develop this skill, one way is to share books that teach about understanding your feelings.

I’ve been wanting to write a post for some time about this idea for a number of reasons. The main one being that nothing helps cement an idea better for my children than hearing it read aloud from a picture book. As I began to think about which titles to include, I realized that I had put together a bookshelf of books that taught not just about emotional intelligence, but also other life skills and values that we think are important in our family.

Updated: February 01, 2018

Our Top Eight


ahns angerAnh’s Anger

It is about a boy who gets furious when his grandfather interrupts his play time, comes face to face with his own anger and eventually learns how to express and control his feelings. I love this book because it gives kids concrete ideas of what to do when they “meet” their anger (mindful breathing, moving their bodies to dispel the energy etc.), allows you to have conversations with your children about what they think their anger might look like or what they would do when their anger shows up, and provides a great model for parents on how to be calm and compassionate when children are experiencing such strong emotions.

today i feel sillyToday I Feel Silly

And Other Moods That Make My Day. I think the best thing about this book is that it covers a wide range of emotions. Reading it gives you a chance to point out that moods change from day to day (or moment to moment) and gives your child an increased vocabulary because we all know that we feel more than just mad and sad. Sometimes we also feel discouraged, grumpy, lonely and more. Laura Cornell’s watercolor illustrations are also very evocative and a great accompaniment to Jamie Lee Curtis’ rhyming verse.

my mouth is a volcanoMy Mouth Is A Volcano

While not technically about understanding one’s emotions, this is a great book to help your kids pay attention to their thoughts. The boy with the volcanic mouth is Louis and when he thinks of something he wants to say, the words wiggle and jiggle their way out and he ends up interrupting everyone around him. His mother finally teaches a fun method that helps him respect others and wait his turn. I can’t say my kids have perfected this technique, but the book has given them the language to discuss being interrupted, what it means to be patient and how it feels when you are desperate to say what you want to say. Plus, now my daughter says “you’re erupting me!” at least once a day, which is just too cute to correct. I don’t like that time outs are used in this book as a way to correct Louis’ behavior at first, but when we read it together I use that as a way to talk with our children about how we don’t do that in our family and why!

no matter whatNo Matter What

This is a sweet book that explores a child’s anxiety about whether his parent would still love him “no matter what”. The little fox (“small”) is very grumpy at bedtime and questions the parent (“large”): “If I were a grumpy grizzly bear,/would you still love me?/Would you still care?” or “…if I turned into a squishy bug,/would you still love me and give me a hug?” While similar to books like “Mama Do You Love Me” and “Guess How Much I Love You”, this one is still a lovely bedtime addition, especially for little ones, and it gives parents a chance to soothe this common childhood anxiety.

have you filled a bucket todayHave You Filled A Bucket Today?

This is another of my favorites and it has really helped give my kids language to discuss how being kind to someone else makes them feel. The concept of the book is simple: everyone has an invisible bucket that is filled up or emptied depending on how they interact with others. Being kind to someone fills up not only their bucket, but yours as well. After reading this book my children now often ask if they have filled their buckets when I compliment them for being kind and we can then talk about the emotions it brings up to have an empty bucket or a full one.

angry octopusAngry Octopus: A Relaxation Story

This funny story about an octopus that doesn’t know how to control his anger until a “sea child” teaches him to calm his mind and body using progressive muscle relaxation has been a hit with my kids since I bought it a few weeks ago. They love to pretend that they are the octopus and practice tightening and releasing all the muscles in their bodies. I haven’t tried it yet when my kids are angry, but it has worked wonders at bed time when they are over-stimulated and need help relaxing. I include it in the emotional intelligence list because it does such a good job of helping kids tune in and quiet their minds and bodies. With that skill mastered, they would surely learn how to recognize and control their emotions. If you like this book, be sure to check out the author’s site Stress Free Kids she’s got some terrific ideas to help with all aspects of parenting.

the grouchiesThe Grouchies

I downloaded this as a free iPad app, but it is also available as a paperback book. A 5-year old boy wakes up with grey, grouchy clouds which follow him all day through a fight with his sister, being mean to friends at the playground and an emotional meltdown at the end of the day. His parents are calm and understanding throughout and eventually give him the advice: “the grouchies could be strong and make their way sound good. But rude and grumpy actions are never understood.” Mom and Dad give him a handful of suggestions about how to ward off the bad mood next time. In the morning, he wakes again with the grouchies tempting him, but manages to head off with happy smiles using a plan to be kind to everyone. My children both were very interested in everything the boy was experiencing as it was all very relatable. The drawings are crisp, colorful and pleasant to look at. Best of all, for parents, is a terrific couple of pages at the end of the book with tips and advice on how to help our kids through grouchy moods.

feelings showRuby’s Studio: The Feelings Show

Although not a book, I would be remiss to not mention The Mother Company’s terrific DVD, Ruby’s Studio: The Feelings Show. This is a very cool show that helps young children understand, appropriately express, and move through their feelings. The show’s host, Ruby, guides children to learn about their emotions through art projects, music, animations and a puppet show. My kids absolutely adore this video and even had a chance to meet Ruby recently and make a “feelings book” with her which was a highlight for my daughter, especially. There are segments in the show that focus on anger, frustration, sadness and more. This is the first episode of what will hopefully be many more to come.

This is just a short list of some of the books we really like that have helped our kids explore their emotions. I’m always on the lookout for more. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about these or suggest some others your family likes!