Thursday, October 25, 2012

Closet Listening

I found Closet Listening be one of the easiest and yet most difficult tools to use. Easy, because all you really need to do is sit with your child and not say anything. I found this difficult, because it’s not my personality to just sit and not initiate the conversation. In fact, even with my own children, I feel uncomfortable with silence. When I sat with them quietlyit felt almost like I was ignoring them. Greyson 6-years old even asked me, “What’s wrong?” I responded by saying, “I just want to sit by you and be with you.” That was even strange for him.

We ended up putting a puzzle together. I made a conscious effort to not initiate any conversation and just waited to see what would come up. This is when I discovered how difficult it is to listen without judging, defending, or explaining.
He asked me if we could go to the store to buy some more toys. He went on, and on about how he didn’t have enough toys, and we definitely needed to buy at least a new puzzle.

Rather than feeling annoyed and irritated that our conversation, yet again, was about what he wanted or wanted to buy, I just nodded my head and made a few loving gestures like rubbing his hair and giving him a wink. To my surprise, by not engaging, I stopped feeling irritated and annoyed. Of course, it’s not like him to give up that easily. I simply redirected him with our puzzle. When he still didn’t drop itI told him that he should continue to save his allowance and we’ll go in the future.

The easiest and most meaningful conversations happened through closet listening when we were driving. I picked Greyson up from school, turned off the radio. Instead of saying, “How was your day?” I said, “I missed you today” and then waited to see where the conversation went from there. It was definitely a challenge to give advice or my opinion about all the different things that happened. For example, Greyson shared that his friends let him play kickball and four square, but never gave him a turn. As a parentyou can only imagine what it was like to NOT give my opinion or theory about what I thought happened.  Instead, I incorporated other tool cards of validating his feelings followed by curiosity questions. I then reminded him that I had faith in him to work it out with his friends.

I believe that a common mistake that parents make (like me) is giving too much advice, or trying to protect their children from pain and sufferingall in the name of love. What I’m trying to practice is just being there for my boys. I want to show them unconditional love and support by listening; followed by true faith that they will survive, thrive, learn and grown strong from ALL of their life experiences; and that it’s NOT my job to protect them from feeling sad or disappointed.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Decide What You Will Do

Decide what you will do andfollow through! The most important part of this tool is the follow through. Children know when you mean it and when you don’t.

After all, isn’t that their job is to test you and their limits? Of course it is! This is why it is so important to only make promises (not threats) that you’re willing to keep.

I think we’ve all learned the hard way at least once. For example, you are so mad in the momentin the flipped lid stateand you’re feeling desperate and totally defeated. Therefore, in the heat of the moment you make a threat you’re never going to follow through on and your child continues to do what they’re doingprobably because they know you’re not going to follow through.  Listed are some of my personal favorites:

  • Turn the TV off NOW or you won’t watch it for an entire week.
  • You and your brother better stop fighting in this car, or I’m going to turn around and we’ll go home.
  • If you don’t start sharing, and being kind to your fiendsthen we’re going to leave our play-date.
  • If you don’t brush your teeth right nowthen you can forget about any sweets ever again.
  • If you don’t change your attitudethen you can forget about going to the_________!
  • If you can’t take better care of your bike, baseball glove, toys etc., then I’ll take them away from you and you won’t be able to use them.
  • If you don’t stop asking me for everything in the store and start behavingthen we’re leaving this.

Of course my oldest son had to test meand I was just as sad as he was when I needed to follow through. We had “taken time for training” (another tool card) and I had explained to him that we were going to our friends house for a play-date and I went over the rules, e.g., no hitting, sharing, taking turns, using nice words etc. I then went on to explain that if we didn’t follow these rules, we would need to leave. Naturally, it was with one of my good friends and I wanted to be at the play-date as much as my son. Needless to say they also lived 45-minutes away.

Sure enough, less than an hour after being therehe hit his friend and called him a name. (I want to note that the play-date before this one, I had done plenty of redirecting, connecting before correcting, validating feelings as well as the many other tools my son was accustomed to.)

Sometimes, using the kind and firm tool of follow through is the most effective. I wasn’t trying to make him “pay” for his behavior but was simply tired of having each play-date so consumed with using so many other tools. Deep down I knew it would be a painful lesson for both of us as well as a lot of gas and time wasted. (He cried himself to sleep on the way home.)

It wasn’t a total waste, because he never forgot it, knew that I meant it, and honestly, I feel like I forever earned his trust of knowing that when I said it, I meant it, and I followed through.

Unfortunately, your children are going to test you and believe me it will be at the most inconvenient time. But just think of the valuable lesson you’ll be teaching and the reputation you’ll be earning.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard THAT Mother saying, “I’m not going to tell you again”, and then says, “This is the last time I’m going to tell you.” Then their kid just continues to ignore her and do whatever it is they were doing.
I’ll always remember my mom saying, “The tongue in the shoe speaks louder than the tongue in the mouth.” In other words, if you say it, mean it, and if you mean it, follow through.

I promise you that it will only take a few times of inconvenience usually accompanied by total humiliation and embarrassment (as their screaming at you telling you that you’re the worst Mother ever and that they hate you). In the end, it ‘s totally worth it!!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Distract & Redirect

In the beginning of this week I thought this tool was used mostly with younger children. I used distract and redirect on a daily basis when my boys were toddlers. However, this week I had several opportunities to practice this tool in many different ways with my almost 6-year-old.

Sense-of HumorGreyson was in a “flipped lid state of mind” and was saying things such as “I hate you,”  “Worst day ever!” or my favorite“You wish I wasn’t even in this family.” Instead of flipping my lid back or telling him that what he was saying was totally ridiculous and untrue, I distracted him with a little unexpected sillinesstickling him while saying, “You think I don’t love you?” Then would completely overwhelm him with, “I love you’s,” and more playful tickles and kisses. Once he was totally distracted and calm, I was able to use other tools such as validating his feelings and asking some curiosity questions. After this (connection before correction)  we came up with a plan (focus on solutions and take time for training) on what we could say or do next time he was feeling so angry.

RelatingKids love it when they know you can relate—another way distracting and redirecting. Another one of my favorite comments from Greyson is when he says in his whinny voice, “That’s not fair!” What I want to say in my irrational and annoyed flipped list state is ‘That’s rightit’s not fair and neither is life!” But insteadI would relate to him by sharing a story of when I was his age and experienced something similar that wasn’t fair. Kids love knowing you have felt the same. It’s endearing when they say things such as, “You were once five?” or, “Your brother used to get things or do things you couldn’t do?”

DistractionIf all else fails; you can completely distract your kids by both completely changing the subject and making it about you or something that you did or saw that day. Or by saying with total enthusiasm“I have a great idea!” Then come up with a completely new idea or game and hope they follow your lead with enthusiasm.  Once again, when everyone is calm and you can then follow up with problem solving and solutions on how we could avoid a major meltdown, saying hurtful things, fighting with brother, etc.

HugsAlways one of my favorite tools and defiantly one that can be use with almost every Positive Discipline tool. Always a great distraction and way to redirect is to ask your child if he or she would like a hug? If they say “No!” then ask if they’d give you one, because “I need a hug.”

Focus on SolutionsWhen your children are in the middle of a conflictsimply interrupt by saying, “ I have faith in you to come up with a solution. If they can’t, it is a big distraction to say, “I’ll take this _______ until you all come up with a solution that everyone agrees on.”

Again, a simple reminder that no one tool works every time and that when we are creative we will find many ways to use each tooland to combine them. Have fun practicing this tool and notice how much a little distraction or redirection helps you as a parent.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Winning Cooperation

Before my husband Mark and I got married we came up with the 3 C’s to a successful marriage. Communication, Compromise, and Compassion. Since becoming parents we’ve agreed that there was a ‘C’ that we were missing—Cooperation. We believe that anytime something is going wrong in our relationship, or with one of our children— one of the 4-C’s is missing.

The Winning Cooperation tool card teaches that children feel encouraged when we as parents understand and respect their point of view. For example, this week I tried winning their cooperation with some of the household chores, while also using some of the other C’s.

My boys love to play baseball! They want to play everyday. I am constantly feeling overwhelmed with laundry, dishes, and picking up the house. Instead of feeling resentful, which then usually turns into anger—I waited for my golden opportunity, knowing they would ask to play baseball. When they asked, I said I would love to as soon as I finish doing my chores around the house. I had already schemed the plan to say, “Why don’t you help me and then we can play?” But instead, my oldest son 6-year-old Greyson said, “We can help you unload the dishwasher and we’ll put away our laundry.” I felt within those few sentences that we had just met all 4 ‘C’s. And everyone was happy.

Before thinking of a way to win their cooperation, I would provide them with a big, long lecture, followed with a guilt trip. Still, they would persuade me to play baseball, and I would feel exhausted and resentful.  In this case, I was able to acknowledge them for being helpful, compassionate, good problem solvers, and patient. It was so much more fun to have them help with the chores and more rewarding for all of us to play baseball after.

Another example of winning cooperation was this week when my boys were feeling mad because they couldn’t have soda. I don’t drink soda myself, because I know how bad it is for me. I wish it wasn’t, because I love it! When Greyson started saying “It’s not fair that you don’t let us have soda. _________ always gets soda.” Why can’t we have it?” Instead of lecturing him and feel annoyed for asking yet again—I expressed understanding (compassion) showed him empathy by sharing how I never had soda when I was a kid, and how I always wanted it too. Then we made a fun game out of it by saying back and forth all the things we wished we’re good for us but that are not.  He would say, “I wish I could have candy for dinner.” I backed him up by saying, “I wish I could have ice-cream for dinner.” He said, “I wish sugar was good for you.” I followed by saying, “I wish that chewing gum and hard candy was good for my teeth” etc.  It was much more fun for both of us to be joking, laughing, and making a game out of it, instead of a lecture, guilt trip, and annoyance.  Winning cooperation is, once again, Win Win for everyone.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Back Talk

I had an “ah ha” moment this week when practicing the Don’t Back Talk Tool Card.  It happened early in the week when, once again, we were rushed to get out the door. I had snapped at my son for doing something that he could’ve waited and done in the car. (He was putting his new Spy Gear together, glasses, watch, and belt). And when I took a disrespectful tone with himhe immediately snapped back at me with the same tone.

The only difference this week was that I was able to recognize it right away. I got down to his level and said, “You just raised your voice at me and spoke disrespectfully because I just raised my voice with you and was disrespectful to you. I’m sorry for not valuing that what you were doing was important to you. I was expecting you to value my sense of urgency for getting out the door on time.

Of course, very logically he agreed.  (Children listen to you after they feel listened to.) I apologized and told him that I was sorry for speaking to him in that tone and that I understood that he was mirroring my tone and me. (Children learn what they live.)

I believe that this is the most important concept to remember as a parent. I apologize if I sound redundantYour days are not about how your children act or behave but how you as a parent act or behave.

Modeling/example is so important. Children mirror what we do. We cannot expect for our children to control their behavior when we don’t control our own. In other words if you want to know why your children are speaking to you disrespectfully or back talkingthen rewind or replay how you just spoke to them. Of course, they could be having a bad day on their own. In that case, it doesn’t help if we snap back.

For the rest of the week I was extra mindful of my tone and getting down to the level of both my boys when I spoke to them. I was then rewarded with a peaceful and respectful week with them. Win win for all of us.

Honestly, keeping a respectful tone was by far more effective then “telling” or by being too “firm” and not practicing “kind and firm” at the same time. Bottom linethe message I was reminded of all week was that you get what you give. It all goes back to one of the Universal messages we learned as childrentreat others the way you want to be treated. Classic and true!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Silent Signals

A silent signal is one of the most simple and yet rewarding tools. I started this tool when my oldest son was almost 3-years old. It began when I would get frustrated with him and would raise my voice and get really stern with him.

As most of us knowwe always feel horrible and guilty after we’ve raised our voicesknowing that we could’ve handled it better (if only we hadn’t flipped our lids).

I’m always talking about how important it is to model the behavior we expect from our children. Once againeasier said than done. The absolute worst feeling is when I hear my older talking or yelling at his younger brother. It’s ridiculous and embarrassing knowing that he is speaking that way because of how I spoke to him.

After feeling like a horrible Mother, I explained to Greyson that I didn’t want to be a screaming Meany Mommy. I asked him if we could come up with a silent signal to help remind me to take deep breathes and calm down. I went on to share with him that I always wanted to be able to speak to him in the same respectful tone that I expect from him.

Greyson came up with the idea that he would touch his nose to remind me that I needed to calm down and take some deep breaths. I assured him that it was a brilliant signal and then asked him if I could do the same one if and when he wasn’t speaking in a calm tone.

Naturally, it was only a few days later that Greyson had the opportunity to use his silent signal with me; and, of course, it worked like a gem. I immediately stopped to take a few deep breaths, gave him a hug, and then got down to to speak to him at eye level.  All the things I should’ve done originally.

Another silent signal we use in our family is putting our hand over our heart. This signal expresses that we’re having a “flash” which means a surge of love in our heart. These are moments of deep gratitude and appreciation for that person. This is a silent signal that I learned from my childhood and I’m delighted to continue this signal with my family today J

Monday, June 4, 2012


This is an article I wrote almost three years ago that shares one of my favorite hugs success stories. Over the last five years I have realized how important and effective giving hugs ALWAYS is.

Most often it is one of my boys that will remind me that all they need is a hug. This story is a reminder that even when we may not be ready--it's a Positive Discipline tool that works every time.

 My two boys (Greyson, three-years-old, and Reid, one-year-old) took one of our late night strolls around the block.  We came upon a neighbor’s house where there were all kinds of kids playing.  Greyson was fascinated by all the different activities going on.  There were kids from all different age groups playing basketball, catch, riding on a scooter etc.  So we stopped for about 5 minutes talking and watching them. 
It started getting dark and cold, Reid started getting fussy, and I started to feel a little awkward just standing in front of this neighbor’s house while Greyson watched the “people.”  When I told Greyson that it was time to go, he was not ready.  He wanted to stay and watch the people.
I logically explained to him all the reasons of why we needed to go.  After asking him the second time and him still refusing, I told him that he had a choice.  He could either walk with me or hold my hand, or I would pick him up and carry him away…either way we were leaving. 

Of course he did not want to hold my hand, but his brother was in the Bjorn so I firmly grabbed his had and said it was time to go.  What I wanted to do was drag him like a rag doll; especially because I felt like e was ignoring me and not listening…and I was going to show him who was boss and how annoyed I was.

So as I was firmly holding his hand, he started crying/screaming at the top of his lungs. (Greyson has always had the loudest most ear piercing cry of any other child I or anyone else has ever encountered). Of course one of my neighbors was walking her dog and looking at me as if I just beat him…and from the sound of his cry it sounded like I had.

I was desperately trying to be calm and to ignore his crying and to let him have his feelings, but we were both just getting more upset.  I knew what to do, but did NOT want to do it. However, at the risk of embarrassing myself with the rest of the neighbors, I got down to his level and told him I needed a hug. 

Naturally he immediately fell into my armswilling and loving to give me a hug back. Instantly we both felt better and the crying stopped. I explained to him that we needed to go and he explained to me that he wanted to watch the people. Then we all walked home together.

The moral of this story is that as much as I knew it would work to give him a hug when we were both feeling upset, I didn’t feel like giving him a hug. I  too was mad for not getting my way. 

Giving a hug in the middle of a temper tantrum, once again is easier said than done. However, after hugging, we both felt betterand behaved better.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I can’t remember for sure how old I was when I received my first allowance, but what I do remember is that it was a quarter, dime, nickel, and a penny.

My parents would give my brother and me our allowance once a week. I always looked forward to the dayusually Friday. I also remember that I was the only one of my friends that had an allowance and they thought I was so lucky. I also thought I was lucky until I realized that every time I would want my parents to buy me something, they would say, “Did you bring your allowance?” Or, “How long do you need to save until you can afford it?” I didn’t realize until I had my own kids how easy this made it for my parents to say, “No,” without having to actually say, “No.”

I started giving my oldest son, Greyson, his allowance when he was 4-years-old. I agree that this was the perfect age to start, although, I will be starting a few months earlier with my youngest son Reid who won’t be 4-years-old until September. I am starting earlier with Reid because he quickly caught on with Greyson’s allowance and the benefits and naturally he wants to be just like his big brother, and Mommy wants to be fair.

Once again, my husband wasn’t too sure about giving a 4-yeard-old $4 a week. He believed that it was too much money for a 4-year old. I reminded him how much we spend on all the little stuff every time we go somewhere, and that by giving him an allowanceit would save us money. Also, I explained to him all the values of receiving an allowance.

  • Teaches children to save their money
  • Delayed gratification
  • The value of a dollar
  • That you receive an allowance because you’re a part of the family (you can always earn extra buy working for it by doing “jobs” around the house).
  • Counting, addition, and subtraction
  • Loans (If your children forget their wallets) that have to be paid back.
A few days ago we were at Legoland and Greyson was asking for a Star Wars Lego set. I asked him if he had enough money? After figuring out how much it cost, he was able to understand that if he saves last weeks and this weeks allowance then he would have enough money next time we camewhich is this Monday. A few days later he saw a toy that he wanted at TargetI asked him if he preferred to have that instead of his Star Wars Legos? He thought about it and decided that he would rather save his money. The most amazing moment of this story was when we were in both stores he was able to quickly agree that he preferred one toy over the other AND he could wait until the following week. I loved seeing him practice patience and even moreI loved that I didn’t have to battle a full meltdown temper tantrum the way I had anticipated.

The Positive Discipline Tool for Allowances is not only beneficial for the child but, just as much for the parent.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Put Kids In The Same Boat

Putting my kids in the same boat (treating them the same when they fight) was actually more peaceful for all of us.

It's so easy to get caught up in my boys fight and defend my youngest son who's 3 1/2-years old. I find myself feeling sorry for him and angry at my oldest for hurting him. We all know (especially since I'm the youngest) that the younger child usually provokes the older sibling.

I finally feel comfortable that my youngest son can hold his own—he's at the size and age where he can defend himself. Therefore, when he antagonizes his older brother and then gets upset with the results, I have faith that they can figure it out and work it out eventually.

The reason this tool has provided more peace in my home is that when I'm not in the middle taking sides and or defending one of them—it is easier on my blood pressure and temper and I don't flip my lid the same way they just did. Even more amazing is how quickly they resolve their problems when I stay out of it.

When I remind them that I will not be involved and that they can come find me when they're done; they handle it and problem solve better than I could if I chose to be involved.

By putting my boys in the same boat—I eliminate one of them learning to get attention by being the victim while the other gets lots of training in being the bully.

There's an activity that we do in the Positive Discipline Parenting classes  called The 3B's (Bear it. Beat it. Boot them Out) that illustrates three way to put kids in the same boat.

Beat It—You leave the room while the kids fight and them let them figure it out.

Bear It—You stay in the room while they fight and you stay out of it by doing nothing (this one is impossible for me)

Boot Them Out—Separate them without taking sides and tell them that when they and you are all calm they can try again.

What parents realize after participating in this activity is:
When the kids aren't getting the attention they're used to from their parents, they're usually confused and will come together to figure out what's going on.

This week my boys started fighting and I told them, "It looks like you guys are fighting and I don't want to be involved." I let them know that I'd be downstairs and they could let me know when they were done so we could finish our bedtime routine. I also told them, "I hope you can resolve it quickly so that we still have time for books and sharing happiest and saddest times."

I hadn’t reached the bottom of the stairs when I heard Greyson calmly explaining to Reid: "The reason I took that toy from you and hit you with it was because you weren't letting me have a turn." Reid then said, "But I wasn't done playing with it." Greyson then said, "How long until I can have a turn?" Reid replied, “Let's play a game where we can both use it. Greyson then told Reid he was sorry and asked him if he could have a hug?

I honestly couldn't have been more pleased. I know the results would not have been that good had I been involved. I was so proud and amazed at the same time.

Once again, my boys get to prove to me that when we use these Positive Discipline tools—they really do work!

When you have the courage to “put your children in the same boat,”  be sure to use the other Positive Discipline tools of letting them know in advance what you're going to do and then be brave enough to follow through. At the very least—they'll be upset and you'll still be at peace because you weren't involved.
Good luck ;-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Teach Children What to Do

One of the first Positive Discipline tools I learned wasteach your children what to do rather than what “not” to do.  It started for me before my boys were even talking and I still teach them every day. Some examples include:

  • When my son would hit me, or a friend, at daycareI would say, “How do you touch nice?” Then I would take his hand and show him.
  • When my son would scream as a toddler, I would playfully show him the silent scream or ask him if he wanted to scream outside?
  • Dressing themselvesas early as the age of two. This includes brushing teeth and hair. (My boys feels so proud of themselves for being able to dress themselves that they now refuse to let me helpeven when I’m in a hurry and it seems like getting that buckle buckled is taking forever.)
  • Climbing into the car seat and helping with the buckle. Instead of a fight, they seem very proud of their ability to do it themselves.
  • Cleaning up their toysthis included a lot of handholding and modeling.
  • Teaching my oldest son to tell his baby brother what he could do, use, play with, rather than what he couldn’t. (This one is dailywith lots of reminding).
  • Pouring their own cereal and milkand when they spill or make a mess—I teach them how to clean it up. (With encouragement of course and defiantly with no shame or blame)

The main concept of this tool isdon’t do anything for your children that they can do for themselves. Often times, parents will do too much for their childrenin the name of love.  They don’t realize that they are depriving their children of the sense of self-reliance and feeling, “I am capable.”

My husband still has a difficult time with this tool because our boys often don’t match their clothes and their curly hair combed straight can look (in our eyes) absolutely ridiculous. However, when I see their faces and their posture just scream pride and self-reliance. I personally would rather have my boys develop good self-esteem and independence than boys who are dressed fashionably matched. J

One story I often share with people (which they find hard to believe) is that I grew up with a live-in housekeeper and nanny. My mom clearly instructed her that she was not allowed to clean our rooms, do our laundry, pack our lunches, or wake us up in the morning. She wanted us to learn the pride and capability of having those skills. I was setting my alarm, and doing all my laundry by 8-years old.  My mom also made sure she left us at least 2-chores a day. I remember being confused and even sometimes mad as a child, because it didn’t make sense to me. I would ask my mom why we had a housekeeper if my brother and I were doing all the work. I totally understood it during my first year of college and having several roommates who didn’t know how to do anything for themselves. Once again, thanks Mama!!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Focus on Solutions

Two Positive Discipline sayings that we're drilled into my head growing up were--Mistakes are Wonderful Opportunities to Learn and the one relating to this weeks blog--Are we look for blame or are we looking for solutions?

My favorite memory of this saying from my childhood was when my mom was lecturing, and complaining about how there were dishes in the sink after she had just done them that morning.  My brother quickly responded, "Are we looking for blame or are we looking for solutions?". I think all my mom could say was "touché."

Don't we all just love it when our kids can so pleasantly remind us of the valuable lessons we're teaching them.

For this weeks tool card in my home I went out of my way to exhaust the saying  "Are we looking for blame or are we looking for solutions?"

I also stopped my boys several times when they were arguing/fighting and would kindly remind them that I had faith in them to find a solution to their problem. If they weren't able to problem solve we would stop whatever activity they were doing until they could both agree on one or several solutions.
My youngest son willingly came up with using a timer--several times. Or another favorite--we can _______as soon as. (Both ideas are other popular PD tools).

It's so great when we finally start to see the seed that we've been planting for so long finally grow.
An important point to mention is--focusing on solutions is also one of the main concepts of Family Meetings. Often times the challenges/problems on the agenda can turn into a lecture forum, but instead we're in fact teaching our children and reminding ourselves that instead of finding blame we're searching for solutions.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


The Agreements tool card this week helped me realize how often my husband and I make the agreements and then willingly or unwillingly have our boys “agree.” I then will follow up by saying, “What was our agreement?” Although, it was never their idea to begin with. What I should have said was, “that wasn’t what I told you, or if you don’t listen/obey then___________.”

It’s embarrassing how often I can forget that the most important concept/tool of Positive Discipline is to have your children involved. The more you have your children involved with the PD tools, the more likely they will follow throughespecially when it comes to agreements.

The agreements tools card is yet another reminder of how important Family Meetings are. This provides the perfect opportunity to practice Agreements.
This week I had my boys practicing coming up with agreements/solutions.
Anytime they had a “disagreement” I would kindly say, “I have faith in you both that you are great communicators and you both are great at negotiating, therefore, I encourage you to work it out through a mutual agreement.”
A valuable lesson that I learned is that nobody is able or willing to come up with an agreement during the time of conflictduh!

Naturally, it was my job to step in and validate their feelings, and then mostly do a lot of distracting and redirecting. Once everyone was calm and out of the situation, that was the time to sit down and focus on agreements that were respectful and mutual for everyone.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Follow Through

Follow through is a Positive Discipline tool that comes naturally for me for two reasons. The first reason is because my parentsmy mom especially led by example. I always knew that if my Mom said itshe meant it! It wasn’t even worth the argument. I believe that as annoyed or frustrated as I was as a kid, I always respected her and knew that what she said she meant. I remember learning this tool at an early age and being able to recite, as she would say it to the many parents in a lecture or in her books,, “If you mean it, say it, and then follow through!”

The second reason I’ve been able to model this tool for my kids is because I heard my mom say, “The tongue in the shoe, is louder than the tongue in the mouth.” In other words, actions speak louder than words.

The most difficult time for me to practice this tool was when my children were around the age of two and it was their daily job to test me. I knew it was important to not make threats I couldn’t keep and more importantlyto follow through on whatever threat I made. I referred this stage as my “mean mommy stage.” My mom simply reminded me that it was my “firm mommy stage.”

It’s often forgotten that Positive Discipline is both Kind and Firm. I am the first one to admit that I am usually too kind until I get completely fed up and flip my lid and then I become this really “firm” mommy. The best part of this “mean mommy stage” was that it didn’t take my kids very long to know, that mommy meant business. And 99% of the time I followed through with what I said I would do.

Here we are over 3-years later and I am still following through. For example this week, my oldest son had a major meltdown at bedtime. It was my fault because I let him stay up later than his bedtime (with no nap) to watch a movie that he had recorded the night before. Well when the movie was finally over, he went ballistic like a crazy man when it was time to brush his teeth and put on pajamas. (He started acting like the character in Shark Boy).  The more out of control he got, the more out of control I felt. I “told” him (first PD mess up) if you can’t calm down and get control of your body, I will delete your movie and you won’t watch any TV in the morning. Sure enough he acted more hysterical and in my flipped lid state I marched downstairs and deleted his movie. Naturally this just made the situation worse, but I was so concerned about following through with my threat I didn’t focus on actually helping him calm down. After I waked away and went into my own time out and calmed down, we were able to reconnect give apologies for our behavior and finally go to bed.

The next morning he came downstairs and gave me another big hug and said how sorry he was for the night before. I too apologized and explained that I was equally tired and was acting out of control. Unfortunately it was too late and his movie had already been deleted. Even though I don’t regret deleting the movie, I regretted how, and when I did it. I also made sure to follow though on the rest of my threat and made sure there was no TV in the morning. I needed to kindly remind him why. He wasn’t happy with that decision, but we were able to turn it around with the fun and active morning we had together. Moral of this story, is don’t make threats you can’t keep. Especially because a lot of the threats we make as parents, usually aren’t convenient for us.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Limit Screen Time

Thank goodness the Limited Screen Time tool card wasn’t two weeks ago during my boys Spring Break. I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there that can say “holy cow—that was a long week.”  Recently I watched one of Oprah’s Next Chapter episodes where she did an interview with a group of Aventist Jewish women.  One of the most interesting parts of the interview was when the women shared that there is no media, or any technology for that matter, in their homes. None of these women had ever seen the Oprah show—that in it-self was for me the most shocking. They went on to say that their children had never watched television before. Once again I was both shocked and fascinated at the same time. At that moment I took it upon myself to challenge my children and me to go without TV for one day.

The next day happened to be on a Tuesday when my oldest son is in school until 3:00 and my 3 ½-year old is home with me all day. My youngest son wasn’t fazed for a moment. He never noticed or cared. He’s always been easily entertained and completely self-sufficient. My oldest son on the other hand noticed five minutes after he walked in the door. His favorite thing to do after being at school all day is watching a show. I totally get it! After I’ve had a long day—especially after school or learning, I too just want to check out/tune out. I also feel more entitled and deserving of the reward of TV. Even though he was feeling angry, resentful, and didn’t understand it, I know he appreciated the quality time we spent together.  It wasn’t until this day that I was reminded how much I depend on the TV to stimulate my children and therefore buy me some time to clean the house, do laundry, or have some computer time. I’m guilty of using the TV as my babysitter. Although I’ve always been mindful and very aware that TV isn’t good for kids, I would find myself justifying that the program they were watching was educational or that it was only for an hour.   That TV-less Tuesday was an instant reminder that no T.V. meant stimulation from me. If I did attempt to leave the room as they played—I found that I was playing referee only minute’s later…ughhh!!! I thought several times to myself that day—at least they’re quiet and not fighting when the TV’s on. Bottom line—TV buys us time, which as parent’s, let’s face it, we all need!

My experience from that Tuesday was that my boys and I had a fun day, but at the end of the day we were all exhausted because of non-stop interaction. Although it forced us to be creative, it also made me grateful that I wasn’t completely opposed to TV. I’ve always believed that most things should be enjoyed with moderation.  I was reminded that “limited screen time” is good for everyone. We spent more active and quality time together. To me "limited" means balanced instead of abstinence. I love having some time to myself while TV entertains the kids. I just have to remember to balance that time with plenty of active together time.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Problem Solving

Mary Nelsen Tamborski

If there's anything I've learned--it's that you/we cannot problem solve during our "flipped lid state”. My family and I have been reminded that when we are in our "reptilian brain" there's no rational thinking taking place. I've been role modeling this for my children by demonstrating that I need to cool off and take my "time out." I need to calm down, which gives them time too. It's after this cooling down time that we are able problem solve, find solutions, brainstorm ideas, and role-play.

Yesterday I received a last minute invitation from a brave neighbor and super-dad to take both my boys for an evening play-date. My first instinct, of course, was to say, "Absolutely yes!” But then I started feeling hesitant about how they might behave. My youngest son’s favorite word is "stupid" (that's a whole other story). Coincidently he seemed to being saying it extra that day.  Also, they seemed to be fighting more than usual; and not listening (obeying) even more than usual that day.

Anyway, instead of denying them (and me) their play-date, I decided to have a mini family meeting and a few role-plays about their behavior and my expectations for them. It was so cute to have my older 5-year-old son take the lead on the role-plays and the several different problem-solving ideas he had for the evening.

For instance, I asked them, "What will you do if your friend doesn't want to share his toy that he's playing with?”  Greyson replies, "If he doesn't want to share, I'll ask him which toys I can play with?” Greyson went on to say, "Or I'll ask him when will it be my turn?”

I then proceeded to ask, “What will happen if Reid says, "Stupid?”  Greyson said, "I'll whisper in his ear and remind him we use the word silly instead."

We then role-played the dinner scenario and practiced our manners. I was beginning to wonder if I had gone a little overboard with all the "talking" and role-playing?

After everything was said and done, my neighbor said they had a great night and were very well behaved. I was proud, relieved, and once again excited to see another Positive Discipline tool working at its best.

This week’s tool card was yet another reminder that our childreneven as young as 3-years and 5-years-oldare wonderful problem solvers. For the most part they had better problem solving solutions and strategy's than I would have thought of in a lecture. Note to selfdon't underestimate the minds and creativity of our children. They're better at solving their problems than we are. And they'll also follow through when it is their ideas.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Once again, I get to share about how fortunate I was to be raised learning that “Mistakes are Wonderful Opportunities to Learn.”

Throughout my childhood we always celebrated our mistakes. (At the time, I thought that’s what everyone did). My parents taught me that life is about learning lessons and when we make mistakes, we can either learn from them or continue to make the same mistakes until we do finally learn.  I think we can all relate to a painful mistake that we’ve made in our life, which usually ends up being the most valuable opportunity to learn. It wasn’t until I moved out and went to college that I experienced how often people don’t like to admit that they’re wrong, imperfect, or that they made a mistake.

As a mother of two young boys, I have the opportunity to make mistakes sometimes daily. Even though I am a practicing Positive Discipline Mother, I am still a human being that “flips my lid.” Luckily I have kids that are truly forgiving and have no problem accepting me while I continue to learn and grow with me every time I make mistakes.

Every night when I tuck my boys into bed, we end our day with our happiest, saddest, and mistakes. We each share out happiest part of our day, our saddest part of our day, and finally, what mistakes did we make today? Then we go on to say what we learned from them. What an advantage to learn from each other and continue the ongoing message of unconditional love and support.

As a parent, I feel grateful to be able to celebrate being imperfect and role modeling for my children that its okay to be who they aremistakes and all.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


There's a difference between "jobs" and chores. In our house "jobs" have become something that the boys have more or less volunteered to do with enthusiasm and then as a result it becomes their job.

A few examples include:

  • Greyson helping Reid in and out of his car seat. 
  • Cracking the eggs and then stirring the pancake mix. (They take turns)
  • Putting the laundry detergent in the washing machine. 
  • Washing each other’s hair. 
  • Draining the bathtub water while the other puts all bath toys in bucket. 
  • Opening the doors, i.e., the car, buildings, garage, and especially any door for ladies. 
  • Making sure all lights are turned off.

These jobs are fun for my boys, and it helps them feel capable and to identify different parts of their role in our family.

As I mentioned in my chore blog. I have fond memories of brainstorming creative ideas with my brother with different ways to decide who and what chores we did. I especially appreciated this tool with my first college roommates. Most of them weren't use to participating in chores and it was beginning to create resentment between the ones that did and those who didn't. When we had our family/roommate meeting we agreed to create a chore wheel. This wheel was created with two paper plates. The smaller plate had our names on it and the larger plate had the basic weekly chores. Every week the wheel was rotated. It was fair and an idea that we all agreed on and were excited to participate in. By having these job descriptions it created peace and cooperation as well as satisfaction with our clean house and appreciation for each other.

I recently confronted a friend that was still doing her teenagers laundry. Her defense was that she was a stay-at-home mom and that it was her "job." I quickly responded with, "It's your job to help teach your children how to be capable, self-reliant and independent." I went on to explain that she shouldn't be doing anything for them that they could do for themselves.

Most adults have jobs whether they are paid for them or not. And a lot of us are identified through our jobs--it's what we do and therefore defines a lot of who we are. Don't we all wish that we had a job that we loved and that makes us feel good about ourselves. I've always remembered the saying, "Do what you love and the money will follow." Hopefully with a tool card of "jobs" we can teach our children that their job is to do something they love to do and that makes them feel proud, but that also makes them feel like they’re contributing. After all isn't that what we all want—to have a job that we love and are proud of, but that also makes us feel like we're contributing? Giving and allowing our children to have jobs now will instill in them the pride of accomplishment that will serve them throughout their lives.

She continued to be defensive by saying that "they're good kids and that they're busy with sports and homework."  But the whole reason this conversation was brought up was because she was complaining about how busy she was and how overwhelmed she felt.

I then went on to say that they’d continue to be busy throughout their lives, so why not teach them the skills they need now. I told her how I experienced the helplessness and laziness that goes with kids, like my roommates, who have their parents doing everything for them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Validate Feelings

The validating feelings tool card provided daily, if not hourly, opportunities for me to practice this skill with my two boys. It wasn't until this week that I made the extra effort to come up with new ways to say, "you're so mad," "you didn't like that," or " I can see how that really hurt your feelings," and finally, "I can see that you're really upset, let me know when you're ready for a hug or to try again."

Another approach that I use to piggy-back on this tool is to validate my child's feelings followed by a story of how I can relate to them because of something that happened to me when I was a little girl. My oldest son, Greyson, loves when I tell him stories about when I was growing up. And when your children feel like you can relate to them, it's another form of validating feelings at a deeper level.

I also realized that when all I do is simply validate my children's feelings—it prevents me from feeling like I need to "fix" or problem solve; rather than simply just letting them have their feelings. I know that I "feel" validated when my friends or husband say, "I can relate to what you're saying and therefore I completely understand how you feel." Even if that doesn’t solve the problem, it helps me feel better to hear them say they can understand.

My mom taught me a valuable lesson when my son was 18-months old and was just starting daycare. It was so difficult and painful for me to leave my son there crying and pleading for me to stay or begging me to take him with me—absolutely heartbreaking! I called my mom from the parking lot crying and feeling like the worst mother ever.

My Mom reassured me that every emotion and feeling that Greyson was having was "normal," and "developmentally appropriate." We had been very careful to find a good child development center at San Diego State University. Mom went on to say that "developing his disappointment muscles" was a very important part of his development and growing up. I instantly felt better. As a Mother, all I want for my kids is for them to be happy and healthy, but it wasn't until she described his disappointment as a strength that I also realized how important it was to have him strong—even if it meant he was temporarily unhappy. I have to say that both my sons have developed more self-confidence and capability because of their time away from me 3 days a week than they might have without this experience.

Once again, I was reminded how much more effective it is to problem solve when my children weren't "feeling" upset. We were able to search for solutions once they had calmed down. As we all already know, or for those of us who are still learning, “Children Do Better When They Feel Better.” Often times, simply validating their feelings, helps them calm down.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Take Time for Training

Isn't it amazing that with almost every task in life we need to be shown what to do? The older we get, the easier an explanation may be; but when it's even a little complex or requires some greater expectation, it's better to see a demonstration or to have a little hand holding (especially in the beginning). Taking time for training may be one of the more important tools, but I often forget that my children are only 3-years and 5-years-old and they need to be taught/trained over and over.

My husband has always disliked it when I remind him that we need to "take time for training." He replies, "Honey, they're not dogs." So I've needed to alter my language by reminding my husband and myself that with almost every task, chore, job, manner, behavior, etc., we need to show, teach, demonstrate, model and of course "train" our children.

My first example for the week was taking the time to train them on how to clean their rooms. So many times, I'll threaten, bribe, make a game out of it, beg, nag and then usually end up cleaning it by myself while I resent them and every toy we've ever given them. I always wish that they could just appreciate a clean room the way I do. I know it's wishful thinking, but have any of you ever noticed that when your kids’ rooms are clean they immediately start to do gymnastics, wrestling, or wanting to have a dance party. The free space always invites them to have movement. And after all, isn't that the best kind of play--especially because there's no clean-up involved.

Early in the week I took the time to go "train" my boys how to clean their rooms. I noticed during this training I was using all kinds of Positive Discipline tools, for example, Asking vs. Telling, Encouragement vs. Praise, Validating Feelings, I Love You And_____, Sense of Humor, just to name a few. In the end, this was the best experience we’ve had cleaning their rooms. I asked them when we were done how it felt to have a clean room as well as reminding them how much I appreciated their help. I also went on to say that I had full faith in them to clean it next time by themselves (I'll be sure to keep my expectations low).

Another example I had this week was taking the time to train them when I'm on the phone. This seems to be one of my most frustrating moments as a Mom. I think I've "trained" my kids with no manners, consideration and respect when it comes to me on the phone because for so many years I wouldn't talk on the phone when they were awake or around. I've never been a phone person anyways so to be on the phone for more than 5 minutes isn't usual. Of course the time came when I had to speak with someone on the phone just recently to set up swim lesssons for them. I knew my kids were being loud and annoying when the lady asked, "would you like to call me back at a better time?" I needed to leave the room to finish our conversation. I immediately realized this was nobody's fault except for my own.

Instead of being upset with them, I was humbled to know that this was my opportunity once again to take time for training about how to be when I'm on the phone. I agreed to be respectful by keeping my conversations short and they agreed to return the respect by staying quiet..."if I kept it short." We then went on to role-play it. The next couple of conversations were quiet and short.

Just as kids need continuous training in academics (reading, writing, math, etc.), I’m sure their training in cleaning and manners will be an ongoing process.