All posts in Behavior & Discipline

How To End Tantrums (in 4 Words)

4-words-tantrum

These FOUR words end tantrums.

No Joke

  • No, you are not going to “give in” to them!
  • No, you are not going to “naughty chair” them. No, you are not going to “talk about it”.
  • What you ARE going to do, is add three of the most POWERFUL words on the planet to the word YES and turn temper tantrum -ing toddlers (or teens for that matter) into patient, cooperative thoughtful family members.

Don’t believe me? Well here is a true story that demonstrates just how effective these 4 words are, when used correctly.

I was walking with my good friend and her two children ages 1 and 2, whom I absolutely adore, and the family dogs. The goal was to get some exercise and reconnect with each other while getting the kids out of the house for some much needed fresh air and sunshine. Unfortunately, once we started walking, the kids started in with some classic demands and, well, here is what happened…

It started out with a “Waaaa” from the one-year-old and several whiny “I waaaant toooo waaaalk” from the two-year-old. Like most parents, my friend eventually gave in and let the two-year-old walk, and, as you know, if you let one out, you have to let the other one out, right?

I was immediately impressed with my friend’s circus-like talent. She started by holding the one-year-old in her arms, trying all the while to push the stroller while keeping the other child on the sidewalk. Soon enough, she was juggling two kids, a stroller, and the dogs in beautiful, chaotic synchronization. Amazed… if not utterly stunned by what she had taken on, I remained quiet and observed. And yes, of course, I eventually offered to help.

No doubt some of you recognize this story and are smiling, nodding, or even shaking your head with that blank, shell-shocked look on your face. Well, keep reading because there IS relief to this timeless riddle.

Alas, the girls did not want to walk OR be held OR do anything else for very long. And, it soon became clear that changing their position up, down, over, around and through, wasn’t even their GOAL. What they really wanted was to keep their mommy busy with them, at the expense of everything else – including visiting with me.

Very quickly, neither my friend nor I were having any fun. I had lost interest in the endless circus act, and we were not able to talk and connect with these two ruckus munchkins demanding all of the attention. So, we soon retreated home and the walk was officially over.

The next day when my friend and I had a quiet moment, we discussed the events that had unfolded the day before. We talked about how quickly the walk had degenerated from a time for two adult friends to connect, into a circus routine with the children in the center ring, running the show.

As you probably know, this is a situation parents find themselves in quite often. If you’re just now expecting your first child, or are thinking about having children, all you have to do is look around the next time you are in the grocery store. You’ll see moms carrying the baby, cajoling the toddler, or bouncing the baby while trying to make it through at least putting the essentials in the cart.

And then there are fathers, gallantly trying to avoid a public tantrum by giving in to their little one’s pleading cries for gum, candy or treats. And, as in my dear friend’s case, there are constant accommodations in response to pleas for freedom from or return to the stroller. This is called The Slippery Slope – that place where parents find themselves when they know at any minute things could go from good to bad, or from bad to really bad!

So, what’s a well-meaning, law-abiding parent to do?

It’s all about training. We can either train our kids to believe that life is all about them, and that it is their job to keep us busy with them, OR we can train our kids in the fine arts of patience, respect, flexibility, cooperation, and manners – arts that are also valuable life skills that will pay dividends faster than you can say “play date!”

OK, I get it. But just HOW does one do teach these fine arts?

Start small by creating opportunities from everyday life, and for those moments that catch you off guard try this simple strategy I call, “Yes, As soon as…” Quick, easy, and highly adaptable, using this strategy results in simple, but effective exchanges like this:

Child: “Can I walk?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as we get to our road.”
Child: “Can I watch TV?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as you finish your homework.”
Child: “Can I have a cookie?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as you eat something healthy.”

The tantrums and the whining usually begin when we tell our children, “No.” And, it ends when we either give in or get mad. Neither one breaks the cycle or teaches our children anything useful. So, say “Yes,” instead, AND… make sure that “Yes” is part of an agreement between you and your child. You agree to let your child do something or have something they want, when they prove to you that they can handle the privilege.

If you have trouble getting started, remember this.

It may not work the first time, and is not intended to stand alone, so you should also:

  • Have faith in your kids – they can handle both the disappointments and privileges.
  • Have your kids help you find solutions to problems if you are stuck.
  • And always, always, take the time to make a plan.

Now, just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine what it will be like if, after 6 months, your family was tantrum-free. It’s all worth considering isn’t it?

Five Ways we Limit Kids’ Growth (and how to meet Kids’ True Needs)

Heather-Shumaker-author-portraitWhen I first connected with Heather a few years ago I fell to my knees in gratitude. Finally, a book I could recommend to parents that would address some of the most baffling, confusing and perplexing parenting issues in a straight forward, common sense way that parents with kids of almost any age could embrace. It is with great pleasure that I share this post by Heather as she introduces us to her second book, It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. Her new book is filled with wisdom, humor and smashes through old myths that influence our approach to parenting.


Five Ways we Limit Kids’ Growth (and how to meet Kids’ True Needs)

Vicki and I crossed paths when our first books were being released and discovered we were kindred spirits. Now it’s exciting to share second books – Vicki’s Straight Talk on Parenting and my new title It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, coming out today.

rule31_final PlaygroundA reader summed up my first book by saying: “If you like respectful parenting, but are baffled by your child’s intense emotions and behavior when she hits the preschool years, It’s OK Not to Share, is the answer.” Now we’re moving into an area of life that’s tricky for most families: the time when children hit elementary school and encounter a whole gamut of new rules – some of which go against your family parenting philosophy. What to do? How can we stand up for our kids and our families when there are so many other partners involved?
It’s easy to fall into habits, and sometimes you’ll find yourself in other people’s habits. Here are some common ways we limit kids’ growth without knowing it.

1. Signing Homework Papers

It might be the spelling list, reading chart or math worksheet. More and more, parents are asked to verify that a child has done an assignment by signing or initialing on the line. Requiring a parent signature steals trust and responsibility from a child. School assignments are a child’s job. It’s one thing to share with the family, it’s another thing to make the parent the Homework Monitor. Restore partnerships of trust and if you must have a signature – let the child sign her own name. (And, as you’ll see below, wait until middle school before welcoming homework.)

2. Giving Homework At All

What’s more galling than signatures is this: comprehensive analysis of 180 peer-reviewed research studies found that homework has no evidence of academic benefit in elementary school. Extraordinary. All those nightly battles between overtired children and anguished parents are for naught. What research shows is that academic benefits are highly age-dependent. It helps for high schoolers (but only if limited to 2 hours or less per night) and shows a very small gain for middle schoolers, but for elementary kids? Nothing. The time young children spend doing homework can be freed up to focus on other vital activities – running around outside, following their own play ideas, helping with family life and getting good, long sleep.

3. Thinking ‘Safety First’

One of the chapters in my book is called “Safety Second.” That’s because our Safety First culture really has forgotten that safety is not the goal of life. Life is about change and growth. We can’t live a worthwhile life – and neither can our kids – if safety is always top priority. Healthy risk is an essential part of natural development. We limit our children’s access to healthy risk in so many ways, whether it’s physical risk (running fast, cutting with a knife), emotional risk (possibly feeling bad) or social risk (possibly being rejected). Even if safety is king, some of our age-old safety lessons, ex: Don’t Talk to Strangers, are actually wrong.

4. Using Recess as a Disciplinary Tool

Get in trouble and you miss recess. Don’t complete your math assignment and you miss recess. Every day, millions of school children live under the threat of recess being taken away. It’s time to stop using recess as a tool against kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that recess should never be taken away as a punishment – either for behavior or academic reasons. This makes sense when you consider why recess is there in the first place: to meet kids’ needs so they can learn. When we deprive a child of recess, and face it, it’s usually the most squirmy, restless ones who get it taken away, we are stunting their learning. Kids learn academics best when their brains are fresh. We all need breaks, and research shows that the more recess the better when it comes to memory, focus, problem-solving and behavior, too.

5. Being Scared of “I’m bored”

Families offer so much to their children, but they are not meant to function as entertainment centers. Young children can play on their own. We do not have to stack blocks for hours to be a good parent, or feel we need to fix something when a child announces, “I’m bored.” Have confidence in kids. Their brains are naturally wired to play, and if they can’t find something to settle on immediately, have faith they will soon. If your kids struggle with free time, it could be a sign they are overscheduled, overentertained and not getting enough free time to be themselves.

If any of these topics sound interesting, you’ll find more in the book It’s OK to Go Up the Slide. There’s help for making sure elementary school is child and family friendly, including sample scripts and ideas for approaching teachers about homework, plus chapters for two-ten-year-olds on technology, princess play, mistakes, “that’s not fair!” sad stories, teasing, group calendar time, what to do about kindergarten, and why it’s good to talk to strangers.

Special offer this week: if you buy It’s OK to Go Up the Slide this week, you’ll get free gifts (special one-hour podcast taking you behind the scenes in the book, plus a set of designed quotes for your fridge).
Simply

  • 1) buy the book from any bookstore before March 13, 2016 and
  • 2) send an email to slide@heathershumaker.com telling me where you bought it.

About Heather

Heather Shumaker is a national speaker on early childhood topics and the author of two books, It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, both published by Tarcher/ Penguin. Learn more about Heather, her podcasts, books, blog and infamous “why we ban homework” blog post at www.heathershumaker.com

Many Thanks

I receive many heartfelt and thoughtful thank you’s each week from parents whom I have worked with, or who have taken my class or read one of my books. The thank you’s come in all shapes and sizes and I love and appreciate each and every one of them. Being a parent is the most important thing in my life and helping others learn to parent from their best and foster deep connections with their children is what I am incredibly passionate about. So to hear that parents are having success with their journey, or that they have landed in a place of confidence, faith and connection with their children, means the world. Thank YOU for the thank you’s. xo V

Angelou

Vicki,

The conversations we have had have been such a blessing for me. I’d like to share some thoughts in hopes that my realizations and reflections might be helpful to another parent out there.

I’m at a point now in my parenting, where I can look back over past situations and mistakes that I have made with a much clearer understanding. Rather that dwell on guilt or shame around past parenting mistakes, I’m choosing to use it all as a learning experience so I can continue growing with each experience and be the best parent that I can be for my children. Yes, I’ve made mistakes, but recently I have had many more successes.

Through working with you and learning about your methods and philosophies, I am at a completely different place in my relationship with my children. I am now able to trust my gut. Trust myself. Trust my abilities and my judgement. And most importantly, trust my kids. There was a point where I made all the decisions for them, never asked for their input, didn’t consider their preferences or choices. Now, I trust their choices. Everything we do begins with a conversation so that everyone is heard and feels valuable to the group. No rules are set with out their input. I have a new found faith in my children that I don’t think I had before. I realize that the process is more important than the outcome  so rather than focusing on them doing something “right” or “just so” or how I would do it…I focus on their process, what they are learning, how they are growing, and sending them the message that I am right there with them and see them growing right before my eyes. Some small but powerful changes in my parenting have created a shift in our relationship that feels so much more connected, respectful, meaningful and long lasting.

I think these days I send the message to my kids that, we’re all in this together. You make mistakes, I make mistakes. As long as we have faith and willingness to own our mistakes and learn from them so we can try a different way next time. We’re a team now, and I can’t thank you enough for your support and help in getting us to this point.

Intelligent Design: Routines Don’t Just Appear with a Big “Bang

Revamping your family’s routines can be a strategic challenge – a chess game of cause and effect. Ultimately, you must observe your kids and then “design” a household environment that will lead to effortless routines. You’re probably thinking,”Please, that’s gonna be hard!” But actually, it’s kind of fun because once you’ve figured it out, it’s almost as if by magic, your kid begins to sail through the day. Trust us, you’ll feel pretty savvy once you’ve decided to redesign your deal!

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1. Observe your kids for a day or two and look for what I call their “natural rhythm”. You may have to employ the “duct tape” technique (a technique developed by me to assist in keeping my mouth shut because I lacked the necessary discipline to do it without assistance) in order to get “accurate” information about how your kids are currently handling their morning. Don’t worry if you are late for a day or two, or homework gets left undone, or if bedtime is a bit frazzled. You are investing in the emotional health of your family, so a small disruption in the family might be necessary.

2. Identify where you get stuck (example: We can’t get bedtime right. We’ve tried everything). List observations about why you get stuck (Bedtime is messy because they share a room and one reads quietly before bed while the other jumps around).

3. Identify where the day flows well (after school, the kids get home and put their backpacks in the mudroom).

4. Tell your kids that you have been trying to set up the routines in the family the way you like them and you realize that you made a mistake.

5. Invite them to sit down with you and lay out how they would set up each routine. Here is how I started it – “In a perfect world, on a perfect day, what would the morning look like to you?” And then I listened. Really listened to what they were telling me.

6. Identify the goal of having a Morning, Afternoon and Bedtime routine.

EXAMPLES

  • To get out of the house on time, every day, with all our stuff, a good breakfast in the belly with everyone smiling and excited about the day.
  • To have a calm afternoon that helps the family reconnect and prepare for the 2nd half of the day.
  • To say goodnight, feeling connected, loving and peaceful.

Great, then you play with variables and options. Try them! You don’t have to stick with what’s not working.

give-family-meetings

SMART TIP FOR ROUTINE REDESIGN

1. Know what you believe about HOW morning, afternoons and bedtimes “should” be. Once you know your preferences and what the perfect routine would consist of – for you – put it on a shelf and pull it out when the kids leave home at 18.

2. Decide that you will give, whatever routine you set up, time to work. We tend to jump from one routine to another if we don’t get immediate results. My recommendation, wait at least 2 weeks before you start making any significant tweaks to any routine or system to try and implement into daily life with the kids.

3. Keep it within reach! If you want your child to pack a lunch easily and enthusiastically, store the food where they can reach it. The same goes for nontoxic cleaners and clothing. Many routine hiccups can be addressed by physically moving materials kids are expected to handle down to their level.

Have fun! Practice makes progress!

Use the Force: Follow a Child’s Natural Rhythm and Preference

Anyone with kids has probably noticed the 5:00 hour is somehow a portal to the dark side. There’s no getting around it. It’s been called “the bewitching hour”, “arsenic hour” and reversely, “happy hour” by parents who choose to check out while the chaos ensues.

Gilmans

Joking aside, this is the perfect example of how to use natural forces to your advantage. Maybe, asking the kids to sit down and crack the books at 5:00 is asking for a meltdown—one that could be avoided by simply going with the flow of natural productivity. Homework at 3:00? Possibly. Homework at 6:00? Doable. But homework at 5:00? Probably not. The point is, it’s important to notice your child’s natural rhythms and preference and then leverage them to create seamless routines that support an instinctual nature. If your child is squirrely at 5pm, that might be a good time to invite him into the kitchen and have him make his lunch for the following day. Perhaps your child is a morning person. Invite them to make lunches before the bus. Got a late sleeper? Develop a routine that will have them prep their stuff before they go to bed so they get up and follow the same process right out the door.

There are some influences that can’t be changed, but there are many small adjustments that will lead to a much smoother flow throughout the day. And remember: expect hotspots around the am and bedtime routines, transitions to leave the house and getting “stuff” together for sports and activities. No matter what your rhythms and preferences are, understanding them and working with them will make each and every day more enjoyable for you and everyone around you.

Finding the right rhythm may take some time. Here are some ideas to get you going.

  • Identify the night owls and the morning larks.
  • Identify the rabbits and the turtles.
  • If a conflict ensues regarding an activity at a certain time of day – this is your key.
  • Have faith. Try it out. Give it time. And TRUST.

Getting The Kids Involved

Getting the Kids Involved Means Letting them Participate 

work is worthIt sounds super obvious to most parents that if you want kids to follow a daily routine, they have to help create it and then feel supported as they practice mastering the routine on their own. Well, that’s not always how things play out. We often “let” the kids participate when it’s convenient for us or when they are doing things “right” but as soon as they fall behind, or don’t do things exactly the way we want them, we step in and muddle everything up. Creating, executing and mastering routines takes time and while the kids are practicing, life happens. But if we can shift our thinking, if we can let the routine lead the day, we’ll find that children can take on more responsibility, become less dependent on us for everything and we can all enjoy that time between activities vs. rushing and hurrying things along.

What does this mean? It means, if your child is supposed to pack a backpack for school, you wont jump in and do it as the clock starts ticking louder and louder. And so, yes, you’ll be late. Yes, your kid will wear PJ’s to school. Yes, they won’t have a lunch if they don’t feel like making one. Once you learn to let go, the child will know you trust they can do it and that’s when the magic happens. Obviously, allowing a kid to go to school hungry because they forgot their lunch or left their homework behind, is a hard lesson to learn! Most parents think they just can’t let that happen. But they soon find out they can and it only happens once or twice.

IMG_6573Over time, once your children realize you’re going about the routine and that you trust them to manage on their own, they begin to master tasks that lead to confidence and capability. After the peaceful, relaxed and orderly routine is established, you’ll never look back!

Are you ready for a routine?

Kids CAN Do So Much! With a solid routine and less interference, kids of all ages CAN and WILL:

  • get dressed
  • make lunches
  • bring a backpack
  • get ready for bed quickly
  • wake up for school on time
  • finish homework
  • brush their teeth
  • feed the pets
  • and so much more!

Head’s Up! It’ll be bumpy for just a short while. Once you master the routine, it’ll get smoother and sweeter. In the beginning, you’ll have to focus on these few things:

kid workPatience. Don’t step in, even if you’re late.

Correcting. If a kid packs three granola bars for his lunch, hey it’s a start. It’ll get better- don’t get caught up in the little stuff.

Let go. You’ll just have to sacrifice a few events (like bball practice or dinner out) in order to learn the routine.

Once it’s in place, it’ll be just fine.
Trust the kids. Just trust them. They will find a way if you’re not there doing everything for them.

Routines 101

Routines Rule The Roost (Sorry parents!)

kids need

Two of the most common issues families face are a lack of cooperation and crappy time management skills. These two biggies affect every part of the family’s day, from the minute the alarm clock rings to the final light’s out, there is often struggle and frustration with the flow of daily activities, chores and expectations.

Any family can get through the day by winging it as it comes. What happens though, is we have no idea how the day will really unfold! Mornings can unpredictably rock or end in a full- blown temper tantrum, bedtimes might fluctuate, and responsibilities shift according to mood and patience level. Often we’re just going along, from one task to another, hanging on to sanity by a thread. Then after a marathon of chaotic sprints, we fold, plunking down in a chair, fully exhausted and ready to check out with a dose of reality TV. We hate to admit it, but we sometimes dread the following day simply because it’ll start all over again, ending right in the same LazyBoy with little to no energy for what’s to come.

Without a solid routine, families meet all kinds of interesting and tiresome issues include meltdowns, tears, fighting, breakfast in the car, mismatched socks, stinky breath, homework undone, and so forth.

You want to enjoy the morning with your munchkins. You want them to take care of their business. You want the stress level low and you want to get out of the house on time!

Don’t we all?

Ben Franklin

So what’s the solution? Routines! Routines that rock, actually. And here is how it works.

WHAT SUPPORTS ROUTINES THAT ROCK?

  •  Identify what you would like the morning, after school and evening routines to look and feel like in your home.
  •  Identify what you do now that works, and what isn’t working.
  •  Identify what your kids can do for themselves and what you would like them to be able to do.
  •  Develop a plan for your routine that takes into account your child’s needs, leaves room for their growth, as well as a little flexibility for the  unexpected and try it out.

Practice makes progress parents! I’ll be back with Part 2 in a few days.

Siblings Fighting? Making Small Tweaks Can Change the Game

sibling rivalry, ignore behaviors

Here are the 3 simple tweaks (the first step) you can make to break the cycle of fighting in your home and create a little more peace, harmony and enjoyment from all that I promised you.

1. If YOU are still trying to GET your children to get along, the solution is simple: STOP. (In the next post I’ll share the most powerful strategy there is for eliminating the majority of the fighting in your home.) But first, I want you to stop getting involved and observe.

2. Because kids fight for their parents, the solution is to just watch what happens when you act like you don’t notice and walk out of the room or act like you found something more interesting to pay attention to. That doesn’t mean you ignore a situation where you think someone is in serious jeopardy of being hurt, but it does mean you learn to ignore the fighting that is designed to engage YOU. I walked around with headphones on and pretended to listen to music. This drove my kids nuts, but within a few short minutes, they were either dancing with me, or laughing at my taste in music. In either case, the fighting stopped and we could move on with our day.

mail.google.com

3. If you are doing things for your children that they could do for themselves, the solution is to: Invite, Train, Encourage and Support your children as they begin to engage in navigating the hills and valleys of their own lives. By inviting, training, encouraging and supporting your children, you will begin to notice that EVERYONE is in a new relationship with each other and that no one seems all that interested in fighting with anyone else.

If you just realized that you do too much for your children, I invite you to learn more about how to implement the Timeline for Training Strategy.

Tweens, Technology and…..Sexting

Sexting. Some parents have difficulty just saying the word, never mind admitting that their child might – just might – be participating in it.  Our sweet, innocent 3rd and 4th graders have suddenly become tweens and teens and they are growing up in a world very different than the one most of us grew up in – a world surrounded by technology. Many children will not remember a time when they didn’t have instant access to a friend living half way around the world or the ability to see their grandparents each week via skype. These kiddos can receive an immediate and accurate answer to a question about pre-historic dinosaurs and link classrooms and share poems with students in Ghana and Kansas. This invaluable technology has also introduced our children to texting, social media, youtube, cyberbullying and yes, even sexting.  With the awesome comes the not so awesome.

As parents we can stay in denial and try to convince ourselves that we have the ability to protect and shield our kids from internet dangers like sexting, or we can get educated, grab our courage and meet our kids where they already are – cell phone in hand deciding in a split second whether or not to send a racy picture or post a decidedly inappropriate picture on social media. Contrary to popular belief, technology is NOT the problem. 

The problem is our lack of preparation around this issue, it’s the lack of intelligent conversation we have with our kids that is the problem and it is our fear of the unknown that is the biggest roadblock. Remember our job as parents is to teach, prepare and work along side our kids as they learn to navigate the world of technology filled with all the pluses and minuses.

Parents come to me confused on how to handle the issues surrounding their tween/teen and technology. This subject often either leads to power struggles between parents and their kids that negatively impact the relationship and the entire topic of responsible technology use gets lost in the mix of fighting and battling or it leads to a “if you can’t beat them, give up and let them” attitude with no structure, conversation or boundaries in place. It’s not unusual for me to ask a room full of concerned parents this question as a jumping off point: “What do you know about your child to ensure that you have set up a structure that will work for her?” Silence. “Uh, structure?” Often the story is, “My son turned 13 and all he wanted was a phone. All of his friends have them and he was dying for his own so he could text and stay connected.  Now, just a few months later, it’s a mess. The phone bill is sky high, he’s on the screen all the time, he’s neglecting homework and family. It’s a nightmare.”

Okay. Let’s back this bus up a bit and see if an analogy will make it clear where we get tripped up.

Before handing someone the keys to a car, that person has

  1. Reached a certain age.
  2. Passed drivers education.
  3. Practiced driving for hours with an experienced driver.
  4. Proven they can handle the responsibility of paying for a car or gas.

Right? And even if parents are scared to death that their son or daughter will get behind the wheel of a car and be in a serious accident, we can’t stop them.  We know this and so we accept it. We prepare our kids and we prepare ourselves for the inevitable.  We don’t fight against it – we work with it.  And that is what makes the difference.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to preparing our kids to handle technology. In many cases, parents skip those steps and go right to the “car” – then realize that their child may not have the necessary skills to adequately navigate the tricky terrain of internet use.  When parents can reframe the idea of technology and create a plan for preparing themselves and their kids for its inevitable arrival, everyone wins.

With a specific concern like sexting, the situation becomes a bit more serious and as a result, a parent’s fear factor increases. The idea of talking openly and frequently with kids about sex is tough enough, now we are forced to combine sex and technology in the same conversation. No wonder parents are sidelining these conversations until they can no longer avoid them.  Here’s the thing, no matter what you do to prevent it, there is a strong likelihood that your child will either sext someone or receive a sext from someone. The goal is to come to terms with this and do what you need to do as a parent to prepare yourself so you can discuss the situation openly and honestly with your child and prevention, danger, recovery, restitution and healing from a humiliating experience.

Include technology in the conversations you have with your children about healthy and unhealthy relationships – sexual and not sexual. If you aren’t comfortable talking about the topic, how do you expect your child to open up and talk to you about it?  Our kids need to know we have the confidence to tackle any difficult conversation with love, respect and understanding.

Here are a few tips to make the process easier.

  1. First, do what it takes to find the courage, to talk with your tween/teen about the various scenarios that might come up and how she/he might handle them.
  2. Ask questions. Find out about your teen’s cyber IQ. How tech savvy is she? Does she realize once something gets out there in cyberspace you cannot get it back? Or does she really think that once the image disappears from Snapchat it is gone for good?
  3. Work in other areas of life with your child to ensure that he has the tools to navigate tricky subjects. Does he accept responsibility? Does he value himself and others? Does he practice empathy and respect? Does he crave attention and long to fit in?
  4. Come to fair and reasonable guidelines with your child around technology use and include sexting in the conversation. Have a plan and stick to it. Remember your kids need to know they can trust you. Following through on an agreement demonstrates this. They may be mad at first, but the bigger message is – you do what you say, which means you can be trusted.
  5. Respect your child’s privacy. Have faith in your child’s ability to keep the agreements. This doesn’t mean turn a blind eye to what is going on, but it does mean that you don’t have an app that sends all your children’s texts to your phone, too. Finding out what is on your teen’s cell phone is about trust and respect. If you focus on those aspects of the relationship, your teen will invite you in – on her terms.
  6. Demonstrate your understanding that being a teen is hard enough; Let your child know that you understand and that the added element of technology, social media and sexting is one that you didn’t have to figure out when you were 12, 14, and 17-years-old. It’s more than just saying that you’re there if they need you. If your child does get in trouble, it is what you do next that matters most.

Does your tween/teen have the courage make their own choices and not succumb to peer pressure when it comes to sexting? What can you as the parent do to support your child’s independence in this area?

 

Allowing Children To Develop Their Voice

 

For

more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

 

Have you ever met a really sassy, confident, great leader and you thought “man that guy’s really got it going?” Or “that gal is really a sharp leader?” If we went back in time and we talked to their parents, they would say, “Oh! This two year old was horrible! Bossed everybody around. Lined the bears up and told them what they’re going to do.” When we’re talking about allowing children to develop their voice, to share their opinion with their family members, to help create family policy, they are not going to be neat and tidy. Their job is to start to learn how to grow into an amazing leader, an amazing communicator who can communicate respectfully. I think parents are tougher than they give themselves credit for. I don’t really think we will wilt if we have a 7 year old who puts her hands on her hips and says, “I am not wearing that to school today!” If we just stop and think, what has been the evolutionary trajectory of this kid? From a 2 year old who said no all the time, to a 5 year old who was a little bit more cooperative, to a 7 year old who is demanding some equal rights, to a 13 year old who is now using a respectful tone, to a 16 year old who can negotiate respectfully and well, to a 22 year old who can fight for her own rights. So if parents understand that this is a natural maturation process, it can take a little bit of the edge off, and it won’t be used against them. That this is exactly what kids are supposed to be doing – growing and learning and changing while they’re in the home with mom and dad.

Your Picky Eater


For more information on toddlers visit KidsInTheHouse.com

This is my wisdom bomb when it comes to picky eaters and small children. Feed them at home. Feed them something good before you go to the party, the event, Disneyland, or wherever it is you’re going. And then don’t worry about it. Let them eat what they want. Say yes as much as possible. Just don’t worry about it, because the truth is one day, one week, even two weeks of eating lousy is not a make or break deal. It’s far more important that you make a positive memory with your child and relinquish all the craziness about the eating. Remember, it’s about the relationship. The relationship drives everything. If you focus on that, you won’t mind so much that the kids are eating too many cookies.

Self Control. Who has it?

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If I ask 100 people about their thoughts on control, 99.5 will whisper “I am a control freak”, as if this is a bad thing. Personally, I embrace and celebrate my “control freakish” nature. Why? Because the truth is, being a control freak is not the problem.

The problem comes from trying to control the external world instead of developing control of your internal world, which really means – demonstrating consistent self-control.

Of those same 100 people, 99.5 of them will readily admit that they spend the majority of their time trying to control everything outside of themselves. Why? Because it’s easier to try and control someone else or something else (ha) then it is to control your own thoughts, words and actions and to a certain extent, I agree.

I agree that it’s easier to “try” and control other people and situations than it is to develop the discipline necessary to control yourself. But the truth is, and we all know it, is that we can’t control ANYTHING beyond our own thoughts, words and actions.

Now when we think about the many ways, we well-meaning parents try and control our kids, it’s important that we also look at the consequences of our decision to try and control them.

Subtle Control– Subtle control can best be described as a friendly dictate from a well-meaning parent. You know? A parent who has their child’s best interest in mind. A parent who only wants their kids to experience the brighter side of life. A parent who KNOWS that if the child would just do what they say, the way they say to do, the child will most certainly turn out to be a happy, well adjusted, never sent to the principal’s office kind of kid. But alas, the child who is subjected to subtle control soon loses their voice and as the voice goes, so does the mental muscle to navigate their way through the world with any sense of confidence and enthusiasm. In other words, we create kids who will follow along with little resistance but who in essence are sitting on the sidelines of their life, while their parents do it for them.

Overt Control – Overt control can best be described as the bossy, dictatorial, I-said-so kind of control. These parents don’t care to disguise their decision to control their kids and their kids’ lives. And surprisingly enough, their motivation to control is much like the subtle parents reasons. To ensure the kids make few or no mistakes, cruise through life with ease, and make their parents lives as easy as possible.

There are some inherent problems in this kind of parenting, not the least of which is that the kids begin to “push back” under all this heavy handed controlling. They quickly learn that controlling other people is a primary goal in life. After all, they are learning from the most important people in their life. Is it any wonder the kids begin to assert their own kind of control of their parents. But the other problem, and one far more concerning to me as a parent, is the fracture it leads to between parent and child. In an overtly controlling dynamic, constant jockeying for position replaces other, healthier ways of connecting.

If you wish to model for your children the benefit of developing and maintaining self-control, start with these simple exercises:

• Start paying attention  to what you are thinking. Seriously. So often, a parent’s mouth will start moving before they have paused long enough to “THINK” about what it is they are going to say next and if it will enhance or interfere with the relationship they have with their child.

Teach yourself to pause and to change what you are thinking. Learn to spin the thought on its axis until you have sniffed out any desire you might have to control the wee little one in front of you. As you begin to develop mental muscle, your ability to actually decide on your thoughts will become easier and easier. And if we are to believe that what comes out of our mouths is based on what we are thinking, then controlling the words we use will be infinitely easier. The words we choose will be in line with our thinking and our thinking is to demonstrate self-control and enhance the relationship with our child. Fabulous.

Remember, your body works for your thoughts.  As your thinking and speaking shifts from directing and reactive to thoughtful and intentional responses, your actions will follow. Imagine actions that are kind, patient, intentional, supportive, forgiving, loving, kind and understanding. Picture yourself influencing your child’s life from this perspective and you can quickly see the distinct advantages of practicing self-control rather than wasting time and energy trying to control the external world.

• Have fun.

How to Handle Toddler Meltdowns

toddler meltdownParenting Q & A with Vicki Hoefle

Question: How do I handle “bad” toddler behaviors- aka toddler meltdowns?

Scenario: My 2.5 year old daughter does not do this often, but three times in the last 2 weeks she has either hit me or thrown a toy at me. My friend witnessed one of the episodes and told me I should take a firm stand on this behavior and let her know that I will not tolerate it. Should I sit her down and tell her that her behavior is unacceptable, send her to her room or is there another strategy that might get better results.

Answer:

Wow, only 3 times in 2 weeks. I would be toasting to that exceptional behavior, not trying to find a strategy to punish her which I am fairly certain will turn your 3 times in 2 weeks to 3 times every day.

When stumped on how to handle toddler meltdowns, consider this:

Kids hit, throw, bite, pull, punch, scream, spit, holler, cry, pout, hug, kiss, cuddle, laugh, and say I love you because they are learning.

What are they learning? How to interpret the world. They are looking for responses to all these behaviors as a way to inform them on which ones bring mom and dad closer to them, and which behaviors push mom and dad away from them.

The best and most effective strategy is this – pay attention to the behaviors that will best serve your child (these are sure to delight you as well) and ignore the ones that will cause her trouble as she grows and matures.

QUESTION for YOU: Have you ever had a moment when you didn’t know how to handle toddler behaviors? What did you try and how did it go?

Sibling Rivalry: A Parent’s Role

mom with duct dape zip itMany parents suspect that they have something to do with all the fighting, but they simply can’t figure out what that something is. If they knew, they’d avoid it all together.

Well, here’s the deal. Your kids are often fighting for you. Hard to believe, but true. Think about it – how many times have you left the room when the kids were fighting and they were kind enough to bring the fight to you? Exactly. They fight for you.

And as they follow us around the house, the fighting escalates, and as a reaction to the rising level of agitation, our (likely unconscious) idea of the “right” parenting strategy is to start talking to them about stopping. And because they generally ignore us, we start to get frustrated and then angry and then downright ticked off at them and before long, our voices have escalated into a scream (and, huh, that sounds just like their fighting, doesn’t it?). Exactly. They wanted us to join the party. And here we are wearing a party hat, waving our hands at the tiny little hosts.

And so we go from wanting nothing to do with this little shindig to dressing up and responding, YES! When we join in like this (even though we didn’t want to), we say “I will give you my undivided attention when you fight. I will stop what I am doing, start yelling at you to stop and even allow my emotions to get the best of me.”

What kid wouldn’t fight for the chance to control mom or dad— not only into attending but becoming the entertainment? Silly right? Ready to RSVP “No” to the next invitation?

Guest Post: I Bully My Daughter.

The blog post was republished with permission from the author, Millie Shaw. Her courage and honesty continue to inspire.

I bully my daughter.

Oh, and I humiliate her in public, too.

I didn’t realize that was what I was doing. I thought what I was doing was called “parenting.” It wasn’t until I had a difficult coaching session with Vicki that I figured it out. Well, actually, I didn’t figure it out until she told me that’s what I was doing.
Why it was so hard to see that behavior that I would consider to be abominable if it was directed toward any other person in the world, I viewed as perfectly acceptable when it was directed toward my own children, I do not know. I only know that now that I’m aware of what I’ve been doing to my daughter, I am ashamed of myself.
It all started so innocently — as it always does!

You can finish reading the original post here.

Five Tips to End Sibling Rivalry

It’s the Simple Things that Trip us Up

Let’s say you’re having one of those June-Cleaver-would-croak-if-she-saw-you moments. Your kids are rowdy, screeching and tearin’ the place apart. You look into the mirror and say, “If only they could get along and end this sibling rivalry my life would be bliss.” (Yeah right ☺).

Screaming and fighting happens. Sometimes it’s as simple as a child who is over tired or hungry. Maybe it’s the time of day that triggers a fisticuffs between siblings. And truth is, sometimes it’s something more. But before you spend too much time probing, rule out the simple reasons kids can go at each other without provocation.

With a little preemptive planning, you can cut off the small ‘skirmishes’ that pop-up and drain your energy leaving you feeling more like Lizzy Borden than Mrs. Cleaver.

Here’s how you find that mommy bliss and get back to your buntcake and bonbons:

  • Stop and think: Is there a simple reason the kids are fighting? Do they just need food? Offer it without engaging.
  • Notice the rhythm of your children’s behaviors. Redirect the energy BEFORE the “He hit me, no I didn’t” song starts to play on full blast (on repeat).
  • Zip your mouth, ma. The “telling them” and trying to “get them” to get along doesn’t work. Ignore it and find something productive to do instead. And if you invite them into an activity that seems more interesting that the fight, they are bound to check it out.
  • Stay Out Of It. It’s that simple. Don’t care. Don’t get annoyed. Don’t listen to the tattles. Don’t correct the kids. It’s none of your business. (Of course, if they are in harm’s way, do what you have to). Put your headphones on if need be and sing away. You’d be surprised how many kids will give up a fist fight when they hear a parents singing to Talking Heads.
  • Give them something else to do. AHHHH – There’s the rub. Most parents aren’t sure WHAT ELSE TO DO – so they return to the old ways….

Fighting can be avoided with a little investigation, a bit of redirecting and a willingness not to make things worse. Best of all, practicing these tips over time – goes a long way to eliminating sibling rivalry.

What’s the Trouble with Kids Swearing?


In one day, I saw two posts on the topic of kids growing up in homes where it was okay for them to swear. The most recent on the website of Michelle Icard (who just authored a fantastic book for any parent who will ever be living with a kid in middle school. – Middle School Makeover (Bibliomotion 2014) 

I was inspired to share my thoughts on this topic.

excited-kidw explative

As a mom who raised 5 kids – all young adults living on their own  now with their own unique relationship with swearing,  I appreciate this dad’s ability to change some of his core beliefs about swearing and land squarely on what is most important to him, his relationship with his daughter.  

I felt the same way with my kids. I was good about keeping the swearing out of the house when they were young, but once I found myself living with three young kids, on twenty uncleared acres and three temperamental horses, whose stalls needed to be cleaned daily and their frozen water buckets emptied and refilled, I resumed my relationship with swearing and started letting the bombs fly.

I heard my first swear come out of my two-and-a-half-year-old son’s mouth one morning when he was trying to drag a hay bale across a three foot sheet of ice.

“What the f… is up with all this d.. snow and ice?”

His two older sisters and I stopped dead in our tracks.  Not because of the swear, but because he sounded exactly like his mother.  Uh Oh. The girls giggled and I gave them the, this is NOT funny look, but they knew that inside I was busting a gut.

Over the course of the next two years, I became more relaxed with my swearing and the kids began to pick up bits and pieces of it.  The story continues this way for years and it never really occurred to me to address the ease in which they integrated a few swear words into their everyday conversations at home until an acquaintance stopped by and she was appalled at what she heard.

Like the father in the article above, I began to question my own beliefs about swearing, the correlation between swearing and respect and my beliefs around the idea that I would raise truck-stop-swearing kids who would never be able to hold down a job because every other word out of their mouth would be an expletive.

But that’s not what happened.  My kids, having learned swearing from their mother, also learned when to use it and when to keep it tucked away out of sight.  They navigated this tricky landscape with ease and confidence.  They swore with their friends, and they swore at home. But rarely did they swear anywhere else.

 I know now, looking back, that my kids also felt my unwavering support for them as growing, maturing, learning human beings and that my goal in life was to continue to receive invitations into their lives.  Because swearing wasn’t something we fought about, they were able to share openly and honestly about really difficult topics.

Every parent, at some point, must wrestle with the beliefs we have about things like swearing, dating, drinking, lying, smoking, cheating, and so on and decide not only how we want to address these challenges, but what, at the end of the day we want most in terms of our relationships with our kids.  The answer won’t be the same for any two parents, but I have learned, that swearing is not a good indicator of what kind of human being I was raising.
 

Here is Why your Parenting Style Matters

There is loads of talk today about parenting styles and parenting techniques and parenting preferences. All the way from Velcro and Helicopter parenting to CTFD parenting. Truthfully, I agree there is a whole lot of focus and advice smathering cyberspace and I can completely understand why many parents are becoming deaf to any type of talk about this subject.

In most cases I agree – I have two sayings 1. Just because you can write a blog about parenting does not mean you should, and 2. we are all doing the best we can with the information we have. My job is to offer quality information for parents to sift through and decide if they would like to make changes in the way they parent and the relationship they are fostering with their children.

When I discuss parenting styles, I discuss three types.

Authoritarian parenting style which categorizes  parents with clearly defined rules that they expect their children to follow without question or even discussion. Often known as the really strict parents, authoritarian parents hold high expectations for their children and believe that parents are, and should be, in complete control.  These parents “shape, control and evaluate the behavior and attitudes of the child in accordance with a set of standards of conduct, usually an absolute standard[which] values obedience as a virtue and favors punitive, forceful measures to curb self-will” (p. 890).

Permissive parenting style refers to parents who place few, if any demands on their children, allowing children “complete freedom to make life decisions without referring to parents for advice . . .” (Hickman, Bartholomae, & McKenry, 2000, p. 42). Permissive parents allow the “child to regulate his own activities as much as possible, avoid the exercise of control” (Baumrind, 1966, p. 889)  Often these parents view themselves as their children’s friends or peers more than providing the boundaries of the parent-child relationship.

Democratic parenting style is an integration of the other two parenting styles, where parents set clear rules and expectations but also encourage discussion and give-and-take,  especially as their children get older and are able to take more responsibility for themselves. These parents “remain receptive to the child’s views but take responsibility for firmly guiding the child’s actions, emphasizing reasoning, communication, and rational discussion in interactions that are friendly as well as tutorial and disciplinary” (Baumrind, 1996, p. 410).

I find it as no surprise that there are big differences in the ways we approach parenting. Our culture, our situations and even the way our parents raised us influences how we decide what constitutes the right way or wrong way to parent.

What is surprising is the consistent findings about how these different styles of parenting impact our children’s development. The way you parent can influence how your children do in school, relate to others, and whether or not they develop the personal strengths which help them to thrive and how to best deal with life’s stresses.

Having spent years studying parenting and resiliency, research shows that children raised by Democratic parents have higher self-esteem, do better in school, relate better to their peers in large part because they had greater self-confidence and self control.

On the other hand, families with Authoritarian or Permissive parenting tend to have children who can struggle in school, have lower self-efficacy, less self-control, and lower self-esteem, placing these children more at risk when dealing with life’s adversities.

Here are 3 tips to support a Democratic Parenting Style

1.  Include children in the decision making process.  This begins by giving toddlers choices between two things.  Over time, they become skilled decision makers.  Increase their participating by inviting them to help create family policies around bedtime, homework, extra-curricular activities.

2.  Practice being Firm and Kind in both your words, actions and attitudes.  Firm shows the respect you have for yourself and Kind shows the respect you have for the child.  As an example:

Situation:  You have asked your child a number of times to choose which shoes to wear to the store but he refuses and he decides instead to run around.      

Firm: Showing respect for yourself means that you will refuse to fight with the child, manhandle the child or give in to the child.  You understand that when your child refuses to choose, he is abdicating his position in the conversation.  In other words, the child is choosing to have you make the choice.

Kind:  Make the choice for the child in a calm, respectful and friendly manner.  You can maintain a healthy connection with the child and still be in a position of authority.  It might mean that you carry the sneakers to the car to be put on later and his socks get wet as a result or that you leave him home with dad while you run the errands, or you cancel the trip to the hobby shop and go another day.  

Because the situation did not deteriorate into a power struggle, the child is free to learn that by not choosing, he is indeed making a choice.  You have modeled behavior you wish your child to model as he grows and matures and you can continue with your day with little interruption and without feeling resentful.

3.  Create rhythms that support everyone in the home.  Some children like a limited time in the morning to get ready for school while others prefer to wake up with time to spare.  The same is true for bedtime and homework routines and and other routines typically found in busy families.  If you take the time to identify the natural rhythms in your children, you can support them and avoid unnecessary power struggles.  This support is in line with a democratic model which allows everyone in the family to design rhythms that best support who they are without forcing anyone to conform to one persons routines or giving in to the demands of a child.  

The Democratic Parenting Style has benefits for everyone in the family.  

For more information on parenting visit KidsInTheHouse.com

Denial and Addiction are Co-conspirators

courage-to-doI was part of a collective conversation several months ago that focused on addiction in teens and young adults specifically as it pertains to a parent’s denial of the situation and the effect this denial has on younger children in the home.  It was a brainstorming, sharing, flushing out conversation more than it was a – let’s find a solution to this problem conversation.  Some of us had personal stories to share, others of us were in the addiction profession, others were in the medical and mental health profession and brought a perspective that shed light on the long term implications that accompany denial and the impact on siblings.

As stimulating and important as the conversation was, it soon moved to the back recesses of my mind as other more pressing matters took center stage.  And then I got a call from a friend.  It seems her eldest son is an addict.  Something the family is just now coming to terms with and admitting openly.  Something her friends have known for years.

She talked about the process of moving from denial to acceptance and although this step was easier than she had expected, the fall out of living in denial for so long had taken a toll, actually wreaked havoc on her family.  You see, she has a younger son.  A son who has been watching from the sidelines, from the time he was nine, as his older brother, his idol, fell further into the grip of addiction with parents who refused to respond.  A son who was forced to form his own conclusions about drugs and alcohol and their effectiveness as solutions for life.  He was left alone to contemplate a parent’s role in addressing a difficult situation or refusing to address it for a reason that he could not fathom.  He questioned whether he should be following in his brother’s footsteps or running in the opposite direction – but having no experience in what the opposite direction looked like, he stayed put, in the familiar.  He was alone. And in his loneliness, he turned to denial and a sense of powerlessness toward addiction.  His addiction was more subtle, more conspiratorial that his brothers.  Unlike his older sibling who came home intoxicated throughout middle and high school, he was sober whenever there was even the slightest chance his parents or their friends might encounter him.  He became an expert at covert anesthetizing. And, most troubling, he had more than just booze and drugs to numb his pain.  He found other addictions.  His family remained in denial.  Until, like most addiction stories, someone fell to their knees and hit rock bottom.

The family is finally in full recovery mode, and by that I mean, they are ALL enrolled in a 12 step program, working with family counselors and seeking guidance from clergy, but my friend knows that it will be years before her family is whole again.  Denial will only get you so far.  And then the truth descends like an angry hammer and wipes out all the lies and betrayals and the work of rebuilding begins.

This painful story is worth sharing for only one reason.  I know parents who are, at this very moment in denial.  They deny that their child is a bully.  They deny that their teenage daughter is cutting.  They deny that their seven-year-old is stealing.  They deny that they don’t have a plan for raising their kids in this fast paced world we live in. They deny that their adolescent son is addicted to porn. They deny that their recently pubescent daughter has already had oral sex. They deny that there is booze missing from the liquor cabinet and they refuse to acknowledge the smell of marijuana emanating from the downstairs basement.  They deny they are over their heads and need help, direction and support.

Denial and addiction are co-conspirators.  Our best chance in helping our kids navigate the world of addiction and the world of risky choices is to deny denial a place at the table. Finding the courage to admit and then deal with, whatever challenge is set before us as parents, is sometimes enough to influence the direction our children will move when they are confronted by the sometimes confusing and demanding world they live in.

So take off your goggles.  Find the courage to accept what is really going on in your home.  Take a risk and start a conversation with a child who seems more distant with each passing day.  Trust your gut.  Throw back the drapes and let in the light.  Talk to your kids, challenge yourself, and ask for help.

We are all in this together.  Whether we want to be or not is immaterial.  What happens in your home affects me, affects my community and it ultimately affects the world we live in and above all else, your kids are counting on you.

Helicopter Parents Crippling the Next Generation

enthusiasm1It seems that Helicopter Parenting is alive and well and that in spite of all the research that suggests this is a dangerous direction in parenting with negative implications for our kids, families, our communities and our country, there are no signs that this trend is being replaced by a more common sense approach to parenting.  In fact, we seem to be a culture who has accepted that it is here to stay and there is nothing we can do about it.  And this style of intrusive parenting is infiltrating the life of kids over 18 years old, whose parents are still talking to them a dozen times a day, calling college professors, going to job interviews, organizing their lives, making recommendations on food, clothing and the friends they should be spending time with.

As a woman over 50-years-old it is disheartening to think about my future as an over 75-year-old retiree who will be at the mercy of “leaders” who still rely on mom and dad for help in making simple decisions let alone complex, multi-layered decisions with far reaching implications.

Am I supposed to feel secure with the idea that the same individuals who can not seem to manage their way out of a paper bag without their parents direction and guidance and in some cases advocacy, are going to be the same individuals who will be making decisions for us, for ME, when I am old, incontinent and have no teeth?  The world is becoming more complicated, not less which will require future leaders who are smart and thoughtful decision makers, who cultivate relationships of cooperation and collaboration, who can view issues from many sides, who can stand strong in the face of criticism and defend their positions with respect and clarity.

Are you Helicopter Parents asking me to believe that the same kid who needs his or her parents to advocate in a job interview is the kind of leader who can restore a crumbling automotive industry, revamp an entire education system, broker peace talks, put an end to hunger and disease, commit resources to projects that are environmentally sound, and fight for policies that are controversial and forward thinking.  SERIOUSLY?

Maybe instead of a Vice President, a new position will be created in which the advisers are mom and dad who will continue to advocate for their kids, lest they feel unprepared to do it for themselves.  Or perhaps the new press secretary will be a steadfast parent who tells the news hungry journalistic community with their probing questions that the president elect is feeling a little picked on today and could everyone be just a wee bit kinder to said President Elect.

For the life of me, I can’t imagine that anyone in their right mind thinks that continuing this kind of parenting is good for anyone.  I for one am NOT accepting this more intrusive form of parenting as the “norm”, nor will I sit by as more and more parents insinuate themselves into areas they have no business even commenting on, let alone controlling.

Instead of throwing up my hands in frustration and resigning myself to the situation, I WILL CONTINUE to do what I can to offer parents another approach to parenting which will prepare children for the challenges that await them, armed with the skills necessary to navigate a complicated world with grace and dignity.