All posts tagged misbehavior

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.

How to Handle Toddler Meltdowns

toddler meltdown

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

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.


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?

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.

Choose to Focus on Positives

Q&A With Vicki Hoefle

focusQuestion:  How can I shift my attention away from negative behaviors and focus on positives?

Since subscribing to the Duct Tape Parenting  “do nothing, say nothing” philosophy (which for the most part has improved our lives), we have noticed an increase in the amount that our 8-year-old physically (hard pinching) and psychologically (hate-words galore) bullies our 5-year-old (both are girls).

Together (as a family) we wrote out a list of behaviors that we mutually deem unacceptable and posted it on the fridge, and if one of those behaviors happens, then play-date privileges for that day are revoked. This has worked to a degree, but has increased the amount of tattling, and does not work well if I am not witness to the offending behavior. I also worry that this approach falls too much into the punitive/corrective category of parenting, which we are trying in earnest to avoid. Any thoughts/suggestions will be much appreciated.


You have two things working against you here.

The first is that you are focusing on the unacceptable behavior we ensures you will see no progress at all. Switch your attention and choose to focus on positives-  all those character traits you want to see more of. For instance:

We are a family that values: Mutual Respect, Forgiveness and Being Helpful. We live these values by: Talking to each other instead of yelling, accepting that people make mistakes and forgiving them when they apologize and help each other out by taking care of ourselves and working together around the house. Then, when you “catch” each other actually living these values, you can celebrate them. By focusing on what you want, you are sure to more of it.

Second, when you instituted the: If you mess up you loose your privileges for the day, you activated a competitive dynamic. Of course the kids are going to try and catch their siblings screwing up and then tattling on them. If your instincts tell you that the strategy you have implemented is punitive – LISTEN TO IT. That’s we have instincts and gut responses.

When you choose to focus on positives, it will  end the competitive dynamic will go along way in rebooting the family and bringing out the best in everyone.

QUESTION: Do you spend more time and energy on the negatives or the positives?

Tween Behavior During Divorce

normal tween behaviors during divorceQ&A with Vicki Hoefle

Question: Is my tween showing “normal”  behavior during divorce?

Scenario: I am in the beginning stages of a divorce and I have noticed my 12 year old seems to be lashing out and becoming somewhat defiant and uncooperative.  My question is two-part:  Is this normal tween behavior during divorce and how can I support her through the process and get my daughter back.

Answer:  Divorce is never easy – on anyone.  As a mom who experienced divorce herself and as a parent coach who has worked with many divorced couples, here are a few things I have learned to support tweens during divorce.

  1. Everyone deals with divorce in a very unique way.  There is no formula so it’s impossible to know from one day to the next how someone, especially a tween is internalizing their experience.  One day they could be sullen, the next joyful, the next angry, the next confused and the next melancholy.  I taught myself to observe each of my kids every morning and look for clues as to how they were dealing with the situation on that particular day.  I fully expected that later that day or certainly by the next day, they could be experiencing a whole new set of feelings. This helped me stay “fluid” through the process and before long I started to notice more consistent, “normal” behavior.  By plugging into THEM, I felt more centered and calm myself, which influenced the entire family dynamic.

  2. It is quite normal for anyone experiencing a stressful event, to have shifts in behavior that might seem random, unexplainable and downright aggravating.  Remembering that the behavior is what is informing you about her internal feelings will make it easier or at least help to not take it personally, or to worry too much about it.  Instead of talking to her about her behavior, talk about all the ways that she is dealing with the situation in a mature, kind and supportive way.

  3. None of you will be the same after this experience.  So allow everyone affected by the event to change accordingly.  Look for the best, celebrate the future and let go of the past.  There is nothing to be gained by going back and wishing things were different.  They are what they are.

Question:  Do you have a strategy or a resource that helped you through a difficult transition?

Think, Look, Plan- Then DO

A parent wrote in the following scenario:

Vicki HoefleDuring a casual dinner, a neighbor’s daughter got up from the table and my friend said, “sit down we are not finished yet.” The little girl proceeded to walk away and come back with a yogurt smoothie and my girl friend said, “Do not drink that or you will be in trouble.” The little girl proceeded to turn the smoothie over and dump it on the floor. (She is almost 4.) My friend then grabbed her and put her in a time out. I thought, HMMM…I know that didn’t seem to go well –what would YOU DO?

-Perplexed Spectator Parent

Vicki Hoefle: Hi, Great question! As a Duct Tape Parent, I follow a LOGICAL, SOLVE-ALL PROCESS (one you can too!) that leads me to this answer:

I always: think, look, plan- then DO.


It’s important to stop and think: parenting problems are not really problems, they are SYMPTOMS of either a fractured relationship or a lack of training or both.


So, in this case these are the symptoms: girl shows complete disregard for mom by walking away, dumps yogurt, doesn’t listen to mom, won’t stay in her seat and shows a lack of respect for both herself and her mom.

Then, I’d walk through a couple questions- what is my reaction? What is the goal of the behavior?

In this case, mom gets pissed, and asserts her power by saying NO. She tries to win. Her clever and powerful daughter pushes back and eventually mom takes the child to time out. She may have quick fixed it with a “bandaid” but it sure didn’t heal the underlying “bulletwound” – which is a combination of relationship and training problems.

Hint: because mom is emotionally charged and angry, there is evidence of relationship stress and because the child carelessly makes a mess and is physically moving around, there is evidence of a training problem.


Look at the relationship. How close am I to my 4 year old right now? I’ve been annoyed at her lately and  a little checked out.
Look at the training. She didn’t understand the proper way to stay seated or clean up a mess.
Look at the behavior. Ok, she’s engaging me in a power struggle so the goal of her behavior is power – not to take mine- but have her own. For more on identifying the Mistaken Goals of Behavior, click here.


Once the entire situation has been put into perspective, I’d plan to work on the relationship and training the child.

Relationship Plan– (Mom and daughter are definitely in a classic power struggle so here are my recommendations)

  • Invite the child to participate vs. shutting her down and making more conflict.
  • Invite her to make decisions with me- which drinks do you think are ok to have at dinner? Peach smoothie or milk?
  •  I’d also increase the respect I show toward her preferences, since her pure disrespect is reflecting something important: the mutual respect is running low- on both ends.

Training Plan: (Obviously, if the child knew what a pain it is to clean the smoothie, she wouldn’t have thought it was a good idea to chuck it on the ground.)

  • Before showing her how to CLEAN the mess up, show her how to master some simple kitchen tasks. The more included she feels and the more confidence she will have around cooking and cleaning.
  • Begin to train her in self skills, picking out her own clothes, getting dressed, setting the table, etc. When children feel competent, they work WITH their parents, not against them.
  • Plan to do the training when you and your child are both relaxed and in a cooperative mood.


After I’ve thought about the relationship / training problem, looked at the realities, and made a plan, I’d DO THIS:

  • Refrain from quick-fix responses to her behavior. (No bandaids on bulletwounds)
  • Take time to implement the relationship plan. (Invest in the relationship)
  • Practice dinner routines, but NOT during dinner. (Take time for training)
  • Be patient and celebrate success. (Focus on what I want more of)
  • Train to clean up her own spills. (Quit being the maid)
  • Encourage her to participate authentically in family dinner. (Prepare her for departure)

So, there you have it folks- as you can see, this process can work with any behavior challenge you face! Duct Tape Parents refrain- they think, look, plan and then DO. They have learned to stop before slapping a bandaid on a bulletwound or disciplining a kid who hasn’t been trained properly. Duct Tape Parents put the relationship first (fix that, worry about spilled smoothie second). YOU have this in your mind so have courage to think this way when it starts to slide into the rabbit hole. 🙂


IEP – Individual Encouragement Plan

I attended a conference many years ago given by Dr. Al Milliren titled “What to Do When They Make Your Hair Hurt – A Brain-Friendly Discipline Model for Responding to (Mis)behavior.”

It was excellent. At the time I was speaking regularly at In-Services and I was looking for ways to inspire educators to give Adler a “try in the classroom”.

So much of what Dr. Milliren presented that day was meaningful and relevant to anyone working with students, but one idea he offered was of particular interest to me.

When he threw up the slide Developing an “IEP” – “Individualized Encouragement Plan” I was immediately intrigued. This idea, more than other I heard that day stood out as something I believed any teacher, or for that matter any person working with kids could embrace and implement with ease and confidence.

A misbehaving child is a discouraged child. Discouraged children act out and they act out in an attempt to find their place within the group in useless ways. These children do not require correction they require encouragement. And the idea that every child, whether they are misbehaving or not, deserves a personal Individualized Encouragement Plan suggested that we as the adults in their lives, could inspire and influence in inspiring and powerful ways.

Lets play the “Imagine This” game:

  • Imagine how your view of a child might change if you developed and “IEP” that highlighted the child’s strengths, assets, and unique talents and not their useless and challenging behaviors.
  • Imagine how different your relationship would be with this child if your focus and energy where towards implementing your IEP instead of on correcting the child during your time together.
  • Imagine how much more open and receptive he would be to your assistance and guidance as he grew and developed.
  • Imagine how you might communicate in more open, honest, reflective and respectful ways if you were using the IEP to guide the conversation.
  • Imagine how she might begin to experience herself as you brought more and more attention to her strengths, assets and unique talents.
  • Imagine how much more open minded, flexible, responsive and courageous he might be after days, weeks and months of your constant and consistent application of your specially designed Individualized Encouragement Plan.
  • Imagine a world, filled with encouraged boys and girls who felt empowered to participate in life in meaningful, engaged, and useful ways, all because you took the time to replace the “IEP”.

Thanks Dr. Milliren. This refreshing idea couldn’t come at a better time.

Al Milliren, Ed.D., N.C.C., B.C.P.C., is Associate Professor of Psychology and Counseling and Team Leader for the School Counseling program at Governors State University in University Park, IL. He also serves as adjunct faculty for the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, IL. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, is Board Certified in Professional Counseling, and holds the Diplomate in the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology. Al has been a junior high school counselor and teacher, an elementary school counselor, and a Professor of Counseling at Illinois State University and at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He is a national and international workshop presenter and has authored or co-authored several books and numerous articles on Adlerian Psychology and related topics. (A good friend to, and member of, NECAP, Al has also written or co-written prefaces to books by Bob Herrmann-Keeling, web master of this site.)

The Road of Love!

The Longest Mile

Not sure exactly what prompted her to start screaming. Could have been a number of things and truth-be-told, the “trigger” isn’t what’s important.  The event itself isn’t even all that important.  What’s important is the learning. What’s important is what I am going to do the next time this happens and what I am going to do in all the moments in-between that make up my daily life with this extraordinary child.  What’s important is that I found the courage to look at my 9 year old daughter with love, compassion, respect and admiration, while she was screaming at me (at the top of her lungs) as we walked down our quiet back road and out onto the main road during our morning walk to school.

The Courage to Love

I had to rally every ounce of courage and strength inside me in order to look at this 9 year old, nostrils flaring, fists clenched, teeth baring and lips snarled, walking backwards in front of me screaming, as the neighbors walked from their homes to their cars and drove by us, afraid to make eye-contact.

I had to muster up bucket loads of self-restraint not to retaliate when she hit my elbow and my morning cup of coffee spilled out onto my leg and her arm, which precipitated a blood curdling scream from her and a claim that I poured my HOT coffee onto her, just as one neighbor was getting into her car.

Every creative cell that inhabits my body was called into action when it came time to remember her as the peaceful, beautiful, loving baby that was born unto this earth.  And to repeat this quote from Rudolf Dreikurs in my mind, with each step,

“In order to be able to exert a constructive influence on your child you must learn to observe her objectively. This you can do only if you take her misbehavior less seriously. You must stop regarding her faults as a moral issue. The child who misbehaves is not a “bad” child. She is only unhappy, misguided and discouraged, and has not found the right answer to the social problems which confront her. Every misbehavior indicates an error of judgment in her efforts to find her place within the family and to meet the demands and pressures to which she is subjected.” -Rudolf Dreikurs, MD, “Coping with Children’s Misbehavior: A Parent’s Guide.”

No, for those of you asking,  I did not remember that quote word for word – however I have read it enough times and embraced the concepts in the Parenting On Track™ program founded on these principles, that I could access the essence of this in my heart, my body, and my mind.

Inspired to Give In

After 1.2 miles the screaming stopped, a soft, gentle, small hand reached up and grabbed mine. That small hand held on so tightly and so completely that I immediately gave thanks to the Universe for keeping me safe and strong, and keeping me from behaving in a manner that would cause fracture to this delicate and yet solid relationship.  With a voice hoarse from screaming and full of genuine sorrow and integrity – my daughter apologized.

Now What?

We proceeded to walk the rest of the .5 miles to school and created some connections about the road, the leaves, our strong leg muscles and full bellies to fuel us through the day.

On the walk home, I reflected. Reflected on what just happened, what I learned, and what I would do the next time my discouraged child joined us for our morning walk to school or trip to the grocery store or…

New Information

1.    I believe in this circumstance, using the adage “move your feet” actually fueled the fire.

I believe if I had found a rock or a tree stump along the way and chose to sit down, the yelling would have stopped. I know in my heart, she would have found it completely distasteful to yell at someone who was trapped, open and vulnerable. She probably would have jumped into my arms for a heart-felt hug.

Instead, my walking just offered energy to the situation and her determination to wrangle me in.  I could be wrong, but at least I have a plan for the next time.

2.    Connection – That is what she craves. Give it to her. Give it to her as often as I can in all the moments in between. I have nothing else to do with her (as she manages her life quite nicely and could actually manage a Fortune 500 Company or a Country for that matter), so spend time with her connecting.  What does that look like you ask?

  • Make eye contact and don’t break it for anything.
  • Listen to her like there is nobody else in the room.
  • Ask her opinion on everything.
  • Ask her for help solving my problems.
  • Take heed to her advice, when she has a better idea.
  • Hug her. Hug her like there is no tomorrow.
  • Smile when I see her coming, even if she is mad at me.

Energizing Perspective

On my walk home, I also spent a great deal of time re-framing my perspective and finding the “good” in the morning.

1. I live with one feisty, stubborn, tenacious young woman and she is NOT afraid to say NO. May she have the courage to access those qualities when someone who does not have her best interest at heart, tries to influence her.

2. She knows what she believes in and is not afraid to stand up for it. She is still working on the best way to communicate her beliefs, but by-golly she knows what she knows to be true and is NOT AFRAID to let you know it.

Courage is not always tidy.

My daughter is courageous.  That is who she BE!  She stands up for herself. She stands up to bullies. She stands up for those she loves (and those she doesn’t). She stands up to ME. I love her and I am committed to matching her courageous nature with my own.  I commit to doing whatever it takes to BE the Mom she deserves.

Lizzy, I love you!

No Boundaries

The Permissive Style of parenting also contributes to the bullying cycle. A lack of structure in the day-to-day life of the family, unclear boundaries and expectations, a lack of consistency and follow-through along with a tendency to “save” children from the frustrations and challenges of life, create an environment that is often times chaotic, frightening, unstable and is full of mixed messages.

When children are confused by the words, behavior and action of their parents, when inconsistency is the norm, it becomes increasingly more difficult for children to make sense of the world beyond their front door. Reading cues from school mates, keeping themselves safe, voicing their opinions, needs and desires, is impaired and kids become part of the bullying cycle.

When follow-through is missing in a child’s life at home, it seems reasonable to them, that a bully just might get away with his behavior on the playground. These kids often end up being bullied, but they can also try to avoid the bully by hiding out OR to volunteer another likely candidate for the role of the bullied in order to stay safe on the schoolyard.

Often spoiled in the permissive household, children learn to avoid responsibility, to blame others and to look for the easy way out. Not surprising, these kids make up each of the central characters Barbara identifies in her book, The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander.

These kids can find themselves watching as the bullying cycle takes place before their eyes and feel powerless to do anything about it. But they can also decide to taunt the bully and later claim “I didn’t do anything” and finally, they take up the roll of bullying because they are experts at avoiding responsibility and diverting blame to others.

In other cases, children raised in permissive households become the tyrant in the house that everyone works to appease and this same attitude is brought to the schoolyard. A belief that the rules don’t apply to them, that they are entitled to whatever they want and will gladly take what they deem “theirs” along with an eerie disconnection from how their behavior impacts others.

No matter how you slice it, a Permissive Style of parenting isn’t helping our children develop the skills they need in order to know as Barbara Coloroso states in her book, What to do, How to do it and the Willingness to do it when it comes to breaking the bullying cycle of violence.

This week, take some time and determine if you are a permissive parent. If you are, don’t waste your time beating yourself up over it. Instead, take this next week to challenge some of the assumptions you have made about parenting. Notice how your choices and actions are influencing your kids.

Next week we will talk about the Democratic Style of parenting and how to create a truly Democratic household.

Life Happens. Keep on Trucking!

This blog post was re-posted with the permission of the author…an amazing, sassy, courageous, incredible, beautiful mom of…3 boys.

She sums up her Parenting On Track™ experience below. If you enjoy this post, I encourage you to go to her blog and read about her journey.

Her stories are hilarious (and inspiring)!! I had to stop reading, lest I get no work accomplished today. If you don’t have time to read, just look at the pictures and watch the youtube videos…sure to brighten your day!

Here Goes!

I recently read a great blog post that said trust your intuition because kids don’t come with parenting manuals. I agree, there’s no instructional booklet, insurance or map that show the “best” way get from A to B (by A to B, I mean baby to 18!). That’s why, normally, I would feel a bit more distressed about how life with kids is currently unfolding. I won’t go into details but you can imagine the issues EVERYONE is facing- one way or another. From financial stress to swine flu fears, parents can easily become derailed and overwhelmed with nostalgia for their fleeting “golden age” of parenting (or the “well-laid plans” before life took over).

I speak for myself when I say, dang, I started off on a MUCH more focused, purposeful path . Then, after three kids, two houses and another big move, I felt everything I identified with as a parent sort of slipped and I just kind of began existing. I went from proactive to reactive, without even noticing. I’m sure you’ve had that feeling when it hits you like, “huh, I sure didn’t plan for this.” My kids calling me butthead, was one of those moments.

Just a few months ago, I was looking at an early midlife crisis, a mombod and three unruly boys. Thankfully, now, despite the slip-ups, I understand more about MY family and I see those three rowdy fellows quite differently than three months ago (the mombod? not so much).

However, as I wrap the Parenting On Track™ Home Program , I’ll admit three things:

1. I watched EVERY DVD, and literally, LOL’d, alot.

2. I fell off the wagon a couple times (including missing a couple family meetings because I couldn’t get to the ATM-oops)

3. I truly learned some VALUABLE knowledge about raising kids, MY KIDS.

Truth be told, it took me 14 weeks to get through due to vacation week and unexpected suburban drama. So here I am, looking back at where I started, at do nothing say nothing. I took the time to reflect and make small changes.

Am I perfect? No, (hell no, is more like it), but I realize that the tools I need to raise the kids I want DO exist within ME. Did I really commit to the values I laid out 8 weeks ago? Yes, and NO- because you can’t just overhaul everything at once. So, now I can go back and revisit what I’ve learned and focus on the GOALS I set for my family. The best part- they like the goals! It IS NOT like, (as Vicki says in one of the lessons) “Ok kids, there’s a new sheriff in town!” It’s more like, “hey guess what guys, I like you and you like it when things run smoother around here.” And they do!

The best part is that the course is a framework for reference forever. I see this as being one of the best chances that I can get my family into positive changes when things have gotten, well, shitty. ☺ (NOTE: that’s just mud but it did the trick didn’t it?)

It literally is a roadmap for success. I am going to use it. I will tell any parent anywhere that not only is the program stellar, but the community driving the philosophy—from the founder, Vicki Hoefle (who I have gotten to know over the past few weeks) to the team of parents coordinating workshops and conferences, classes and everything. I’m SO glad I found the Parenting on Track experience.

NOTE TO SELF: I think I realized that I don’t care if my kids call me butthead. If I REACT like I care, well, then, it simply feeds a weed I don’t care to water. Next…

Celebrate your Mistakes!

Is there a moment that defines the power and necessity of celebrating “a willingness to participate in life” vs. a positive outcome? Yes. there is.

Shopping Trip to Hell

The day before school started, in the heat of the day, I took 5 children to the grocery store; 4 biological kids and a friend’s child who was staying with us for the day.

At the end of the trip, the youngest (6) pulled out her money and picked out a candy bar to purchase. Her older sister (9) noticed the sign that said buy one, get 2 free. Hmmm? The 9 year old did a quick calculation- that’s 3 candy bars for the price of one – and quickly & earnestly suggested that she and her older sister (age 12) be the recipients of the 2 additional candy bars. But wait — the 9 year old suddenly realizes that there weren’t enough free candy bars for the friend. Not to worry, it’s just a problem that needs a solution – right? So, she asks the 6 year old to buy another candy bar, after all they are just a buck and her sister appears loaded with ones – thus making sure everyone got a candy bar with 2 left over for good measure.

I Don’t Think So…

Unfortunately, the 6 year old didn’t see it quite this way. Instead of agreeing, she took a stand … nope, not gonna’ happen, really only wanted to spend money on one candy bar for herself. Her sisters getting candy was just a side benefit…she dug in her heels and innocently inquired why the friend did not have his own money to buy his own candy bar?

“C’mon! Please!” and the begging began. The 9 year old was even willing to PAY the $1 for the extra candy bar when we got home… but the 6 year old was not budging and proceeded through the line to buy her 3 candy bars. The 9 year old continued with the pleading and begging, which only served to inflame her younger sister until finally, the 6 year old reverted to – wait for it – punching and scratching the 9 year old. Lovely right?

Stop Looking at Me, I’ll Handle it!

At this point, people began to stare and look a bit concerned. And then it happened – I was stung; stung by the bug called, personal prestige. The transaction at the register was completed, I walked outside and in an emotionally charged state…took the candy from the child who was hitting and threw all 3 candy bars in the trash. Done. End of story. I know, very mature of me.

In my irrational and embarrassed state – I justified my actions by convincing myself in the moment, that

“A child who hits to solve a problem, does not deserve candy.”

The Fight for Justice Ensues!

As soon as the candy was confiscated and tossed, the 9 year old – recipient of the punching, defender of fairness and sharing – turned to me and protested whole-heartedly that I “could not do that because the candy did not belong to me. I did not buy that candy and did not have the right to throw it out” and the screaming fit ensued.

I kept walking until we reached the car. I climbed in and let the older 2 kids unload the grocery bags. I managed to keep my mouth shut, although I was seething inside, not so much about the hitting, as that wasn’t directed at me, but at the dressing down I had taken, in public by my 9 year old, and drove home in silence. I shudder to think of all the nasty thoughts I had during the ride home.

Celebrate the Dragon Lady?

Yes, I screwed up. Because of the Parenting On Track™ program I knew it. Because of the program, I knew not to look for a discipline strategy right in that moment.

Because of the program I knew I had “mistaken beliefs” and they had been activated. Because of the program, I had the self-restraint to keep my mouth shut on the drive home.

Because of the program, I knew how to apologize to my children. Because of the program, in the 15 minutes it took to get home, I had a genuine, sincere, heart-felt appreciation for the 9 year old whose tantrum received the brunt of my negative thoughts, feelings and energy.

A Miraculous Perspective

“E, I am sorry. I am sorry for getting involved. I am sorry that I did not show you that I trusted the two of you to handle things. I am sorry that I did not keep my focus on your younger sister and encourage the rest of you to leave the store and go to the car.”

“Do you want to know what I KNOW to be true about who you are on the planet? I know that you are the most loyal sister in the world. I know that no matter what, you will stand up for your sister until the end. I know that you are concerned with justice and fairness and no matter what it takes you will do what it takes to fight for what you believe is right. Thank you.”

Yes, I said all of that and I meant every word of it. And all it took was a mere 15 minutes to shift from blame, anger and revenge, to respect, appreciation and love – for myself and for my children.

The trip to the grocery store ended in a big fat hug and a greater awareness of myself and my daughter. A reason to celebrate – ABSOLUTELY!

What? You let her GET AWAY with it?

“Now what?” “Isn’t there a consequence for hitting?” “How does your daughter know it’s not ok to throw a temper tantrum in the store?” “You just can’t let her get away with that.” “You are the parent. YOU are in control.” “Some things are just not OK.” “Why didn’t you just loan her the money?”

I know the questions. I know the statements. I have heard them all and even have my own set of voices yelling at me from inside my head.

Be – Do – Have

I will follow up with all of my children when I am not vibrating with emotion, and I can trust myself to be reasonable, respectful and loving.

I will focus on what I can do differently the next time, and answer the question:

“What will it take for E(9) and J(6) to find their voices AND treat others with compassion, empathy, and respect?”

This question will not be answered in a trip to the grocery store, in a response to hitting that demonstrates (adult) power- over another human (child). It will be answered in small steps, individual moments every day that invite my children into the process of living, making decisions, experiencing the outcomes and moving forward.

We will have 25 more episodes in the grocery store, I am sure of that. And if every time I commit to working toward enhancing the relationship I have with my children, encouraging their budding independence and maintaining self-respect, I have reason to celebrate.

Top 10 Parenting Complaints

After 20 years as a parent educator – there’s nothing I haven’t heard and very little that surprises me. What interests and inspires me is how much we parents have in common with each other. And as a mom who raised 5, highly independent and self-sufficient kids and as a parent educator who has talked with hundreds of thousands of parents about life with their kids, I feel qualified to share this fun list of what I consider the “Top 10 Parenting Complaints” Enjoy.

  • 10. Kids who push, hit, throw, kick and bite.

    What the heck? Don’t they know what “use your words” means? Oh wait….

  • 9. Kids who say things like, stupid, shut up, idiot, dummy, butt-head.

    Yep, those would be the words.

  • 8. Kids who can not, will not, and do not cooperate.

    To complicate matters, parents also expect the kids to cooperate willingly and with smiles on their faces.

  • 7. Kids who ignore their parents.

    How dare those little munchkins completely ignore, walk away from, cover their ears or start to sing when we have something really, really, REALLY important to tell them again, and again, and again.

  • 6. Kids who noodle, stall, get distracted and act like they don’t have to be somewhere important.

    Like, yesterday.

  • 5. Kids who think they no longer need naps.

    Can someone PLEASE explain to me why little kids won’t sleep and teenagers will only sleep?

  • 4. Kids who want to stay in the PJ’s all day or wear the ballet costume to school for a week or refuse to wash their favorite pair of wind pants – ever.

    First impressions are important right? Even when they are 3 – right? After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression – right?

  • 3. Kids who refuse to go along with your plans and try and keep you trapped at home all day long.

    Come on already. Look how damn nice it is outside. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!

  • 2. Kids who yell, manhandle, annoy, bother or wake up the new baby.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah. We want them involved with their new sibling, but what don’t they understand about – BACK OFF?
  • 1. Kids who refuse to eat what we put in front of them, sleep when we want them to sleep or potty train when we are ready for them to be done with the diapering.

    Damn kids anyway.

When you boil it all down, this is the list of the most common parenting challenges. Just for fun, for the next 24 hours, when you are considering taking one of these small annoyances and turning it into a serious problem, that needs immediate attention, instead – take a breath, look into the eyes of your beloved child and ask yourself – is it really such a big challenge? And if the answer is no, then let it go. Just this once, let it go.

And, if you are looking for a solution to these 10 common parenting challenges, with the hope that they will someday disappear from daily life with kids, you have come to the right place, Parenting On Track™ — we’ve got what you want!

Are you raising a bully? Part II

If you liked last week’s post from Annie Fox and were looking for some follow up solutions, check out Annie Fox’s second blog post My Child? A Bully? Part II. You will find 6 suggestions for addressing the bullying behavior.

Among them are a few of my recommendations as well.

At the top of the list is the Family Meeting. As the mother of 5 and part of a blended family with kids who have very strong personalities and a mother who is not opposed to using “power” to get her own way, our Family Meetings were a venue that held each and every one of us accountable for our behavior. My husband and I experienced the same consequences the kids did when we resorted to any bullying tactics to get our own way.

For those of you who know me, you will know that this didn’t happen often, but even I can be pushed into behaving in despicable ways. Luckily, we created a powerful tool for supporting each of us as we grew into our most respectful selves.

My second recommendation for addressing bullying behavior is to work with an outside source. Whether you see a parent coach, a traditional therapist or a member of the clergy, getting an outside perspective, having an impartial ear and a voice of reason will go a long way at “rebooting” your family and giving every member the skills they need to stay respectful and thoughtful with each other as well as everyone else in their lives.

“The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander” by Barbara Coloroso is still my hands down favorite book for truly learning about, understanding and then addressing the issue of bullying.

Over the years I have been asked repeatedly to address the subject of bullying and I have declined each and every time. Instead, I choose to focus on the task of teaching families how to create an atmosphere that is pro-active and provides opportunities for building strong relationships.

All of us at Parenting On Track™ encourage you to start creating this atmosphere of mutual respect, encouragement, contribution and cooperation right away. Don’t wait until you see the signs of bullying in your child. Don’t wait until you experience yourself (not parenting from your best) in your child’s behavior to do something differently. Build healthy relationships today and offer your children another way to “be” in relationship with themselves, their siblings, their friends, and the community at large. Click here and learn more about our multi-media home program now.

Are you raising a bully?

Annie Fox’s blog this week titled “My Child? A Bully?” reminds us all that bullying is present and pervasive. It is troubling to consider that any one of us could be raising, fostering, or housing a bully, in spite of everything we do to raise caring, respectful, compassionate human beings.

Although this is a difficult conversation to have, and an even more difficult idea to consider, it’s worth braving the murky waters of bullying to better understand how we can influence our children in positive ways.

Annie shares a quick bullet list that provides insight and challenges us to look deeper into ourselves and our family dynamics.

Here is the list taken directly from the article.

Hints that your child may be a bully:

  • You or your partner is a bully.
  • Your child is bossy at home.
  • Your child’s closest friends are not the nicest people.
  • Your child makes rude comments about other people.

Click on the link below and read the entire article. It’s worth it, even if you are certain, you are not living with a bully.

My Child? A Bully? by Annie Fox

Look for part II on Tuesday, July 20th!

Take Time to Pause

I have been teaching this program for over 20 years and still, still when I receive a story like the one I am sharing with you below, it drops me to my knees and I know I truly have the best job on the planet. The mom in this story took one of the first parenting classes I offered in the state of Vermont. The 5 year old daughter she refers to is now a Freshman in College.

Enjoy and be inspired!


I am a bit of a skeptic. Somewhere along the way I learned to be a conscious observer, one who would not allow the word SUCKER to be pasted across her forehead. Whether it was a long stretch of being an unhealthy pleaser or that foolish pyramid scheme I paid into in my early twenties…as an adult, I decided not to just buy into everything I heard and read. So when my friend and neighbor asked me to join her for a parenting class, I thought “probably not…I’m too busy….it’s hard to get out at night…blah blah blah”. I had a perfect out because I couldn’t make the first one anyway. After attending the first class without me, my persistent friend was totally on board and she would not take no from me for an answer. I joined her.

My head was spinning with new thoughts. A misbehaving child is a discouraged child. Praise is different from encouragement. Punishment doesn’t really work. Lecturing doesn’t really work. Really? I don’t know. I’m skeptical. I don’t believe that I could (lovingly) walk out of the grocery store, leaving behind an almost full cart and do without groceries for a week to help instill a sense of respect and responsibility in my child(ren), not after the effort it took to get the four of them and myself that far in the store! Oh, my thoughts were spinning. I didn’t quite buy it.

It was time to pick my kids up from school…three boys and a girl. They all rounded the corner full of energy, papers flying, backpacks bouncing. In they piled, the boys rolling over each other, grunting, laughing, pushing, vying for position in the van. The noise level escalating…my daughter, age 5, was screeching, bossing, witching, fretting. I was about to reel around and get in her face when the most miraculous thing happened. A truly new and momentous thing happened. I paused. That was it. I paused. Oh my god, I didn’t react. I thought “A misbehaving child is a discouraged child”. That pause gave me a moment to consider…maybe she’s had a bad day…maybe… who knows? Instead of reeling around, yelling in her face and shaking my finger at her, I simply reached around and held her hand.

She stopped her noise. She whimpered. And she settled down. Something washed over her…and me. It was grace. I blinked away the tears. I knew this was it. I felt in love with her. A minute ago I was ready to “take her down a peg”. I felt a release of anger. Instead there was tenderness, kindness, empathy….and a quiet astonishment. Imagine…I could discipline with encouragement. In every moment – I could choose to offer a respectful stance. I could throw a lifeline rather than hold the kid under to comply. I realize now that what happened in that moment was that she felt connected, she knew she counted. She didn’t have to rail against the three boys to find her spot.

That wave that washed over me changed my life. I understood encouragement all in one moment. Things would never be the same in my life. Really, all I needed to do was to pause.

Encourage Yourself

encouragementThis month, the Parenting On Track™ blog has focused on “The Art of Encouragement” as a relationship strategy. We’ve talked about the difference between praise and encouragement (“Put an End to the Praise-Junkie”), how to use encouragement to motivate kids (“Encourage That Self-Motivation!”) and how to use your skills as a talent scout to encourage your kids toward success (“Parent as Talent Scout”). By now, you can consider yourselves well-versed in the benefits of using encouragement every day to enhance the relationship you have with your kids.

You probably, after all of this watching and observing, know a little bit more about your children than you did a month ago. Are you surprised, delighted, and maybe even a little bit emotional over the wonderful things you have uncovered about your child? Do you want to find a way to hold on to these feelings of wonder, awe and love that you have right now, in this moment, so that you can continue to encourage your children and yourself, even during the rough times?

Here’s how I would do it.

  • I would sit down and write my child a letter, and in it, would tell them where I started from this month—trying to focus on encouraging them through life’s ups and downs.
  • Then I would tell them all of the wonderful things I learned. For example, I used encouraging messages like “I’m glad you are here” and saw the smile in their eyes; I asked encouraging questions and found out that they draw sunsets because it reminds them of our trip to the lake last summer; I had empathy while they did a task they didn’t like and found out exactly what it is about the task that they don’t like; I watched and marveled at the way they kept the beat while listening to their favorite song on the radio…maybe it’s time for music lessons.
  • Then I would tell them that I love them, unconditionally.
  • I might share this letter with my child. Or I might keep it for myself, to read first thing every morning or maybe just when I need a little pick-me-up.

Encourage yourself by taking the time to look at and write down what you have observed about your wonderful, growing children; how your relationship has changed since you started using strategies like encouragement; and how you can see that you are now on the right path towards a healthy, strong relationship with the people you love.

For more information on Encouragement, see Ch. 7 of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program

Play Date Gone Awry

“How do you tell a mother that her kid is more than a handful and that you’d rather HALT all future play dates?!” (NYC Moms Blog).

playdate-gone-awryIt’s part of the parenting landscape, a dilemma most moms and dads face at some point in their parenting life. Play dates that turn into a nightmare. Sometimes that nightmare is the result of your child’s behavior, often times it’s the other child’s behavior, either way it ends badly. Parents feel stressed and frustrated. What’s worse is that sometimes a perfectly good friendship ends because – (HMMM, so why does a perfectly good friendship end?)

First of all, who ever heard of kids under the age of five knowing the first thing about play dates, the purpose of play dates, the rules of play dates, the expectations of play dates or anything else having to do with play dates. I have talked to enough parents after the fact to know that what most moms and dads wanted, was either

  • Time with another adult so that they kept their vocabulary at a 12th grade level (they are still paying off college loans that paid for that impressive vocabulary and no 2 year old is gonna steal it)
  • Time away from their kids so they can… name it. Life with small children is exhausting – emotionally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually. It’s smart to make time for yourself if you plan to go the distance from 0 to 18.

Now, it would be easy to blame the demise of a perfectly good friendship on the standard – “the kids just didn’t mesh”, but we all know there is more to it than that. What we do tend to do is start looking for advice AFTER the play-date for answers to, “Should I talk to my friend about their child?” or “How many times can I apologize before they stop inviting my child over to play?” or “What discipline strategy should I use to solve the problem the next time the child comes over?”

It seems to me, that this whole mess could be avoided if parents took the time to implement a few simple, proactive steps BEFORE the play date was even arranged.
For instance:

  • Identify the GOAL of the play date:

    Is it for adult company, or that much needed break?

    Or Is it to help teach kids how to interact socially and to adequately represent to the kids what they can expect from the outside world when they choose to hit, bite, scratch, pout, cry, scream, etc?

    Or is it to establish that play dates can be a great training ground for the next generation of community members and leaders?

  • Set clear expectations for reaching that GOAL.
  • Identify how you “discipline” each other’s kids and still respect each other’s different parenting styles.
  • Identify what you will you do to solve a problem between the children once it happens.
  • Identify what you will do if either of you decides that play dates just aren’t working

By having a conversation, creating a clear set of goals, and then coming to an agreement about how to handle potential landmines, you and your friend(s) are much more likely to avoid disaster all together. Instead, you will quickly create a community of support, acceptance and you can watch as your children navigate the often treterious slopes of social interaction.

The choice is up to you – take your chances, or be pro-active and ensure a better play date for you and your kids.

For more information on The Parenting On Track™ program and Proactive Parenting.

Turn No! Into Yes…


  • No, you may NOT watch another TV show…
  • No, you may not touch that; you are too young…
  • No, you may not go to Johnnie’s house…
  • No, because I just don’t want you to…
  • No, you may not have something to eat 30 minutes before dinner…
  • No, no, no (can you picture the finger wagging here?)…

Do you ever feel like all you do all day is say “No” to your children? Did you ever wonder what all of that negative “No you can’t do it” does to your children’s sense of self and self-worth? The short answer is, more than you may think.

“No” is one of the quickest ways to stifle your child’s budding sense of independence and self-fortitude. I know that none of you wants to do that, so here’s an easy way to change the negative into a positive and say “Yes…”, without giving complete control of the house over to the kids.

Your job as a parent is to say “Yes” as often as you can and to as many things as you can. Do I mean say “yes” to everything and turn your children into pampered, indulged children? Of course not! While it is your job to say yes, it is your child’s job to convince you, by showing you, that you can say yes to his/her request. This balance is what helps set up a healthy, mutually respectful relationship, where children are given an opportunity to prove that they are “growing into” responsible adults. It will also help parents navigate the balance between giving too much, too soon or withholding too much for too long.

It looks like this: The child would like a “privilege” and you as the parent help them decide what responsibilities they must prove they can handle BEFORE they are allowed to have the privilege.

Here’s an example:

Privilege: Eating Out (at a restaurant, or a friend’s house, etc …)

  • Remember table manners
  • Eat what you order
  • Sit still in your seat
  • Engage in conversation
  • Make eye contact
  • Use “please” and “thank you”
  • Maintain a respectful tone of voice

I recommend that when you have identified what the privilege is, you sit down with your children and together make up the list of responsibilities. They will be more inclined to go along with it. Now you might be wondering how long they are required to maintain these newfound skills in order to gain this new privilege—once, for a week, for a year? Really, it’s up to you, but here’s what I suggest: One week for children five and under; 15 to 20 days for children ages five through fifteen; one month for children over age 15. This time frame will provide a way for your children to turn those responsibilities into habits.

The Privileges and Responsibilities strategy is one my favorites, as I have used it over and over with all of my children, from the time that they were very young to the time that the privilege was driving the car. I also like it because it is an easy way to get away from saying “No” all of the time, and instead say, “Yes… show me.”

For more information on Privileges and Responsibilities, see Ch. 8 of the Parenting On Track™ Program.

Impress the Parents – Fight a Sibling

Impress the Parents – Fight a SiblingScreaming kids got you down? Does every situation among your not-of-legal-agesters end up in a fight?

Perhaps you’ve recently found yourself having one of those June Cleaver moments where you look into the mirror and say, “If only they could get along, everything would be just swell.” OK, OK, that reference is a bit of a throwback, but I just had to do it! Check out the Google Images of June for some real fun!

Now, back to the brawling already in progress…

If you’re looking for solutions to stop sibling rivalry and fighting, or would just like your children to be nicer to one another, consider your role in the equation.

I know many parents suspect that they have something to do with all the fighting, but they simply can’t figure out what that something is. Well, here it is – your kids are often fighting FOR YOU. Hard to believe, but true nonetheless. As parents, we have a lot to do with the fighting that goes on between our kids.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at a few scenarios with insights. Tell me if these sound familiar or make sense to you:

If you leave the room when the kids are fighting, do they follow you?

  • If the kids were really involved in the fight, they wouldn’t care where you are in the house. The fact that they follow you around proves that they are looking for an audience. Without one, what’s the point of the fight?

Do the kids tell on each other when the fight has ended?

  • That means only one thing – the kids want you involved. Have you ever noticed that the minute you start asking about the details, the fight seems to start again, and now YOU are upset and yelling?

Do the kids demand that you punish one or the other for causing the fight?

  • Kids want to draw you into their fighting and have you pick your favorite. Of course, they have to relay the whole fight back to you so that you get all the details and make the right call. Now you’re really involved – those clever kids!

Do the kids yell loudly enough for you to hear?

  • Kids are yelling for you, making sure you can hear every word they say. After all, they want to make sure you know who the “bad” child is so you can punish him properly.

If you offered them ice cream, would they stop the fighting?

  • Let’s face it. In such cases, the kids are not REALLY fighting. And, whatever it was that got them going, it certainly wasn’t worth losing ice cream over. They may be bored, and are most certainly trying to engage you, but they’re not really fighting.

Still not sure whether any of this is pertains to what’s happening in your household? Take the next few days and ask yourself the questions listed above as your children are fighting. The answers you discover will provide you with valuable information about where to start to help your children decide to stop fighting.

As parents, we do the best we can with the information we have. The simple fact is, at times, we need new information to keep up with a constantly changing playing field. If your children are fighting, this may be the perfect time to get that new perspective for yourself and your family.

The Parenting On Track™ Home Program gives you a chance to look at challenging situations like sibling rivalry in a new way. Then, we encourage and support you as you develop the most logical, common-sense strategies for YOUR family. Let’s face it, no two families are alike, so no two strategies will work for every family.

Here’s an example of a few strategies that may fit your unique family dynamic. They’re all focused on empowering your children to interact differently with each other:

  • Whenever possible – ignore the fighting.
  • Find other ways to acknowledge your kids that have nothing to do with their fighting.
  • Switch your focus. Comment – don’t praise – when they are doing something positive.

These, and many other Parenting On Track strategies, can help you to eliminate the fighting in your house. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Just understanding that the fighting is not necessarily about them, it’s about you, is a great first step towards household harmony!