All posts tagged parenting strategies

Control – Who has it? Who wants it?

Control_postIf 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.

1. 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 her voice and as the voice goes, so does the mental muscle to navigate her 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 lives, while their parents make decisions for them.

2. Overt Control – Overt control can best be described as the bossy, dictatorial, “because 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 about controlling others from the most important and influential people in their life. Is it any wonder that eventually, these kids begin to assert their own kind of control over their parents? But the other problem, and one far more concerning to me as a parent, is the fracture it creates 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:

1. Start paying attention to what you are thinking. Seriously. So often, a parent’s mouth will start moving before pausing long enough to “THINK” about what it is she is going to say next and if it will enhance or interfere with the relationship with her child. Teach yourself to pause and to change what you are thinking. Learn to spin the thought on it’s 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 what thoughts best support a healthy relationship with your child 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.

2. Imagine actions that are kind, patient, intentional, supportive, forgiving, loving, kind and understanding. As your thinking and speaking shifts from random, off the cuff comments to thoughtful, intentional responses, your actions will follow. Remember, your body works for your thoughts.  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.

Podcast: Offering Children Choices

challengeyourIn this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, we talk about offering our children choices.

Children require years of practice in making choices. Giving them the opportunity to practice early can lead to happier, more resilient and independent children.

Listen below and learn more. Let us know something new you learned about giving your children choices! We’d love to hear from you.

How To Follow Through with Discipline

how to follow through with disciplineParenting Q & A with Vicki Hoefle

Question: How can I improve and follow through with discipline?

Scenario: I am fine about calling off a play date, cancelling a family dinner date, walking out of a restaurant, etc., if the situation calls for it. I don’t feel embarrassed or self-conscious about saying, “Sorry, our daughter wasn’t ready when I said we needed to leave.”

However, if we have made a plan where it means standing someone up, or have guests that have made special plans or traveled to be with us, or the table needs to be set because we have company coming for dinner, I have a problem with calling off a gathering or waiting around for our daughter to do her table-setting contribution.

It just doesn’t seem fair to them, and it seems like it’s putting an awful lot of power in a small child’s hands. What to do about following through?


I agree with you- it is unfair to guests and there is no need to base your follow through on these fewer, far between exceptions. Here’s how to follow through with discipline (realistically) and how to adapt when circumstances get rushed or plans come first.

Essentially, it’s important to start training (remember discipline is teaching, not punishment!) and following through when nobody is scheduled to come over. You’ll have plenty of time to practice expectations and outcomes by working on the process regularly. Honestly, if you start training your child (ie, to set the table) and train until you begin to see steady progress, you won’t have to worry about these situations in the first place!

However, let’s be realistic- if it’s one of those moments and you decide to throw everything you are trying to implement temporarily out the window- it’s not the end of the world.  Sometimes it’s ok to do what is necessary in the situation. Now, of course I don’t advocate doing this on a regular basis, but let’s face it folks, sometimes children act like children because they are children. Tossing consistency for smooth sailing every once and awhile will NOT undo the progress you’ve made if you get right back to training and improving on your follow through with this as well as other tasks.

Bottom line: Do what you can to make the situation pleasant for everyone and then deal with what happened at a later date when everyone is calm and collected. Get right back into it (don’t dwell on the setback) and practice following through in other contexts.

Question for you: What is your biggest challenge when it comes to following through? 


3 Tips: Creating New Parenting Habits

Tips for creating NEW parenting habits.Q & A with Vicki Hoefle

Question: My husband and I are sold on this less is more approach to parenting.  We have implemented Family Meetings, replaced praise with encouragement, are trying to foster independence and get real with our expectations.  How do I transition between my old style of parenting and my new improved style?  Habits are hard to break and I am really struggling.

Answer:  The truth is, there is no easy way to break an old habit and replace it with a newer, healthier habit.  But there are a few things you can do to make the transition a little more enjoyable for everyone.

Here are my top 3 tips for creating NEW parenting habits:

  1. Identify the old habit you want to replace (choose the easiest to break) and the new habit you will replace it with. For example:  My old habit is to give my kids to many choices for breakfast and that leads to fights and power struggles.  This week my new habit is to give my kids two choices and I will make sure they are food choices I know they will eat. Or, another example might be:  My old habit is to nag my kids to get moving in the morning.  This week my new habit will be to trust that they can take care of everything on their own if I give them a chance and to wait in the car quietly until it is time to go.

  2. Focus on that one new habit for no less than 2 weeks.  It’s easy to feel bombarded with all the changes you want to make, but take it from me, focusing on one habit and sticking with it will create crazy momentum that will make future changes easier and more enjoyable.

  3. Track and CELEBRATE your progress and improvement. We live in a world that tells us to buy the new wardrobe AFTER you drop that 60 lbs, by a new car AFTER you get the corner office (you currently work in the mail room), and take that big vacation AFTER you have $200K in your saving account. REALLY?  Instead, find an easy way to track your progress on a regular basis (I recommend either daily or ever other day) and then find simple and meaningful ways to celebrate them.  This is guaranteed to keep you inspired AND you are modeling for your children that the process is as important as the goal.

As Tony Horton from P90X would say – Do your Best and Forget the Rest.  If you set reasonable expectations for yourself, you focus on one thing at a time and you make time to celebrate – you won’t be disappointed.

Question for you:  What strategy have you employed to implement new habits?

Do Not Feed the Weed

do not feed weedThere’s an amazing phenomenon that happens when parents decide,That’s it! It’s time for our child to stop this pesky / bad/ annoying behavior!

As soon as they get out their lazers and try to zap it and watch it shrivel away forever, they inadvertently (and unknowingly) begin to do do the opposite. Instead of killing it off, they begin to tend to this behavior.  And water it. And give it light. Play music for it. And feed it fertilizer. And suddenly, what started as a well-intentioned “nip it in the bud” effort becomes an overgrown situation, and like a weed, it grows quickly and heartily.

What Are Common Parenting Weeds?

Common parenting “weeds” are all those behaviors parents feel the need to “do something” about- the whining, crying, babytalking, not eating dinner, fussing, complaining, acting out, talking back, cheating, lying, stealing, noodling, etc. These behaviors range from absolutely harmless to fully problematic if given a chance to grow. Key word: grow…Kids don’t grow out of, they grow into.

Why Does this Happen?

When mom and dad say repeatedly, “I don’t like how you do this, (but I’m always focused on it)” it sends a very basic message “this is who I really think you are and I don’t trust that you have what it takes to try another behavior.” So, guess who shows up every time? The whiner, noodler, complainer, babytalker, and so forth.

The truth is, when kids find their place in the family, they aim to please! They are wired to feel safe in their social space — they know what behaviors get which reactions. They know that while mom might not like it when I ______________ she sure pays attention.

And finally, bottom line, if this gets mom and dad to interact, well, then, fine. It works. Kids are far MORE interested in having a relationship (in any form) than they are in not getting in trouble, grounded, etc. From day one, their relationship with mom and dad is number 1- even if it means they aren’t having much fun along the way

Why is it a Bad Idea?

With each, more focused attempt to “get rid of” (often by way of convincing, tricking, steering, pushing, pulling, bribing- you name it) a child out of using any and all pesky behaviors, the more these unwanted behaviors take root. Why? Because all that attention is just like food, water and sunshine – it feeds the weed, planting the behaviors that will define your child within the context of the family.  Over time, both parent and child will begin to believe this as pure truth. And from there…well, kids don’t grow out of they grow into, right?

Also, whenever parents feed the weeds vs. watering something else, it sticks a label on the child. Once labeled as the whiner, noodler, etc. she’ll know who she is in every context and commit. If mom introduces her or sets teachers up with a “she’s a complainer” statement, well then she may decide “offer accepted” and take you up on your offer to always deliver what mom thinks of her.

Bottom Line

Even the most well-meaning parents unknowingly care for the very weed they cannot stand. Do not feed that weed!


Articles: More Great Parenting Posts

Here it is! We’ve compiled some articles that are interesting, opinion-based, science-backed or just plain insightful for your parenting journey. We’re stockpiling a list of good stuff to share, so if you find something, send it our way and maybe we can include it in our weekly roundup.

In the event that you missed these articles, here is a sampling of what’s going around the web: (note, we’re going for quality here, so if we post an older article, it’s because we think the message is good. Also, we just like this stuff, we have no affiliations but we do hope to meet many of these authors and speakers! Thanks.)

Jillian Lauren Why We Don’t Punish Our Son, Ever

    This article, by author Jillian Lauren, went up on the website about a year ago. I just stumbled on it last week- and I’m wondering what her family’s experience has been like. She says her point by not punishing is that she wishes to demonstrate the “kind of values I want to teach him and what kind of person I want him to become. I might be able to sit him in time-out or yell at him or spank him or take away his favorite toy or otherwise coerce him out of this completely annoying habit, but in exchange for his compliance, I’ve lost an opportunity to connect with my child…” This is the perfect example of a parent who has put the relationship strategies before discipline strategies and it’s an interesting read for anyone else making this commitment. May she inspire you to have the courage to put the relationship first!

Babble’s Mindy Berry WalkerHappy Mom’s Confession: I’m not so nice at home

    This article struck me because of its honesty. I read it the same week I hosted a women’s renewal retreat. They couldn’t compliment each other more– the article sends a cry for what mothers everywhere are seeking: contentment, connectedness, guilt-free parenting, acceptance and a healthy emotional balance so we can parent from our best. The Retreat, at the other end of the spectrum, provided just what any woman in her darkest hour deserves: time to heal, reflect, connect and be an authentic person supported by other women in a safe environment free of judgment and criticism. This confession uncovers what’s really going on with so many mothers and it shows us why we must take care of ourselves and look out for those around us. The comments are telling- and it’s a testament to the pressure we put on ourselves, the resentment that can build over time and the human need to get out there and adventure and stay connected.

Jennifer Conlin The Non Joie of Parenting

    This article by Jennifer Conlin covers the reality for US families: we’re too busy to stay connected, unlike the more low key paced communities she experienced in Europe. The take away is yes, kids don’t have to be the center of the universe and parents find it enjoyable to have a life outside the mom’s taxi. The question is, do you think things will change? Read and see what you think.

Sandra Aamodt Welcome to Your Child’s Brain

    This book, while a typical “parenting book” is just what we need to help reduce the panic we feel when we think we’re screwing up our kids. Basically, the book features brain science facts that back the notion that you don’t have to be a super-parent for your child’s intelligence to develop – just a good-enough parent. “The vast majority of children are like dandelions, in that they can thrive in almost any conditions.” In this case, being a weed is a good thing. Follow the author @sandra_aamodt

Christine Carter The Stuck-at-Home Generation

    This article by Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness discusses the trends in children staying closer to home and the declining interest in once definitive adolescent milestones (like getting a driver’s license!). She makes a solid point: proactive parenting decisions /commitments provide essential opportunity for independence and confidence. My husband and I decided to provide these kinds of opportunities to our own five children beginning with an Outward Bound expedition in the summer between their 8th and 9th grade and then a semester abroad during their Junior year of high school. As a result, our kids feel confident leaving their childhood neighborhoods and see themselves as global citizens. I highly recommend exposing your kids to new experiences that broad their view of the world they are growing up in.

Bully: A Provocative and Essential Documentary

    This article by NPR outlines the nature of this season’s much talked about documentary, Bully “a wrenching, intensely moral film” that has been given an R rating, much to the dismay of its audiences. “Bully weaves together five stories from different parts of America’s heartland. Two are about the grieving families of boys who’ve committed suicide — a 17-year-old in Georgia, an 11-year-old in Oklahoma City. The rest are profiles of kids still toughing it out — a Mississippi teenager who has been jailed after pulling a gun on the kids who made her life a living hell, a lesbian Oklahoma high-schooler who is tormented not just by other students but by her teachers as well.” This is a must see.

Lisa Belkin How Parenting Is Like Groundhog Day And Mad Libs

    I personally like this post because it gives some decent evidence on exactly how parenting reinvents itself every few years. Fads are as “fill in the blanks” as madlibs and what you do with the information in between is really up to you. Personally, as I’ve said in my recent Crap, Rant or Fad blog, I find that most everything is just a fire drill or it focuses no where near a solution. Instead, many of these articles stir up concerns and give us something else to worry about- and sure enough, as intensely as it came in, the parenting storm rolls out….that is until another hazy afternoon. Like the author, I’m quite desensitized to the immediate crisis du jour— it’s probably because I’ve also seen the same problems resurface over my 20 years of parent education. But the takeaway for me with this blog is that as parents, it’s way too easy to get worked up and be part of the problem- sharing details and getting in a tizzy over yet another label or category or omitting the part where you look for a solution to the bigger problem. Lisa says keep the wide lens open and I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I say keep the wide lens open and focused on where your family wants to be in 20 years and pay no mind to the dings and dents along the way.

Lenore Skenazy Outrage of the Week: No One Under 18 Allowed Outside Unsupervised in Florida Community

    Let’s just start by saying this blog post highlights a societal sentiment that I think is very unhealthy for children, parents and the community– and it’s happening in a real town in Florida! Read it. Comment. Read the comments and get your finger on the pulse of what parents who cherish independence and who trust their children are saying about this type of community ordinance. This community is forbidding ANYONE under 18 to be outside without supervision! “…no bike riding, no walking to the bus stop without an adult. Some parents say their kids are under house arrest” – just read through this blog post. How can these kids be ready for the real world if they can’t even ride their bike in their community?

Playground Plan – Rules of Engagement

There is a lot of talk right now about bullying and bystanding and questions from parents about how to handle dicey situations between kids on the playground, the schoolyard, during play dates and any other time kids are thrown together. In fact, last week we rounded up over a dozen blogs on this topic alone, and although parents (and a few experts) had lots to say on the subject, there didn’t seem to be a lot of solutions to the problem.

One mom wrote about watching her own child get picked on at the playground and felt caught between feeling shocked, wanting to sooth hurt feelings, confused about overstepping boundaries and questioning whether she “should” be saving her child from the real world experience. These thoughts can consume any parent and leave them feeling more confused, not less, about what to do in this situation.

I don’t have all the answers to this dilemma, but I did raise five children and I also had a childhood of my own that included a neighborhood full of kids ranging in age from 2 to 12 who were required to interact on a regular basis. So here are some of the tactics we employed to help our kids navigate the sometimes slippery slope.


First: Create a plan for any interaction between kids before you actually throw the kids together. Yes, a plan. With a plan, you know ahead of time what you are going to do if you witness bullying, harassment, picking on, ignoring or any other socially intolerable action.

Second: Know what you are willing to “do” in these situations. Some parents feel more comfortable leaving, some want to stand their ground and confront the child and/or parent, some are willing to step in and assist the kids, and others want their kids to figure things out on their own. There is no right or wrong. There is only what best supports you and your family’s core values.

Third and most important – Invite kids to make the rules of engagement. Here is what it sounds like:

Do you kids have a plan for playing safely on the playground?” Because without one, that means that we, your parents, will have to step in and make the rules, and tell you who gets to go first and frankly, I don’t think any of you will have too much fun. So, how would you kids like to come up with a plan for playing safely together?

At this point, most kids step up and embrace the idea of creating their own Rules of Engagement which include things like – no hitting, no going up the slide backwards, no calling each other names, and so on. Believe it or not, most kids can and will come up with a common sense plan to playing together and each time they do this, it reinforces for them that it is possible to create a fun and safe place for kids of all ages and all styles to play together. When the kids create a plan, they agree, and that makes it easier to deal with someone who tries to disrupt their rules. It helps kids who feel like victims learn to stand up for themselves and it helps kids who have been labeled the bully to adhere to the rules. All you do is help them learn how to do that until they master it themselves.

Fourth: Teach your kids about the equitable distribution of power within your home and allow them to become confident problem solvers and strong communicators. If you have kids who take order from you, it’s going to be hard for them to step into a leadership role on the playground. If your kids get in trouble for challenging you, they will have trouble challenging their peers. And if your kids are pampered and saved from life’s little disappointments and frustrations, they won’t have the resources necessary to deal with world beyond your threshold.

It’s important that we have faith in our kids and that we work with them to create a strong sense of skills to deal with the challenges that await them. Take some time and think about creating your own plan and then talk to your kids about the idea of creating a set of Rules of Engagement that they can use whenever they have a chance to play with other kids.

Thanks to efforts by celebs and the documentary BULLY, our sense of awareness as a culture is increasing, but question still remains “what does this mean for me?”

Parenting Advice: Crap, Rant or Fad?

My job is to travel around from state to state, town to town, and school to school giving advice and helping families make changes in their lives. While I’d like to attribute the Parenting On Track gold to my charismatic charm, humor, wit and deep intelligence, I can’t. I have listed below exactly WHY this stuff works.

1. Philosophy – Dr. Alfred Adler. His work has been around for nearly 100 years. There are thousands of Adlerian Psychologists, therapists and parent educators who work around the world bringing Adler’s work to those looking to develop stronger relationships with spouses, children, co-workers and family members. I’ve spent 20 years studying and adapting his philosophy to meet the needs of the parents I work with. I quote people who are specialists in this field. I don’t make it up! (Yes, okay I admit, I do coin some cool phrases based on this theory).

2. No Play By Play – My approach to helping parents deal with a child’s pesky behavior is to focus on what the parents are doing, not what the kids are doing. Everything I recommend is based on improving the relationship between parent and child, not teaching parents how to dole out discipline or punishment. Everything I teach is relationship focused. Efforts that improve the relationship FIRST, lead to improvement in behavior second. It works all the time.

3. Solutions – I make it a point NOT to go on and on about problems or what a parent should have done in a given situation. I’m in this work to deliver solutions. Solutions grounded in theory that are aimed at improving the relationship. Without a solution, it’s a rant!

4. Real Life Examples – I use real life examples to help parents better understand a situation they are struggling with and believe me, after 20 years in the field, I have lots of examples at my disposal. Examples help parents connect information with action. Without the connection the information can swirl around in a parent’s head leaving them more confused than ever.

Without these to anchor my advice, insight and “wisdom” I’d be pulling tips and tricks out of thin air based on my perception at the moment, and my perception of the situation would lead parents on a wild goose chase, not closer to an understanding of what they could do differently to bring about change.

The reason for this post?

I’ve spent the past few weeks diving into what’s floating around the internet – holy guacamole folks, no wonder parents are confused! I guess this explains why parents arrive at my classes or workshops with some crazy ideas about parenting. I have discovered that advice is mislabeled from one end of the triple W to the other.

Here’s the deal, if you’re looking for “advice” on the web, you can either say forget it altogether OR you can check it against these following five points:

1. Philosophy – Does it have a legitimate, long-standing philosophy? If yes, then check that the advice is grounded in the main pillars of the belief system.

2. Expert – Is the author trained in the philosophy? You wouldn’t take money advice from a landscaper, unless the landscaper was an entrepreneur teaching you how to grow a business via his journey. See the connection? Experts come in various shapes, so this doesn’t mean you can’t seek tips from a non-traditional source. Just be sure that the source knows his/her stuff and can give insight, context and information that is accurate to the experience.

3. Check for “Get your kids” – Does the article or blog have the words “make your child” or “get your child to” do this not that or do that not this to your child? If yes, skip it! It’s about control and discipline, not the relationship. You’ll just end up further in the weeds. It might work for a minute but you’ll be right back where you started.

4. Rant, rant, rant – Just because a mommy blogger has a great story or wants to share her experience via a credible blogging site doesn’t mean it’s advice! Let’s be clear, I’m not dissing mommy bloggers, they make the web go round! They are fun and they are the best people to share ideas and tricks and tips that worked for them. Remember though, the story they are sharing worked for them and it doesn’t mean you have to run out and try their approach. However, if a mommy blogger uses a credible philosophy (see points 1 & 2), then it’s worth looking into!

5. Lovey-dovey-foo-foo-zoom-zoom – If you just read something and your first thought was, no $h^t Sherlock, then it’s just fluff and you already know it so don’t worry about the latest fad method to introduce the same old common sense!

Parents want to feel connected to or to identify with the ups and downs they experience – this is where a mommy blog or a lovey dovey article does have a purpose. It’s not that the article is crap, it just might be crappy ADVICE. See? So, read headlines that attract you but don’t buy in until you know if it’s rant, crap, fluff, or fad or if it’s grounded in a bigger picture.

So What Does a Parent Read?

Having said all that, here is some of the GOOD STUFF TO READ:

1. Opinion – Opinion articles/blogs can be great food for thought. They can be well researched and can contain facts that back a person’s opinion. (No facts or references? It’s likely a RANT).

2. Blogs by Experts/Organizations – They might not be featured on the biggest sites but you can find life changing tips, tricks, wisdom and so on.

3. Fact Articles – Top tens and other informative articles can give you some new info and let you process it – just be sure to check the credibility of source/author.

Can’t you Simplify This?

I know it’s a lot to process. That’s why I’ve decided to introduce a Parenting On Track Series:

Duct Tape Dragnet: Parenting Articles Worth Reading

Now you can have access to quality articles delivered to you and you don’t have to go wading in the mud to find good opinions, ideas, thoughts and lessons in parenting. Heads up for our first in a series of blogs, articles, sites, books we find on the web that are worth reading!

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Secret to Understanding Behavior

In the last month, I have been answering more questions than usual via our private Parenting On Track Forum, emails, Skype messages and phone calls that sound something like this:

Parent: “My 5 year old is impossible these days. He is totally out of control, teasing his sister and refusing to do anything I ask him to do. What is going on with him?”

Me: Hmmmm. I have no idea. He sounds discouraged.

Parent: “My 7 year old has begun acting out at school. The teacher is very concerned and when I try and talk to her she covers her ears and runs away. I need to know what’s going on so I can help her but I don’t know how to get her to talk to me. What should I do?”

Me. Hmmmm. She sounds really discouraged.

My 10 year old refuses to get himself up in the morning, even though he can and has for several years. He refuses to do his homework and it doesn’t matter what I try, he turns it into a fight, stomps away, calls me names and then slams the door. I can’t just let him sleep in or not make him do his homework? What should I do?”

Me. Hmmmmm. No idea, but he sounds discouraged to me.

I urge parents to use the formula I teach to gather the information that will allow me to help them create an intentional and encouraging plan to deal with their child’s discouraged behavior and attitude.

So for clarity sake, here it is again.

1. Identify the behavior that you find “troubling” and write it down as if you were a scientist or objective observer. Example: That 3 year old keeps pushing her dish off the table. That 5 year old keeps throwing Lego’s at his brother. That 9 year old is yelling at his mother.

2. Identify how you FEEL about what is happening. Example: I am annoyed when I see the plate fly off of the table. I am hurt when I see my 5 year old throw things at his sibling. I am pissed when my 9 year old yells at me.

3. Identify how you generally REACT to the behavior (it’s being fueled by your feelings). Example: I start nagging and lecturing and trying to get my child to stop throwing the dish on the floor. I try and show my child just how hurtful his behavior is by hurting him in some small way, like throwing all his Lego’s away. I show my 9 year old that I can yell louder by yelling at him not to yell at me.

4. Based on your feelings and confirmed by your actions, you then guess what the Mistaken Behavior is: Attention, Power, Revenge, Avoidance.

This is the formula. If it were being used, the emails I receive would sound more like this.

Parent: My 3 year old keeps throwing her plate off the table. I feel annoyed and frustrated and I start nagging her, which tells me that the Mistaken Goal is Attention. Any thoughts?

Me: You bet. Start by making connections that have nothing to do with the plate that flies off the table. When the plate flies, this indicates she is done with the meal. Remove her from the table by saying with a firm and kind voice and attitude, “I see you are done. I am still eating. I will see you when I have finished”, and continue eating. Show encouragement by not caving when she comes and tries to sit on your lap. Reinforce that she has made a choice and you respect her choices. If need be, take your meal to another room to finish. During other times of the day, find ways to connect and begin inviting her to do more around meal preparation. Make sure she feels a part of dinner conversation, but not the entertainment for the meal.

Parent: My 5 year old throws Lego’s at his younger brother. I feel hurt and disappointed since no one has ever treated him like this, but then I go and hurt him by taking all the Lego’s and threatening to throw them away. I think the mistaken goal is Revenge. Any thoughts?

Me: You bet. First, as tempting as it is to “teach the lesson”, refrain. This child already feels hurt. Take a few days and watch the words you use, the attitude you convey and even the thoughts you carry with you about this child. Are you focused more on his strengths or on all the ways you must correct his behavior. Does he know he matters to you? Do you ask for his help, ask for his opinion and ask for her thoughts on things that concern the entire family? Are your expectations realistic or are you waiting for perfection. Do you notice progress and improvement? Are you showing appreciation for WHO he is, not what he does on a regular basis.

I’m sure you get it by now. It’s a system. If you aren’t yet using this simple, effective, powerful system to understand your child and implement strategies that build strength, awareness, courage and maintain everyone’s dignity and respect, then I encourage you to try it.

Parents continue to ask me “what my secret is?” and I keep telling them that it is no secret at all, it is a system that works to help me identify my child’s mistaken goal of behavior and set about using strategies that encourage her, connect with her and show faith in her so that she might choose another way to interact with me and the rest of the world.

So take some time and see if you can capture what’s really going on. I bet by the time you finish the exercise you won’t need to send me an email and if you do, well, that’s okay. My guess is that YOU are in need of a little encouragement yourself. We all do from time to time and I am here.

Holidays with Tweens

It’s the tweener week here at the Hoefenways, that’s blended for Hoefle & Hemenway, a name the kids came up with years ago when Iain and I met. Christmas is behind us. The presents are put away. The decorations are down. Three kids are home, one is due in on the 4th from Spain and another one arrives on the 6th from San Francisco.

I am holding steady as they say. This is the week that defines the holidays for us. It’s a time to celebrate life with children, who are more adult than anything else. It’s my time to dive into each of them and to re-establish contact in a new and meaningful way. Let’s face it, they aren’t the same people they were last year at this time.

I marvel at how smart, how funny, and how mercurial they are. I am awestruck at their humor, their insight, and their commitment to “showing up in their lives.” I am touched by their comments to me which include “you look hot in those jeans mom” by my 17-year-old daughter and “every kid should have a mom like you” whispered in my ear by my 15 year old, six-foot-tall son.

So here’s to the teens and the tweeners in our lives. These wonders of light and love.To my own children I say thank you. Thank you for inviting me into your world, and sharing your thoughts, your aspirations, your fears and your dreams. Thank you for sitting on my lap, for letting me braid your hair, and sharing a quiet moment of reflection. Thank you for sticking with me through all my painful parenting faux pas.

Thank you for teaching me the Wii and encouraging me as I learn to hit a ball and almost wet my pants doing it. Thank you for giggling with me and not at me, as I learn that you don’t have to actually “play” tennis, in order to “play Wii” tennis.

Thank you for loading my iPod up with all new songs and for making me my own Taylor Swift CD. Thank you for trying on the dorky pants I bought you and not calling me “stupid head” because I got the wrong style, size and color.

Thank you for loving each other. For cuddling up together during The Grinch and letting me get a glimpse of you as small children, even if just for a moment. Thank you for fixing each other french toast and eating together around the table, something that happens less and less these days, as kids grow and some move out.

Most of all, thank you for choosing me as your parent.

For all you parents out there, who wonder what the world is like with five teens in the house – there is only one word to describe it – MIRACULOUS!

Do not waste a single moment with these magical beings. Before you know it, they will have moved on and you may find yourself trying to carve a spot in their new and exciting lives. Take a few moments, and look beyond the external expression of who they are and look into the hearts, the minds and the spirits of these young people.

There is much joy to be found in those sparkling eyes.

Happy Holidays!


Real Gift: Family Meetings

It’s the Holiday Season and people are running around frantically (and excitedly), checking tasks off the list and letting all the schedules slide. There’s an element of seasonal joy that comes with throwing it all to the wind, but come January 2nd, parents admit it’s harder to get back on track once they’ve let everyone fall off the wagon. I’m talking bed times, routines, video game limits, reading schedules, and all of that. It’s certainly not the end of the world to just let it go but there’s value in keeping a few of the non negotiables in tact, no matter what.

One of the most helpful tools in bringing everyone together, the Family Meeting, might be considered the first “structured” event to go. Parents think it may be inconvenient, as the family is traveling and staying up late wrapping presents – there is a sense that there’s just not enough time. Here’s where I’m suggesting you make time. Make time for your family meeting – if people are spread out, get on the phone, skype and have a chat. If you’re busy on the regularly scheduled night, make a lunch date the next – whatever you do, don’t skip the chance to stay connected in what can be the most frazzled, fried and checked-out couple of weeks all year long! (Those appreciations are like the big bow on the Holiday Season – and they cost nothing).

Family Meetings help keep kids’ feet on the ground by remembering each other’s feelings and presence within the family. Family Meetings also help keep the “out of control” stresses in check – kids are using their money to purchase gifts and materials to make gifts or make donations and you’ll have help keeping up with household contributions! Plus, a little problem solving during the madness can be a very good thing – the kids can come together and make decisions on real family issues (like what to do over vacation, who sits where on the ride to Grandma’s, how they prefer to stay relaxed when it gets nutty vs. you (mom or dad) micromanaging and peeling your kids out of the situations as they arise!)

If you aren’t familiar with Family Meetings, then check out our free podcast and find out first hand what an amazing source of bonding and relationship building they can provide. We welcome you to join the thousands of parents who use them to stay connected and keep the family relationship in a good, solid place. We offer plenty of blogs on the topic in our archives. In fact, if you do use family meetings and know a family who might “appreciate” them in their house, then feel free to share this post or the podcast link.


Tips: Let Go to Find Balance

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” ~Havelock Ellis

Are you dragging behind you, that burden-stuffed backpack filled with every bad parenting decision you’ve made? Every missed opportunity for training your kids or each blown chance at teaching a valuable lesson? Are all those years (months perhaps if you’re a new parent) of parenting imperfection affecting your ability to become the parent you’d like to be?

If you said yes, you’re not alone. Too often parents want to change the course of their family’s experience but they feel, Ah, well I’ve already done it this way for so long, there’s no turning the ship around at this point. And they carry that feeling of holding on, despite total misery. There’s guilt and regret, hopelessness and thoughts of failure that stay shoved in that backpack until one day it leaves us exhausted and ready to collapse in a pile of tears.

I’d like to take a moment to say (shout it out actually, while waiving my hands in the air) that anyone can change and, that change happens over time. If you keep saying, gee, I’d like to raise independent kids but I can’t because I’ve already done everything for them for 8 years, then sure enough you’ll never change. But if you recognize that the person you are today is based solely on the decisions you made in the past, you’ll realize the future YOU will be affected by the choices you make today. (Stop and think about it, it takes a second).

This isn’t one of those simple positive thinking pep talks. Change truly happens over time. You’ll fall off the wagon, and you’ll face the choice: get on or sit in the dirt. Try to choose to get back on, no matter how many times you end up in the dirt (sometimes on the ground for longer than is enjoyable). Trust it, keep getting on and you’ll see progress. In that progress, comes, (here’s the tie in) BALANCE.

In this blog entry, 6 Tips to Live in Peace and Balance: What to Let Go, the author discusses the ways to let go and to find balance. I looked at it through the parenting lens and found the tips can be applied to helping us find balance in parenting as well as in other areas of their lives.

1. Physical Clutter – Learning to let go of the stuff has a positive effect on everyone in the family. How many times have you bought something for your kids and then expected them to take care of it which ended in power struggles and battle lines? And being tied to our stuff keeps us checked out of the relationships most important to us – the one with our selves, our partner and our kids.

2. Dreams and Goals – Let go of the dreams and goals you had when your kids were small if you, I mean they, never reached them. Don’t carry them around. Face who your children are right now and build for tomorrow from where you, I mean they, are TODAY (not from back when you dreamed you’d raise a perfect-mannered-trilingual-world-traveling-model-Gerber-baby-cherub-who-would-read-by-age-2-and-sing-professionally-by-6 munchkin).

3. Expectations – Many parents expect that parenting will be easy. HA! They expect that their kids will never get into trouble. HA! And they feel like failures as they try to live up to the expectations of society. DOWN RIGHT DUMB! Parents think they have a shot at being “perfect” and can learn the “right way” to raise a “perfect” kid. But the truth is KIDS ARE MESSY! So look around. Toss the expectations out the window of your swagger wagon. (After all, you never expected to be rocking a mini van now did you? It is what it is: a crumb-filled, kinda like life).

4. Bad Habits – This one really gets us as parents! We CONTINUE to do what doesn’t work because we’ve gotten in the habit of our bad habits with no real idea how to replace them with something, anything more suitable. No matter how much we hate YELLING (or punishing or time outing or whatever) we end up going back to it because we feel we have to do “something” to get the kids to behave. Let it go. Identify and replace the bad habits (including the habits that you might include parenting on autopilot, reminding, lecturing, guilting, etc). Get NEW thinking about your habits and they will change.

5. Memories and Experiences – In the blog entry it says, “Our brain is hard-wired into noticing and holding on to negative events five times more effectively than positive ones.” So this means, in essence we have to train ourselves to stop focusing on the times we screw up, the times our kids misbehave and all the other crappy memories we just loooove to hang on to! Tell yourself to let the little things go- will it matter in 5 years? 5 minutes? It’s so much to hold on to when it really truly doesn’t matter.

6. People. As parents, we tend to get sucked into circles that may negatively affect our parenting. Whether it’s a boss, a friend you can never be good enough for, a relative you’re letting run your life, or a circle of gossipy, complaining, blaming playground moms and dads. These people affect the time and energy we give to our children. If there’s someone bringing the toxic vibes to you, it is most likely, spilling into your family. Cut it loose and you’ll find some secure ground. In the end, after all, it’s about who you are right now and you must let go and make the best decisions for tomorrow by knowing how to let go of what holds you back today.


Parenting for RIGHT NOW?

The other day I was chatting with a few moms – okay, I was listening while they were chatting – and they started to discuss how at times they found themselves “disciplining (correcting, reminding, nudging, nagging, lecturing) their kids for doing things that were just – well – annoying and probably didn’t really fit into the category of discipline problems. HMMM. Interesting. I kept listening.

One of the moms said she felt as if sometimes she hit the “automatic parenting button” without really thinking about what she was saying or what she was doing. This not only concerned her, it made her wonder, really wonder, how many times she hit the “auto” switch and how that might be effecting the kids and more importantly, her relationship with her kids.

I am loving this. I shouldn’t be, but I am. This mom is on it. Now, if she can just keep challenging herself and get to the big “aha” moment, we are in business.

Another mom chimed in, inspired by the insight and courage the first mom showed and proclaimed with the kind of clarity that gives me goosebumps “ya know – sometimes I jump in when I start thinking about everything that needs to be done. Like, the trash needs to go out NOW, and I have to get to work NOW, and they have to go to bed NOW. And I justify some stupid parenting strategy, that doesn’t even work, just so I can have something happen NOW.”

A big pause from all the moms. I could feel the intensity. I knew they were really sinking into something big.

Today is a good time to stop and think: will all that micromanagement train the child to eventually take out the trash on his own? Will that same kid ever get up and out the door on his own? Will the two rumbling brothers ever find a better way to solve the discord? Perhaps, but not before you’re wiped out from sheer exhaustion and you’ve checked out of the relationship (it’s hard work getting them to “do” all the things they should and have to “do” isn’t it?).

As parents, it’s important to regularly step outside ourselves and peer down over the railing from the stairwell and watch and ask: is this scene that plays out everyday doing any good? Does anything ever change. Do they ever wake up and say, gee, I really learned from that lecture or gee, mom’s going to yell at me to put my shoes on so I’ll get it done ahead of time? Of course not! They do the same thing, and we respond out of habit and the cycle continues.

This is why we have to climb up and observe from the perch — and spy down on our actions within our families. Yes, we’ll also see we look like dingdongs when we are driving our kids’ lives (set on comfy cruise control) to simply get through the NOW.

So when you see this happen, ask yourself , “What about later?” And figure out what YOU CAN DO NOW, that will support your kids for later.

Kids are Like Computers, they Upgrade to New Versions (Of themselves!)

You’ve probably noticed, that with each new age and stage, your child’s behavior looks freakishly familiar yet, it’s loaded with a shiny new set of operating tools. He’s bigger. She’s smarter. They’re louder. The behavior is beefier. More mature. Less “cute”. (Face it, a tantrum at two is far more tolerable than a full blown hissyfit by an 8 year old).

As your child grows “into” more advanced versions of their discipline issues (whining, excuses, arguing, controlling, sassing, etc), you’re faced with the same problem, different year.

When this happens, tribes of parents head out to find the NEW most age appropriate response, punishment, discipline tactic to fight the aging beast (the behavior, not the kid). Because lo and behold, the strategy for a tantrum at two would never work for a 13 year old, right? I can see it now, the emo hipster wanna be with her head down in the naughty chair. It’s not pretty and it’s clearly not effective. So why do this to a two year old if we know it’s

    a) not going to make the problem go away and
    b) it’s going to resurface at 13?

Probably because it makes us feel in control. It’s a logical response to an undesired behavior. However, if we don’t realize the behaviors we see at two will be the behaviors (only upgraded) at 6, 8, 10 and so forth, then we stand to make it waaay harder on ourselves – and the kids – than it has to be.

The question is, how do we curb behaviors without having to run out and find a new strategy every 1-2 years?

The answer: we focus on the relationship. We study our children. We recognize the problem areas and we let the rest go. We don’t try to steer them through a perfect childhood without pain, failure or real world ups and downs. We train them to take care of themselves and be a meaningful participant within the community. Inviting a child to help at two will work the same as inviting a child to help at thirteen- and it will get more of what you want from them.

Sending a kid to the naughty corner at two and to her room at thirteen will not rid her from flailing and stomping when she doesn’t get her way. And you can bet it’ll come back when she’s in the dorms and doesn’t get the classes she wanted. Or the engagement ring she saw in the magazine. Or the car all the other moms drive. And bam. Will she live with it? Sure. Could she spare to do better without that habit? Definitely.

(Look around, you know any adults who still throws hissy fits? Exactly).

Facing Fear at Any Age

Dr. Heather posted a very useful article on her blog about Preschoolers and Fears.

Read article here.

My only question is based on the idea of using “monster spray” and other totems to repel monsters. In my experience this practice can be counterproductive. Parents tell their kids that monsters aren’t real, but then act like they are by looking under beds, waving magic wands or spraying monster spray in the room. Seems a bit confusing if you ask me.

It would be more helpful to ask your child a couple of questions:

    1. Can you show me where the monster is? Let them explore and show you where it’s hiding (hmmm, can’t seem to find it at the moment, mum). There is power in actually looking for what you think you fear. Opening closet doors, looking under beds, and behind a pile of stuffed animals will reassure a child much more convincingly and quickly than a parent waving wands or spraying twinkle dust in a room.

    2. What is the difference between your imagination and reality? Yes, I know it’s a big question, but you can break it down and help your child learn to distinguish the difference. I have talked with dozens of creative people and they all agree, imagination is stimulated when there is a balance between living in our imagination and being in touch with reality.

So the next time your wee one suggests that there are monsters living anywhere in their world, take a moment to reflect on how you want to address this concern and the fact that a “monster” at 3 could be “anxiety” for a 13 year old.

Duct Tape – Emergency Tool Kit

Have you ever wondered what would happen, if you decided, when your daughter was in the 1st grade, to take a leap of faith and turn the entire topic of “homework” over to her?

After all, you have been giving her more and more responsibility each day.

  • You let her decide what to pack in her lunch and when she went hungry, because she only packed 3 carrots, you had confidence that she learned something valuable.

  • When she decided to wear shorts and a t-shirt on a rainy 42 degree day, well, heck, she was smart enough to figure out that taking a minute or two to get a proper weather forecast the next day made the entire experience more pleasurable.

  • And when she decided to stay up way past her bedtime, you decided to let her try it, and since she was a bear of a child the next day, you declined to spend much time with her, not wanting to ruin your perfectly good day. She learned that going to bed at her normal bedtime was okay with her, if it meant hanging with her mom the next day.

But homework? Homework is different.

If you decide to turn homework over to your young daughter the same way you decided to turn all those other things over to her, you might get a-whole-bunch-a push back from an assortment of people.

Won’t the teachers and other parents:

  • Roll their eyes and talk about you behind your back?
  • Think you are a bad mommy, because you can’t get your child to do her homework?
  • Think you are a slacker mommy, because if you were engaged in your child’s life, homework could be a bonding moment?

Isn’t it your responsibility to make sure:

  • That she does the homework?
  • She cares about doing her homework?
  • That she absorbs the information (if that’s even possible when a child is screaming at the top of their lungs, that homework is the stupidest thing they ever heard of).

Here’s the thing; if you are like my wise friend, who started turning over small pieces of life to her daughter when she was 4 and began allowing her to take more and more responsibility for her own life, and her own learning, your daughter might sound something like this when the subject of homework presents itself –

    6 year old daughter: “I have two sheets of homework late. Do you think I will get in trouble?”

    Mom: “I’m not sure, but I reminded you last night and you chose not to do it”. (Unfortunately I couldn’t resist saying the second part, I think I need duct tape in the car)

    6 year old daughter: (mad) “Mom this is not your problem, it is mine, this is between me and Mrs. S, it is none of your business”.

Bingo. Lesson taught, lesson learned. Homework is between student and teacher.

Ready for a little reprieve from homework hassles? Trust that your kids can manage more than you give them credit for and ease up on the control knobs. Kids will surprise and inspire you if you give them half a chance.

April Showers

April-Showers-postI wake up. Realize it is light at 6:00 am. The first sign that winter is fading and spring is on the way. It is a new beginning and a great time to get ready for the lazy, crazy, busy and fun-filled months of summer.

BUT—before we jump straight into another season of action, I want to suggest that this year, we begin by taking a bit of time for ourselves. You know, prepare for all that sun and fun we are about to take on. That’s why this month, April, the Parenting On Track™ Newsletters will focus on Wellness. Enjoy this short journey through Pampering Ourselves—Body, Mind and Spirit—as we enter this new season of spring.

Every season provides us with rain, maybe a little more during the spring—hence the saying “April Showers…”. I think the same can be said for every relationship we are in, including the relationship with our children. Sometimes we experience a mild April Shower and then there are the times we experience a really nasty storm. What I know after 20 years in the biz, along with raising five splendid kids, is this: It isn’t the storm that affects the relationship between parent and child as much as it is how we HANDLE the storm.

I like to refer to the stormy times of our relationships with our children as the “Slippery Slope.” The Slippery Slope is that place—that crossroad—when you are aware that at any moment things could go from bad to worse. You can FEEL it. And regardless of how you got there, what you do next will determine whether you move away from the edge or go down head-over-tea kettle into the Rabbit Hole. The Slippery Slope is your chance to Stop—Think—and Choose.

What do you do when you are at the top of the Slippery Slope? Chances are, like lots of parents, you have some sort of discipline strategies that you hope will get you out, and guess what? They almost never work. You can’t dig your way out of a hole, and a discipline strategy when the storm is rising seems to make things worse.

So, here is something else you could try—something that will get you down from the top of the Slippery Slope, while at the same time, preserve and enhance the relationship with your children. Thousands of parents have already tried it, and the results are nothing less than, well miraculous.
The Parenting On Track™ Program has several Slippery Slope strategies to choose from, depending on the situation, but I will focus on a couple of my favorites here. The first, and one that is a central part of all the others, is Firm and Kind.

Firm is respectful to you as the parent, and Kind is respectful to your children. Using a firm and kind tone of voice will show that you have set boundaries for yourself and that you love and respect your child. Remember: If your children hear you talk to them in a firm and kind voice, they will talk to you with kindness (even when they are teenagers!).

The second strategy I want to highlight here is Yes—as soon as …

In case you didn’t already know, your job as a parent is to say YES as often as you can to your children. Does this mean you say yes to anything they ask for and let them walk all over you? Of course not!

Here’s an example, to give you an idea of how this works: You and your child have agreed that he will clean his room before going to his friend’s house. Instead of nagging, reminding, lecturing, yelling or fighting, when he asks to go, simply say, “Yes, as soon as you follow through with your agreement.” The important thing to remember is that the room is not the issue; the agreement is a skill set that your children can practice over and over again.

This strategy will work for years and in countless situations:

“Can I watch TV?” … “Yes, as soon as your homework is done.”
“Can you play this game with me?” … “Yes, as soon as you take care of your daily contribution.”
“Can I have my friends over?” … “Yes, as soon as you clean up your room and help clean the den.”

The great thing about this strategy is that when used in conjunction with Firm and Kind, you no longer have to lecture and yell about homework and contributions and whatever else you remind your children about every day. Instead, you have replaced all that with a kind, fair interaction that your children will respect you for in the end.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t care how kind we are and whether we have treated our children and ourselves with respect; she is guaranteed to send us a nasty storm every now and then. But, fortunately, our children do care about being in a respectful relationship, and when you work with them by using the Parenting On Track™ Slippery Slope strategies, you will find that those really nasty storms just don’t seem to come around anymore.

For more Slippery Slope strategies, refer to Chapter 11 of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.

The Truth About Lying…

—and Other Nonsense

A very close friend of mine, let’s call her N, called last week in tears.  I thought her treasured Golden Lab had finally passed.  Every time I asked why she was crying, she cried harder.  I was really worried.  Finally, she squeaked out—“I caught Adam lying.”

Silence.  It took me a second.  The sobbing seemed disproportionate to what she had just said.

“Are you telling me that all this sobbing is because Adam, your four-year-old son, lied to you?”

“Yes,” she said, “but be quiet; I don’t want anyone to hear you.”

I couldn’t help myself. I started laughing. The kind of laugh Julia Roberts burst into when Richard Gere SLAPPED the jewelry box closed and surprised her in Pretty Woman.

N is an intelligent, educated, down-to-earth woman.  She navigated her way through a colicky baby and a husband who traveled a lot during the first three years of Adam’s life, and she never got caught up in the whole “breast feeding, sleeping with, weaning from” craziness of our culture.

So, I was completely caught off guard by her response to this infraction from her four-year-old son. I did compose myself quickly, when I realized she really was upset.

We chatted for a while, I ran her through the A-B-C exercise, and she experienced a MAJOR “Aha!” moment. We ended our call with her having a “plan” and me feeling like I had redeemed myself and regained her trust after my ‘insensitive’ outburst of laughter.

Fast-forward three weeks:  I get a phone call from N. She is giggling, happy, and excited as she shares that Adam lied again, but she used the plan, and WOW!—Will I do her a favor?

She asks me to share the A-B-C exercise, because she suspects that other parents, moms in particular, will find this a powerful tool, which they can use immediately to squelch the nasty stories playing in their heads that are making them act like—in her words—ninnies.

Here it is, courtesy of N.

A – Activating Event
In N’s case, a child who lies. If you have ever said, “they know just how to push my buttons,” consider that to be YOUR activating event. It could be anything: manners, hitting, bad grades—anything that sends you into orbit fast.

Question: What is YOUR activating event?

B – Beliefs
In N’s case, children who lie will become full-time liars who will flunk out of school, lose their friends and their jobs, and, eventually, turn into adults whose lives—again in N’s words—SUCK.  What’s worse though, is N’s belief about HERSELF as the mother of this lying child.  What will people think of a mother who is raising a liar? Nothing good, I can assure you.

I could go on here, but you see how this line of thinking could get you into big trouble over a little thing like a four-year-old telling a lie.


  1. What do you believe about children who…
  2. What do you believe about parents who raise kids who…

C – Consequence
This is the emotional consequence that both N and Adam pay for N’s over-the-top response.  In her case, a long lecture, tears, moralizing, more lecturing, phrases like “Do you understand how SERIOUS this is Adam?”  “You cannot—must not—lie to your mother. EVER.”  Poor Adam; can’t you just picture him looking completely bewildered and terrified at his mother’s outrageous outburst? Poor baby.

Question: How do you over-react to your activating event?

D – Disputation
This is the good part. This is where you get to create a brand new story for yourself that sets you free to parent from reality and not some past fantasy. It didn’t take N long to create a more realistic story that allowed her to deal with the situation in a calm, rational, loving manner.

Question: What is your new story? Anything will do. You don’t have to believe it yet; you just have to be willing to try it.

E – Encouragement
Finally, and most importantly, using encouragement to release the past and accept the present helps us stay on course until the shift in thinking is complete. N shared stories of her own childhood in which she had told a lie or two, and then had the courage to admit that even as an adult, she has told a lie from time to time. What she realized was this: she is a high-functioning, loving, productive, fully engaged woman, wife, mother and friend. That is the truth, and that is what set both she and Adam free from her madness.

Question: How will you encourage yourself and your child, as you adopt more useful
parenting strategies that focus on this:

  • What will it take for my child to find the courage to tell the truth?
  • What will it take for me, as the parent, to find the courage to update old, limiting beliefs so that I can parent from my best?

Thanks, N.

Big Love, Vicki

Albert Ellis is responsible for this amazing tool.