Friday, September 16, 2016

The Lessons My Children Taught Me

I’ve taught my children many, many things in my decade of parenting, but the lessons they’ve taught me are far greater and more valuable than I ever expected. In a bizarre twist, it turns out that my children have, indeed, been my greatest teachers in life. I knew it was my honor to raise them, but what I didn’t know was just how much they’d raise me (or at least inspire me to rise).

Lesson One: How to Love Unconditionally
I suppose, like them, I was born knowing how to do this, but somewhere along the way, I learned to love with conditions, or more specifically, to show love with conditions. For me, it took having a child to see what real, unconditional love looks like, and that’s the kind of love I’m now striving to give back to them. The pure love they give to me is not based on my performance as a mother, but on the simple, sweet fact that I am their mother. That’s the love I want to return – a love not based on actions, accomplishments, or attitudes, but given purely because of who they are.

Lesson Two: Grudges are Ridiculous
I’ve been known to hold a grudge. There have been some things that people have done to me that have just been hard for me to let go of. It’s hard to see past the hurt. Not for children, though. My kids can be in an argument at 10 am and by 10:04, the whole thing is forgiven and forgotten. I see the freedom in letting go through watching my children, and I’m working toward being more like them.

Lesson Three: The World is Full of Wonder
This is another one of those beautiful lessons long forgotten until I had children. The amazement of a butterfly fluttering about, the joy of blowing bubbles and watching them being carried away by the wind, the beauty of clouds and their many fascinating shapes – the world is a wonderful place with so much to discover, even in our own backyards. Seeing once more through the eyes of a child is one of the greatest gifts of parenthood.

Lesson Four: Slower is Better
Our adult schedules can get ridiculously hectic. Even when our physical responsibilities are done, our minds rarely stop racing. It often seems to me like the world is whirring by my head and I just can’t keep up, but my children have taught me the value of slowing down. Not only do children live at a slower pace, taking their sweet time to get out the door when we needed to be somewhere 5 minutes ago, but just the fact that I see them growing so quickly has made me purposefully slow down and be present. Plus, when you’re blasting off into outer space on a super important mission with a 7-year-old, tomorrow’s to-do list just has to wait.

Lesson Five: There is Always Joy
Every day brings something to be excited about if we choose to look for the joy. My sons see joy in the rain puddles where my adult eyes see the forthcoming pile of wet laundry. They usually see joy where I see messes, so I’m learning to look for the joy in the messes, too. It’s often found in the piles of Lego bricks or the splattering of paint on the kitchen table that missed the paper. It’s found in riding a scooter into the wind or petting the soft fur of an orange kitten. Most recently for me, it was found in waking up on a summer morning with two long, gangly kids in my bed, one asleep with his arm thrown over his brother, and the gratitude washed over me like a warm wave because I realized that this – every single day I get to spend with them, my greatest teachers – is joy.

**Originally published at Creative Child

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Beyond "Good Job" - 50 Encouraging Phrases for Kids

Have you ever watched the show Brain Games? My kids love it. In season 3, episode 5, which is titled “Stress Test,” players were given a specific amount of time to complete a task while someone was saying critical remarks to them. They almost always failed. Then, they were given the same amount of time to complete the same task while someone said encouraging words to them. The results were dramatic. With a bit of encouragement, the players were able to complete the task much faster and easier. The bottom line? Encouragement matters.

As parents, we spend much of our time giving directives and correction while the good things our children do often get little to no attention beyond “good job.” I believe if we get more intentional and specific in the encouraging words we say, we can have a positive impact on our children; we’ll see not only better behavior, but higher self-confidence as well. I encourage you to make it a point to say more encouraging words per day than criticisms or correction. Then note the change in atmosphere and behavior. Here are 50 encouraging phrases to get you started.

1. That’s so creative!
2. You really stuck with it and got the job done.
3. That was really helpful of you. Thanks!
4. You make me proud.
5. You can do it!
6. I believe in you.
7. That took perseverance! Well done!
8. You gave it your best, and that’s what matters.
9. You are the light of my life.
10. You’re getting better at this!
11. I trust you.
12. Your hard work really paid off!
13. You are a joy to be with.
14. You are really kind.
15. You should be proud!
16. Look, you did it!
17. You handled that really well.
18. I like your determination.
19. I can tell you put a lot of effort into this.
20. Keep practicing, and you’ll get there!
31. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
32. Take your time. There’s no rush.
33. You did it all by yourself!
34. You remembered!
35. There’s still plenty of time to learn this.
36. You don’t have to face it alone.
37. You made a wise choice.
38. You’re a caring friend/brother/sister.
39. We are lucky to have you in our family.
40. You’ve come a long way!
41. I love the detail you put into this.
42. I love watching you play.
43. Look how happy you made your friend/brother/sister.
44. That’s a great attitude!
45. Way to stay positive!
46. You are a great listener.
47. Your feelings matter!
48. Your opinion is important to me.
49. You’ve got what it takes!
50. Nothing will ever change my love for you.

This post was originally published for Creative Child Magazine.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why I'm Willing to Listen When My Child Cries or Tantrums by Patty Wipfler

Why I’m Willing to Listen When My Child Cries or Tantrums

By Patty Wipfler, Hand in Hand Parenting

Listen: Five Simple Tools to MeetYour Everyday Parenting Challenges.  Copyright © Hand in Hand Parenting, 2016

We humans are social animals.  We all need connection with others.  And sometimes, when we are overwhelmed with feelings, relating “properly” gets hard to do, especially for young children.  But opening your heart and your arms to the feelings that are overwhelming your child allows her to clear her mind, lets her to think and learn unhindered by emotional baggage, and builds an essential level of trust and closeness in the relationship between you.

I know from personal experience, and I bet that you do to, that the gift of caring attention has helped me let out feelings that were interfering with my ability to relate well to someone I cared about. Being thoughtfully listened to leaves me feeling connected and understood, especially after I have acted cranky or unkind. It’s a gift that strengthens relationships.

It saddens me to think about the many, many upset or hurt or frightened children who have been sent off to the solitary confinement of their rooms until they can behave “properly.”  I know parents love their children, and they probably didn’t have any other way modeled for them growing up, but what a lost opportunity to nurture and support a precious child.  That would be like my husband or my best friend telling me, “I have no intention of loving all of you.  I only want to see the parts that work for me. Go away until you can be easy for me to deal with.”

Here’s how this change of perspective worked for a mother in one of my classes,

Now, whenever there is a tantrum, I tell myself that, “I am thankful for the tantrum. Because my son/daughter is trying to communicate with me and I will be there for him/her.” I started really stopping and listening to their tantrums after the first class. However, the tantrums got worse! I wasn’t sure if this method really worked. But later on, I realized that it was because my son feels safer to express his feelings and tension to me. The second week, I did listened when they had a tantrum and we did Special Time. Amazingly, the occurrence of tantrums significantly decreased! Not only that but, both my husband and I enjoy the special time with our kids.

One day my son was upset that I didn’t give him something during breakfast. He started crying and screaming. I thought he was being unreasonable. In the past, I would say, “Eat your breakfast now and don’t be unreasonable.” But I stayed by him and listened to his cry. After about 10 minutes, he said, “I don’t want dad to go to work.” I am amazed that as I listened to his cry, his real issue surfaced – he misses his dad.

This new way of looking at tantrums has completely changed our parenting approach. Being able to connect to our children becomes the first priority in our relationship with them. It transformed us and helps us to be more confident parents.

Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore are the co-authors of
Listen: Five Simple Tools to Meet YourEveryday Parenting Challenges.

To learn more about this unique approach to relationships in the family and get your own copy of Listen, click here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Disconnected: The Trap of Conventional Parenting

He was in the time-out chair again. He was in and out of it all day long as we struggled back and forth for what I assumed was control. After all, that’s what they tell us about kids, isn’t it? They’ll try to run the show. They’ll attempt to overthrow your authority and run you right over if you let them. Oh, and if you let them by with anything, even once, you’re done for. I just figured his “terrible two” stage had hit. I’d been warned about this stage, so I knew it was coming, and I was determined to get control before he got so out of hand, I’d never be able to manage him…

Let’s rewind for a moment to a day just a year prior. A day when we were playing peek-a-boo, and I laughed as he threw the cover off his head again and giggled uncontrollably. A day when we watched the silly tiger video for the third time and danced around the living room to the music. He used to fall asleep every night with his hand up my shirt sleeve. I was his security blanket. And he was mine, because nothing felt more secure than loving and being loved like this.

Let’s rewind a bit farther to the time I cheered him on as he took his first steps. Standing in front of him, arms outstretched, as he wobbled toward me, he was completely trusting that I would catch him if he fell. How about we go back to the moment they placed him in my arms? This little boy wrapped in a blue blanket, with his perfect little lips, was the miracle I’d wanted for so long. He is a gift. My little love.

Fast forward to the time-out scene again, now. He’s sitting there, not looking at me, tears streaming down his cheeks. I’m feeding his baby brother, tears streaming down mine, too. How did we get to this? Is this really going to be how our story goes? It had started out so beautifully, but this – this felt very wrong. This felt heartbreaking. We were disconnected. The trust was falling away.

If that sounds a bit dramatic for a time-out, understand that this is my super sensitive child. The one who cries at commercials about homeless animals. He’s the same one who wanted to open a waffle stand at the age of 8 so he could sponsor a child with Compassion International. The same sensitive soul that asks us to catch bugs that enter the house and put them outside unharmed. He feels deeply. It’s his gift, and it also became my gift because it led me to find a different way to parent him – a way that didn’t break his heart. Conventional discipline was too harsh for my super-feeling boy, and so I turned to positive parenting. I sought a way to teach and guide him that strengthened our bond rather than destroy it. I found a way to honor his tender spirit while also being the positive leader he needed.

We’re so accustomed to parenting being a struggle. We expect it. We deal with it. We fight back and forth for “control.” The warnings never end. “Just wait until she hits the terrible twos.” “Ha! Threes are way worse!” “That’s nothing. Wait until you have a teenager!” We are already poised and ready for battle by the second birthday. But we don’t have to be. We can say, “This is not how my story will go. I choose love.”

The trap of conventional parenting is that the techniques we use to force compliance are often the ones that cause the disconnection that leads to us needing to force compliance. Connection is the key because it’s where our genuine authority lies. When I shifted from authoritarian to light reflector, I was able to rebuild our connection and reclaim my joy in parenting.

Here are my tips for transitioning from conventional parenting to positive parenting:

1.       Reframe parenting goals and roles. When my goal shifted from controlling behavior to leading my child to his fullest potential, the way I approached everything changed. I took on the role of encourager, mentor, and guide, dropping the role of judge and jury of behavior. I also took a look at the messages I believed about children and parenting and challenged them with information on child development.

2.       Reframe discipline. Rather than seeing discipline as something I did to my child, I started viewing it as something I was trying to instill in him. I realized if I wanted him to learn how to manage frustration or to be responsible or to get along with his brother, he wasn’t going to learn it with his nose in a corner. I had to teach him how to do those things rather than just punish him for not knowing.

3.       Learn how to decode behavior. Understanding what is driving a child’s behavior is key in coaching her to improving it. We tend to want to punish immature or childish behavior that we find inconvenient, but is punishment necessary in those instances? While blatant disrespect for people or property should not be tolerated, most “misbehavior” needs worked through, not punished.

4.       Become a problem-solver. When transitioning away from punishments, it’s good to have a goal to stick to. Otherwise, you might lean toward permissiveness or fall back into punitive parenting. Discipline is not the same as punishment, nor is it the absence of punishment. Discipline is teaching a child how to have self-discipline, i.e., teaching him how to manage his own emotions and behaviors. For example, if a 6 year old girl gets angry with her sister and knocks over her block tower, the problem is that she doesn’t know how to appropriately manage her anger. What’s the solution? Six minutes in her room or time spent working on anger management tools and practice using them?

Find a supportive community, like my Facebook community, and stand strong in your decision to reconnect and reclaim joy!

Connection is why we're here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” – Brene Brown


In my new book, Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, I share my hard-won insights on giving up the conventional parenting paradigm to reconnect heart to heart with my children. I believe parenting is about so much more than discipline, so I discuss important topics less spoken about making this a unique book about building lasting family bonds and reclaiming joy in parenting. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

15 Ways to Turn a Bad Day Around


Are you having a rough day with the kids? If you feel like you’re in a funk and just can’t seem to shake the negative energy swirling in your home, try these quick positive parenting ideas and tips to turn your day around and your frowns upside down.

1. Listen to Music
Music is known to affect mood, so put on something upbeat and play it loud. Dance party! Or if you’re day is already too loud and chaotic, put in some earbuds (at least one!) and listen to something soothing.

2. Listen for Inspiration
While you have that one earbud in (because you have to have a free ear to listen to/for the kids), listen to a podcast. Try a parenting podcast for inspiration or a guided meditation or positivity podcast.

3. Dress yourself up.
My days home with the kids usually mean comfortable pajamas and no make-up, and that’s great sometimes. On other days, it makes me feel better to put on a real outfit, a bit of make-up, fix my hair, and throw on a few inspirational bracelets. If you don’t want to do a full-on dress-up, just wash your face, lather some delicious-smelling lotion on your body, and swipe just a bit of gloss on your lips.

4. Take a time-out.
Busy the kids with a coloring book, puzzle, or even a cartoon for 10-15 minutes and do something you enjoy. These little breaks can go a long way in keeping your tank from running on empty.

5. Write down 5 things you’re grateful for.
Say them out loud. Gratitude combats negativity and lifts your mood.

6. Get outside.
Being in nature is shown to boost your spirits, and you could use the vitamin D. If you can’t get out into nature, look at photos of nature. Research has shown that even a plant in your room can reduce stress and anxiety.

7. Tackle that thing you’re dreading doing early.
If you have a full inbox or a mountain of laundry, tackle it first thing in the morning so that it doesn’t loom over you all day.

8. Love your exercise.
We’re not all runners. I prefer kickboxing. You might prefer CrossFit or Zumba. When you love your exercise, you’re obviously more likely to do it regularly. Regular exercise boosts your overall mood and well-being. Even 10 minutes of moving your body has benefits.

9. Look for the miracles around you.
See the blessing in your chaos. Seek out the beauty in the ordinary. Consciously shift your perspective. Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

10. Change up the routine.
Do something different – something unexpected. Whether it’s a special waffles topped with ice cream for breakfast, a trip to a new park, or building a fort in the back yard, a changeup might be just the thing you need to shift your attitude.

11. Do something silly.
Laughter is the best medicine, right? Look up some kids’ jokes and read them aloud. Put on silly outfits and have a photo shoot. Have a goofy face contest.

12. Accept that you feel crummy today and nurture yourself.
We all have bad moods sometimes, and maybe your body is trying to tell you that you need to take it easy for a bit. Snuggle up under the covers and read books together or watch a movie in bed with the kids.

13. Seek out a friend.
Having someone to talk to and to share your heart can make a big difference. Rather than texting, try calling, or if you can meet up for coffee or a play date, all the better.

14. Be affectionate.
By giving and receiving affection, you get a boost of oxytocin which can make you feel more connected and energetic.

15. Engage your senses.
Take a few mindful moments to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste.

*This post was originally published at