Yell Free Year Challenge Post #1

Sunday, December 22, 2013 No comments

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. -Paulo Coelho

If this isn't your first attempt to stop yelling, do not be disheartened. If you've tried and failed before, there is still hope. You can change.

For the first month of our Yell-Free Year Challenge, I would like for you to work on speaking to yourself in a positive voice. Turn off your inner critical voices. For tips on how to silence your inner critic, go here. I want you to say to yourself several times daily - out loud, in the mirror, when you're driving, when you wake up, before bed - "I am capable of change." Be still and meditate on this statement at least once a day, every day, until you feel it's positive impact. This is how you change neural pathways - repetition. For more on brain plasticity, read this.

Take this challenge in small bites. It's overwhelming to think of not yelling for a whole year! You don't have to conquer the whole year today. You just have to conquer today. It may be cliche to say "one day at a time" but really that's all we can do anyway. Just focus on today. We'll focus on tomorrow when it gets here.

The second thing we're going to do to kick off this challenge is to start a journal, and the first thing we are going to record is our observations about our triggers. Each time you feel yourself getting angry and wanting to yell, record in your journal what was happening and what events surrounded this incident that may have contributed to your frustration. Were you sleep deprived? Overwhelmed with your to-do list? Having expectations that were too high? Jot down your feelings as soon as you can and later, when you are alone, think about why this triggers you. When we become aware of our triggers and patterns, we can take steps to prevent our anger from boiling up in the first place.

1. Silence your inner critic and speak to yourself in a positive voice. When your inner critic tells you that you can't do this, tell it to "STOP!" Repeat "I am capable of change" to silence your inner critic and several times throughout the day. Meditate on that statement.

2. Journal your triggers. Look for patterns and think about why these are triggers for you. Here is an article on deactivating anger triggers.

3.  Lastly, remember to take it one day at time and celebrate your successes! Come and celebrate with us in the support group here.

Try this exercise: Go to your mirror, preferably when you actually are angry and feel like yelling (this is a good time to take a time out and go to your bathroom anyway) and yell into the mirror just like you would yell at your child. Notice your facial expression, your tone, your body language. Is that the parent you want your child to remember? Is that the face of the mom or dad you want to be? Imagine being a small child on the receiving end. (You may need to yell into the mirror without letting sound actually come out to keep from scaring small children. You will still get to see what you look like when you're yelling.) The next time you feel like yelling at your child, remember the mirror.

We will be discussing Dr. Laura's book Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting throughout the year, so if you'd like to participate in those discussions, you can pick up that book at Amazon here.

If you're new to Positive Parenting, we also recommend getting The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting, and if you're looking for more concrete examples, Positive Parenting in Action provides you with over 40 scenarios and shows you how to handle them positively and peacefully.

We have started a private support group for parents on Facebook. Please be advised that all spammers will be deleted from the group. We've already had quite an issue with that.

Finally, Laura and I put a lot of time and effort into coordinating all of this. If you'd like to support, you may make a donation through the donate button below. All donations are greatly appreciated.

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The Yell-Free Year Challenge

Friday, November 22, 2013 26 comments
I love the fresh start of a new year! It feels to me to bring hope, promise, and new opportunity.

We here at and Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond are starting a new community challenge for 2014. We hope you'll join us in taking a vow of yellibacy! I'm really excited about this challenge! No parent wants to be a yeller, but in the commotion and distraction of our daily lives, it seems to creep up on us - the irritation, the short fuse - and we get caught in a cycle. There are ways we can change our responses and teach our brains to access that space between stimulus and response so that we choose a calmer tone, and we're going to spend 2014 learning how to do that together!

Throughout the year, I'll be sharing posts, techniques, and inspiring stories to help us stay on the right path. We're kicking it off a little bit before the new year! Our challenge begins one month from today, on December 22, 2013! I guarantee this will end up being one of the best Christmas gifts we give our families.

To join our community challenge, like our Facebook page and be sure to get notifications so you'll see all of the tips! To do that, simply hover over "like" and check "get notifications." We're posting daily tips, weekly phrases, weekly habit changers, and bi-weekly articles to help you be successful!

We also have a private support group where over 1000 committed parents are taking this challenge together! Join our Facebook support group HERE!

Subscribe by email to catch all of our Yell-Free Year posts, join us on Facebook, and share this on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and anywhere else you can share so others can get involved!
Change starts with us, and what a positive change this will be for us all!

Watch for monthly blog posts! I'll add them below!

Blog Post #1 for the Yell Free Year Challenge!

If you would like to support, you may make a donation through the button below. All donations are greatly appreciated.

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Safety Bracelet How-To

Saturday, July 27, 2013 2 comments
I saw this idea awhile back and don't recall where, so I can't give credit to whomever thought it up. I've had the cord and beads for months, waiting for me to look up knot tying on the Internet. It's finally done and my daughter loves her new 'jewelry' and I even took pictures so I could share my hard won knot skills.

Photo of finished phone number bracelet

This is the finished product. It's my cell phone number, which is obvious upon inspection, but just looks like any beaded bracelet from a distance. It doesn't give any would-be attackers information to use to convince my daughter to go with them, but it does give someone a way to contact me if needed. I made a bracelet, but you could adapt it to hang from a ribbon you pin to clothing, too. 

Tips for Fostering Sibling Connection

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 4 comments

My firstborn was barely 2 when his baby brother was born. He was in awe those first few days, but his admiration quickly wore off. Once he realized this new person was sticking around, taking up a lot of mommy's time, he became rather upset. He ignored his brother's very existence for the following 8 or so months.

Now, they really are the best of friends. Over the years, I have found some things to be helpful in fostering their connection, and others to be detrimental to it.

Here are some mistakes I have made that fostered rivalry rather than connection:

Though I have tried to make a point not to compare my children to each other, during a time of frustrating potty training, I did utter the words "Your brother was potty trained by 2! Why are you making this so difficult?"

As you can guess, this was not helpful in either getting him potty trained or in cultivating fuzzy feelings for his brother. All it proved to do was make him feel "less than." Comparisons are relationship killers and self-esteem blows.

Behavior Charts
In the very early stages of my transition to positive parenting, when I was still aiming for a nicer way to control them, I used a behavior chart. Each one had his own chart, and what I did was this: There were 3 pegs on each chart, and from them hung squares that had smiley faces on one side and sad faces on the other. When one misbehaved, I turned over one sad face. Three sad faces resulted in a consequence, usually a time out. It seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, this very chart would probably be a viral hit on Pinterest, but it was a disaster in our house on several levels. For the sake of consistency, I'll only discuss what it did to the sibling relationship.

"You have 2 sad faces already! Ha!"
"Ooooh, you're going to time out if you get one more sad face!"

"You have 1 sad face and I don't have any!"

Yes, you can see how this induced rivalry and competition. Not good for their relationship, even worse for their behavior. This chart was an epic fail.

Separate Chore Charts
More recently, both of my boys had separate responsibility charts. Several chores or responsibilities were listed on each chart and they checked off a box when they completed the job. Again, this didn't make either child more responsible, but it did create more competition.

"Who has more check marks?"
"I have more than you! I win!"

Now here are some things that have made a positive difference in their relationship:

Acknowledge the Bond
When I stopped getting in the way by creating rivalry, their relationship naturally improved. I made a point to notice and point out when they were kind to each other or playing well together. There is something to be said for speaking out what you want to have happen in your life. I've read that in many articles about positivity, and it turns out that it works amazingly well. What you focus on, you get more of. When I focused on their rivalry, I got more of it. When I focused on their connection, things improved greatly.

Don't Tolerate Disrespect Between Siblings
I will not allow name calling, physical aggression, or other such bullying or disrespect between them. If they argue, and they do, I give them a chance to work it out peacefully themselves (because by now we've run through problem-solving MANY times and they know how to do it) and most times they say "we can solve this, mom." However, if emotions are charged and peace isn't being reached, I step in and mediate or separate them.

How do I enforce my "no disrespect" limit without punishment? I knew you were going to ask. ;)
Punishments are, simply put, something imposed on a child to make him "pay" for his wrongdoing that are generally not related to the 'offense.' Since teaching and connection are my priorities, it's quite easy to avoid punishments in favor of teaching. However, teaching sometimes means they don't like the consequence of their choice or are momentarily upset with my decision when I have to step in. Not punishing doesn't mean it's a free for all around here. I expect them to follow family rules.

If my son is physically aggressive (hits, pushes, scratches, etc) then I take him to time in. By this point, we've problem-solved and discussed alternatives so much it's not really necessary to keep doing that. He gets it. He knows what he's supposed to do and what he could have done better, but he's 4 and he doesn't always have control. I'm aware of his immature executive function. In the time in, he sits with me and I ask him how he's going to repair the rift. He always chooses make a drawing of them holding hands. He does so and takes it to his brother. They smile and hug, the rift repaired.

If they fight over the Kindle and can't come to a peaceful agreement, I take the Kindle. "Your relationship is more important than the Kindle and I won't have you fighting over it. When you come to an agreement, let me know."

We don't have issues with name calling or teasing, but I would treat that like I treat aggression. Time in, problem-solve, repair.

Create a Team Atmosphere
We're a team, and we tackle things as a team. The individual chore charts have been replaced by a team chart. They tackle jobs together, and then get a check mark for completing it together. I also create a team atmosphere through such things as family meetings where we all get equal chance to weigh in on things like vacations, weekend plans, issues, etc. We frequently talk about the importance of family. Our weekends consist of the four of us spending quality time together, laughing, playing, and having fun. Family traditions, weekend routines, and routine special occasions all foster the team/family atmosphere and loving bond between us all.

Individual Attention
When each individual child feels wholly loved and connected to his parents and an important member of the family unit, he is much less likely to bicker and fight for attention. Give each child individual time, fill his cup, take interest in what he's interested in, and maintain a strong connection with each one individually.

Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero. - Marc Brown 
A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life. - Isadora James

When Your Child Doesn't Listen

Thursday, July 4, 2013 3 comments

An excerpt from Positive Parenting in Action by Laura Ling and Rebecca Eanes, available on

Also on is The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting by Rebecca Eanes. 


Getting young children to listen and cooperate is one of the main concerns we hear from parents. Often, the very tools we use to try to gain cooperation (nagging, lecturing, and demanding) are what cause our children to tune us out. Punishments or threatened punishments may compel a child to act but doesn’t gain their cooperation and may create resentment that lessens the chances of real cooperation later.

The stronger our connection with our children, the more likely they are to want to cooperate with us. Cooperation is not the same as obeying, and it’s important to note that if you want your child to give cooperation freely, they have to have the option to not cooperate. Safety issues are non-negotiable, but keep in mind that forcing compliance erodes your connection, so it’s best used sparingly. Other areas can be examined to see if we’re insisting on things being our way when they don’t really need to be. Perhaps a common goal can be agreed upon but the path there determined by the child. You may have heard the saying “you can tell me what to do or you can tell me how to do it, but not both.”

When your child chooses not to cooperate, you should look first at your relationship. We want to help people when we feel good about them and ourselves. What can you do to repair the connections? If your relationship seems strong, you should look at what you’re requesting. Does your child have a compelling reason to not cooperate? Our agendas are not automatically our children’s agendas and they may not see the value in a clean room, or brushed teeth, or seatbelts. If I can’t think of a good reason to tell my child why to do something, it’s probably a personal preference and not something I should force on my child at the expense of our relationship.

Even highly connected children will not want to cooperate 100% of the time. There are ways to increase chances of cooperation regardless of the level of connection, though. Clearly and concisely state your request, and only phrase it as a question if you will accept “no” as an answer. “It’s time to put on your clothes” as opposed to “can you put on your clothes?”

Use a firm and respectful tone at a conversational distance. Barking commands from across the room is less effective than walking over, getting their attention, and then speaking. Being snide or mocking or condescending will almost certainly cause your child to resist, even if he’d otherwise be willing.

Look for clues to their resistance. This is where you model effective listening. After your child speaks, replay what you have understood him to mean. Don’t worry; if you get it wrong, he’ll correct you. But, if you get it right, you have valuable information, and he may even share more. Use this understanding to negotiate a solution acceptable to both of you.

Be willing to change your mind. It is not a sign of weakness to be convinced by a good argument. Your children will appreciate your flexibility and the practice of negotiating can even help protect them against peer pressure later.

Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile’ mostly describes the behavior of people who have hitherto been given only inches. ” — Alfie Kohn, “Beyond Discipline”10

Scenario #1:
Your 2 year old drew a lovely creation on your wall with a marker (washable, thankfully!) and you want to her wash it off. You direct her to do so, but she continues playing and ignores your request.

Behind the behavior: She’s 2, and playing is more fun than cleaning. She may not have actually heard you, either. Until around 3 years old, the brain may be in a different conscious state than we’re used to as adults. All stimuli are treated roughly equal, and picking out the important parts is more difficult. If you’ve ever been to a new place where you don’t speak the language, you’re close to what researchers suspect it’s like for babies and toddlers. You may miss cues such as street signs and get lost easily. You may not be able to navigate and hold a conversation at the same time.

ACTION: Make sure you have her attention first. Get down on her level and wait for her to acknowledge you. If you did this, then think about how you originally stated your request. Did you use a kind and assertive tone? Did you phrase it as a question? Asking opens up the possibility of a negative response. Did you angrily demand? Children may tune out anger and yelling as a defense mechanism. A kind and assertive request sounds like this. “Uh-oh, marker is for paper, not walls. Get a wash cloth and clean it off, please.” At 2, she is likely going to need help with this request. Remember to keep in mind what is age-appropriate in your expectations. Hand her a wash cloth and point to the wall. If she turns away, ask her if she needs help. Show her how to wipe the wall with the cloth and hand it back to her, pointing to it again, and say “Wash it off, please.”

Scenario #2:
Your 4 year old starts tugging on you and the baby when you sit down to feed him. You tell her, “It makes it more difficult to feed Bobby when you pull on us and I’m worried he might get hurt,” but she keeps pulling and grabbing. In desperation, you yell “stop!” and she does, for a moment, but now everyone is upset and she goes back to tugging on you.

Behind the behavior: Insecurity. When a child demands our attention, she needs it. Negative attention is still attention, and small children are still learning appropriate ways to get their needs met. It saddens me that parents are sometimes given the advice to not reward a child who just wants attention. We are social creatures and attention is a valid need, as much as food and sleep.

ACTION: In the moment, you will need to find a way to meet her need for attention. As a preventative measure, give her attention before she asks for it. Think about the difference between a spontaneous hug and “I love you” from someone and one that comes after you express doubts about the relationship. It tends to mean more to us when it doesn’t feel prompted.

When your two children have competing needs, one will have to wait. There is no answer that is always right; you’ll have to evaluate who has the greater or more urgent need at the time. “Sweetie, I know you need some attention from me right now. Bobby is already so hungry he’s crying. I need to feed him and then we can play whatever you want. Would you like to color next to us on the couch while you wait?”

It’s tempting to always put the new baby before the older child, who is better able to wait. But your 4 year old is still only 4 years old. “I know you’re hungry, Bobby. I’ll feed you in just a moment. Hang on for me. Sweetie, I can see you need some attention from me. Would you like a hug? Once I get Bobby settled, we can read a book, if you like.”

Later that day, seek out your 4 year old for some reconnecting. Give her your complete focus and let her determine how you spend your time together. If at all possible, let her be the one to end it, otherwise give her fair warning. “While Bobby is sleeping, I’m all yours. I’ll have to get him when he wakes up, but we can do whatever you want until then.” If that means laundry falls behind or the floors aren’t vacuumed or you have sandwiches for dinner (or all three!), that’s OK. Your child is more important than a clean house and once the crisis passes, you’ll spend less energy proactively giving positive attention than trying to reactively deal with negative attention.

Scenario #3:
Mornings are always a rush, and it seems your 6 year old is always dawdling instead of getting dressed and ready for school.

Behind the behavior: Different agendas. Children don’t run on the same time schedules we do. They have different priorities and may not understand why it is important for you to be on time.

He may also still be having difficulty with multiple step instructions, and it’s just too much for him to be fully responsible for his morning routine alone.

ACTION: It’s time to re-think the morning routine. Set him up for success by ensuring he gets adequate sleep at night and rises early enough in the morning so that you don’t have to be in a hurry. It may be helpful to set up a visual morning routine chart so that he can see exactly what needs to be done. Then, instead of nagging, you can just refer him to his chart to see what needs to be done. You can make a chart with Velcro smiley faces or a pocket to place completed cards in so that he feels a sense of accomplishment when a task is complete. You can offer him reminders, such as, “We are leaving in 15 minutes. What is left on your chart to do?” If he is still having trouble completing his tasks, you can discuss it in a family meeting and brainstorm ways to help him be successful. The goal is to put the responsibility of getting ready on him and off of you, and the more say he has in his routine, the more likely he is to comply.

However, it’s more important that you help him be successful than it is for him to get ready completely on his own. If he is not cognitively ready for the responsibility, no amount of troubleshooting will make it different. There are whole shelves at bookstores devoted to helping adults with time management and organization. You probably know at least one person (maybe it’s you) who is always losing his keys. To shame a child for not being able to do things that seem so effortless to others can impact him the rest of his life, so keep trying solutions until you find something that works for you.

I have read “positive parenting” books that advise letting your child experience the natural consequence of not getting dressed by taking him to school in his pajamas. For my son, this would be a form of public humiliation as he doesn’t even want to wear his pajamas on pajama day. While I believe sometimes it is best to allow your child to experience natural consequences for his actions, I believe you must use discretion. It is better to set your child up for success and then help him succeed.

Listening and cooperation comes through connection, consistency, and capability. Focus on strengthening your relationship so that you are securely connected, be consistent and follow through with your requests, and make sure your child is capable of completing your requests before expecting him to do so. Once the “3 C’s” are met, your child is much more likely to listen and cooperate.

All New Revised and Expanded Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting Released in Paperback!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 No comments

You asked for it, and you got it! The popular PDF The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting is now a full-length paperback! I've revised prior chapters and added 6 entirely new chapters!

Do you want to create a more positive and peaceful home? Are you tired of parenting formulas and techniques that just don't work and leave you feeling at odds with your child?

Learn the 5 principles of positive parenting and discover how to bring connection and peace back into your relationship with your child. You'll learn a new way in which to relate to your child, one which fosters connection rather than disconnection, respect rather than rebellion, and cultivates a healthy relationship which you can enjoy throughout the years. 

This is what you're getting:



One: What is Positive Parenting

Two: This is Not Permissive Parenting

Three: Changing Your Mindset

Four: Self-Regulation-Peace Starts With You

Five: Leader of the Pack

Six: Building a Positive Self-Concept

Seven: The Power of the Tongue

Eight: Teaching Tools

Nine: Consequences and Problem-Solving

Ten: Limit Enforcement Versus Punishment

Eleven: 10 Alternatives to Punishments

Twelve: 10 Things That Are More Important Than Discipline

Thirteen: Bring It Home

Fourteen: Change the World


The Power of the Tongue

Friday, June 28, 2013 No comments

The following is a sample chapter from my book, The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting, which you can purchase on Amazon


There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. - Proverbs 12:18 Holy Bible, ESV

Words are powerful. Words are especially powerful when said by parents to their children. Words have the power to build up, and words have the power to tear down.

In the last chapter, it was discussed how the words we use can either foster a positive self-concept or a negative self-concept. We can also foster connection or disconnection, elicit cooperation or rebellion, hurt or heal, depending on what we allow to come out of our mouths.

There are 4 words that a child should hear regularly. These 4 simple words will take root in a child's heart and bless him his entire life.

I believe in you.

When your child is facing something difficult, “You will overcome this. I believe in you.”

When your child is successful, “I knew you could do it. I believe in you.”

When your child has misbehaved, “You'll make this right. I believe in you.”

When we believe in them, they learn to believe in themselves, and that is a priceless gift to give them. We all long to have at least one person in our corner, no matter what, who we know believes the best in us. A parent should be that one person.

Other words that plant positive seeds which will spring forth self-worth in your child's heart:

I see you.

In the age of distractions, our children need to know that we see them, truly see them.

I see you being kind to your sister.”
I see you taking good care of your things.”
I see you swinging high.”
I see you doing your best on your homework.”

Childhood is so fleeting, and although in the thick of busy days and restless nights, it seems it will drag on forever, the reality is it will be over with all too soon. Ask any parent of grown children how quickly it happens. Leave the distractions behind for a while each day and just look.

You matter.

You matter more than the mess.”
You matter more than the phone.”
You matter more than the broken vase.”
You matter more than my in-box.”

When you've had one call after another and your little one is tugging on your shirt, remember what really matters. When the milk is splattered all over the floor and those little eyes are looking at you for your reaction, remember what really matters. It takes 5 minutes to clean up spilled milk; it takes much longer to clean up a broken spirit.

I believe in you.
I see you, love.
You matter.

Tell them often and watch them flourish.

Positive Parenting in Action Released in Paperback!

Thursday, June 27, 2013 No comments

You asked, and we delivered! You can now get Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide for Putting Positive Parenting Principles into Action in Early Childhood in paperback!

We are so excited about this release! Are you tired of parenting books that only tell you what you shouldn't be doing? Finally, here is a book that shows you how to put the philosophy of positive parenting into practice! This book walks you through more than 40 scenarios for such behaviors as tantrums, aggression, whining, lying, back talk, sibling rivalry, and much more!

Here is the Table of Contents:

Part One – Positive Parenting in Theory
Part Two – Positive Parenting in Action

Hitting/Aggressive Behavior: A Sample Chapter from Positive Parenting in Action

The following is a sample chapter from our new book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide for Putting Positive Parenting Principles into Action in Early Childhood


First, it is important to understand that children who are aggressive are children who are scared, hurt, or feeling disconnected. Small children with limited language and self-awareness lack the sophistication to tell us what is bothering them or maybe even know themselves. Aggression in older children can be a cover-up of those more vulnerable feelings, especially if they have not been taught how to express them appropriately.
I would like to also add that children under the age of 6 don't yet have full access to higher brain functions which allow them to pause and reason. When a young child becomes scared or hurt or is feeling disconnected, they go into that 'fight or flight' mode, operating out of their brain stem, and have little control over their actions. It is for this reason that an aggressive child needs help, not punishment.

Scenario #1:
Your 3 year old has become aggressive toward her baby sister. She tries to hit her and push her over. You're concerned she's really going to hurt the baby. 

Behind the behavior: Jealousy, probably. It's hard sharing mom and dad, especially when you used to have them all to yourself. She may fear being ‘replaced’ by the baby and doesn’t understand the demands put on the parents. From her perspective, nothing good has come of this new person entering the house.

1. Set a limit. (“I won’t let you hit.”)

2. Offer empathy and acceptance of her feelings. (“You are disappointed.”)
3. Let her discharge her feelings by crying with your comfort.

4. Help her explore ways to shift her mood.

To expand on this a bit, you will take her safely away from the baby, get down eye-level with her, and set the limit – “I won’t let you hit” (or push, or bite). It is important to acknowledge her feelings of anger or frustration or jealousy that caused her to hit. "You're feeling upset at the baby. Are you upset that I was holding her?" or "She grabbed your toy and that made you angry." Your child is hurting, even though she may look like she isn't. She needs to know it's safe to show her feelings. Tell her it's OK to be angry, and it’s OK to cry, and that you will keep everyone safe. If she melts down in your arms, she is healing. Let her get her emotions out while you provide comfort. After the incident is over and everyone is calm, address the reason behind the behavior.

1. Spend special one-on-one time with each child. Let her pick the activity. Connect with her. She needs to know that she is still just as loved as before, even if you think she already knows.

2. Teach appropriate ways to handle anger. You can do this by talking it through, modeling it, role-playing, puppet shows, books, or stories.

3. Don't punish her for hitting. At 3, remember she didn't have the cognitive resources to stop and think about her actions logically. Teaching her how to handle her anger will serve her much better than punishing her for handling it wrong.
4. Read books to her about babies and about being a big sister. Scenario #2:
Your 19 month old is a biter. He has just bitten another child at a play date.

Behind the behavior: It depends on what was happening at the play date. It could be frustration, anger, hurt feelings, or fear. Toddlers, even very verbal ones, know many more words than they can say. When something triggers a primal emotion, they will have access to even fewer words. Because the mouth is central to learning at this age, biting is a common expression of discomfort.

ACTION: Remember the steps above. Remove your child to safety, make sure the child bitten is OK, and then set or reinforce your limit. "I won’t let you bite." Validate his feelings; empathize with his upset. "You got mad because he took your truck. I see you're mad, but it’s not OK to bite. Biting hurts." Let your child express his emotion safely, and problem-solve later. The reason I suggest not talking about appropriate alternatives during the time it happens is because children do not take information in well 'when they are in 'fight or flight" mode or are upset. They are much more likely to learn and retain information when they are calm.

Don't bite him to show him how it feels. You'd be surprised at how many parents would advise you to do this. Remember, you are the model for appropriate behavior!

Scenario #3:
You got a call from school. Your 6 year old son punched another student for calling him a bad name. 

Behind the behavior: Anger, obviously, and lack of ability to control his actions.

ACTION: While a 6 year old is getting better at managing his anger, this is sometimes hard for adults to do, so it isn't surprising that a child hasn't mastered this yet. When you pick him up from school, you're going to have to control your own anger. Model! Reserve judgment and ask him what happened. Empathize with his hurt feelings at being called a name. It does hurt! Now, because this is not a toddler, you may be tempted to punish or give him a consequence, but that isn't going to solve the problem or teach him how to handle a situation like this better the next time. It's time to problem-solve. Let him do most of the problem-solving with your guidance as needed. You might ask:

1. How can you fix what you've done because the student you punched is hurt, too? If he doesn't come up with an answer, offer a few alternatives, such as call and apologize or write an apology letter.

2. What can you do the next time you get called a name or there is a confrontation? Let him brainstorm. It's good if he comes up with alternatives on his own. If he draws a blank, help him out. You may suggest he walk away, work it out with words, or get help from an adult if the situation requires it.

Aggressive behavior is very common in young children and peaks from ages 2-6. While this is a common phase kids go through, it is our responsibility to set appropriate limits and teach alternatives. Discipline is always about teaching them right, not punishing the wrong. With empathy and loving guidance, your child will learn appropriate ways to handle her emotions, and this phase will become a distant memory.

Click here to get the book!

Copyright 2012 by Rebecca Eanes and Laura Ling. All Rights Reserved.

Praise Vs Encouragement: Encouraging Words for Kids - Guest Post by Luschka James

Monday, June 10, 2013 No comments

This is a guest post by Luschka James of Diary of a First Child

A new Facebook follower, Kelly Bartlett , recently caught my attention when I saw her title as ‘writer’. I followed her profile till I found a book she’d written, Encouraging Words For Kids. I then found it on Amazon for Kindle and read it and it was so good, I want to share it with you. (Click here to find it on Amazon UK and here for Amazon US*)

First, let me explain why I’m awestruck by this book.

I’ve never understood the point of people who don’t praise their children. I’ve always thought it a bit cold, and mean-spirited, and to be honest, quite damaging. Encouraging Words for Kids explains the whole ‘no praise’ philosophy so incredibly well, and rather than being a difficult study in human development, it offers alternatives and is so practical in it’s presentation, I find myself quite taken aback by it. Honestly, if all things parenting could be laid out so clearly, there would be a whole lot less unhappiness between parents!
The book consists of about 35 pages, and is super easy to read, so it won’t take long, doesn’t include a lot of unnecessary waffle, but is straight to the point and informative. Each chapter explains the why, and then it offers suggestions of phrases you could use, and finally, a real life example of an actual interaction between a parent and child, which I found really helpful.

The amazing thing for me is that while I was reading it, I started putting it into practice with three year old Ameli, and guess what? It really worked! Ameli often starts things – craft projects, playing games and so on, and just as often ends abruptly, a few minutes into playing: especially if I comment on how good she’s being and how well she’s playing on her own. I thought that it was the fact that I was drawing attention to my not engaging with her at that time that made her stop, but now I realise that’s not the case. In this particular example – similar to one in the book – Ameli was busy drawing a train. She drew the wheels and showed me her picture. Rather than my usual “that’s good darling”, cueing the end of her drawing I said something like, “Those are enough wheels for a very big train. What else do you think a train needs?”
As I understand it, she saw that I was interested, she saw that I had noticed what she’d done well, and she was able to think for herself what else the train needed. She came back each time after adding something to the train, but she eventually was talking to herself, saying things like – I think the train needs a whistle, and I think it needs a chimney.

I was awestruck how well it had worked and how much my first attempt had gotten out of her. And she was so proud of her train in the end too, and when she believed she was finished with it I was able to say how much I liked her train (rather than just ‘that’s nice’ or ‘well done’ to an unfinished set of wheels.)
Encouraging Words For Kids points out one of the problems with praise being temporary, short lived and that it creates in a child the need for constant affirmation, rather than being able to find approval of their actions within themselves.
“Simple praise feels good in the moment, but to have a long lasting effect, it must be constantly provided”
In contrast, encouragement communicates “unconditional acceptance between parents and children and have long lasting value.

As I’ve said before, I’ve never understood why you wouldn’t want to praise your child’s actions, but I realised in reading Encouraging Words For Kids that it’s not about that at all! Rather, its about making the praise have longer term effects.
 “After all, that’s why he’s showing you his achievements. It’s not because he needs an evaluation of his work, it’s because he’s proud of himself. So focus on his pride – not yours”
I think Bartlett allays all my fears about not praising my children, and sums the whole crux of why encouragement over praise is so important up in two paragraphs:
“By opting for encouragement over praise, you’re not ignoring your children’s accomplishments or communicating that they don’t matter. Encouragement is simply about keeping your responses focused on a child’s efforts and feelings as opposed to the outcomes of the behavior.
Encouraging words not only reassure kids during times of success, but also in times of disappointment. Instead of looking to a parent for affirmation, kids are able to decide how they feel about themselves and what they need to do. Their failures and successes, as they should be, are about them and not anyone else.”
There are so many paragraphs from this book that I could share with you, but I think I’ll leave it there for now. What I will tell you is that it has entirely changed my perceptions on praise, and has explained an entire theory in a very easy to read, 35-ish page book, and halfway through reading I’ve been able to identify changes to make, implement those changes, and immediately see results in my three year old.


Product description
Encouraging Words for Kids gives parents over 150 examples of phrases to say that inspire a child’s confidence and self-motivation. Encouragement is about drawing forth a child’s own drive to work hard and do what’s right without being told; this book shows you how to get there. It is a guide that parents can turn to again and again whenever they need a dose of inspiration in creating positive communication with their kids.

About the author
Kelly Bartlett is a parent educator and writer with a focus on child development, family relationships, and discipline. She holds a BA in biology and secondary education as well as two additional certifications as a parent educator with The Positive Discipline Association and a leader with Attachment Parenting International. Kelly’s articles have been published in parenting magazines all over the world, and she is a regular contributor for Green ChildNurture, and Attached Family magazines on the topic of positive discipline. She blogs at

Why We Explode and How To Prevent It - Guest Post by Genevieve Simperingham

Friday, June 7, 2013 No comments

natural phenomena

This is a guest post by Genevieve Simperingham of the Peaceful Parenting Institute

In my parent coaching work I like to talk about anger and rage and how common the tendency to explode (or implode!) really is in families.  Anger is a very real and daily challenge for most parents as they juggle the various wants and needs in the family; their child’s anger, their partner’s anger, their own anger.  Anger is an emotion that’s especially difficult to bear; it can feel scary and larger than life.  It can be hard to admit to feeling angry, even to ourselves, and hard to feel that we deserve support and empathy – but we always do.  Much hurt, harm and damage happens as a result of pent up anger, yet the emotion itself is not to blame, in fact empathy for ourselves and empathy for our child is the antidote to aggression and overwhelm.

Parents get angry when … they feel confused about how to best respond to difficult behaviours like aggression in the family.  They need the skills.  Anger can rise with speed and fury when unresolved emotion or trauma becomes activated.  Healing is needed.  Parents get angry when the emotional, physical and financial needs outweigh the resources and they feel unsupported by family and community.  It really does take a village.  Overall, anger usually signifies an overwhelming backlog of unmet needs.

How quickly conflicts spark and escalate.  On any particularly busy day, parents can feel stressed and stretched by the demands of endless jobs and tight time constraints, stress rises as the pressures mount.  Then if you turn and ask your child to do a couple of simple tasks like washing teeth, getting dressed, but they either ignore you or flat out refuse, that tide of anger can rise up.  Your child’s refusal seems completely unreasonable!  Despite trying to control your tone, you snap, you child snaps back.  Boom!  Conflict escalates!  You can’t help wishing your child understood how minimal your demands are compared to when you were their age!

Breaking the cycles of ‘stress-passing’ in the family.  We can, and need to,  learn constructive communication, conflict resolution and problem solving skills.  Yet we need the patience, clarity and confidence to put them into practice.  Becoming mindful of our emotional triggers that relate back to our childhood and then owning, exploring and resolving these emotions forms the foundation of peaceful parenting.

The stress response.  When we become triggered, something in the present reminds us at an unconscious level of something in the past that’s still unresolved and held as tension in the body.  In reaction to our child, all of a sudden stress soars, anger rises, muscles tighten, we fixate on problems, become inflexible, and lose our ability to empathize.  Without realizing it we’re caught in the fight/flight/freeze stress response and there’s no time to sit and listen when things feel this urgent.  In these moments we act more from a hurt child place than a conscious adult place.

In the traditional parenting model, parents attempt to regain control by overpowering their child with that look, by threatening punishments, withdrawing privileges, yelling and ultimatums.  But parents who are working hard to not yell or coerce often face strong surges of emotion that need containing to avoid spilling their stress over onto their child.  Stopping in our tracks and owning and managing our feelings takes a LOT more skill than simply threatening kids into compliance.  It’s in the most challenging moments when pressures are sky high that parents face the need to skillfully surf the tides of emotions that threaten to swamp them.

Getting back on track.  When committed to more peaceful and respectful communication, we need to view our yelling and exploding as our cue to self-regulate; to come back to feeling like we can, not just escape acting from a powerless hurt child state, but become firmly grounded in our calm, confident adult self.  Perhaps we need some non-judgmental listening, meditation, relaxation, we need to reconnect with our self and reconnect with our child.  We just know that things are not going to get back on track with our child until we slow down and release the pressure from us both.  But how do we do that?

Mindfulness.  Becoming more mindful of our triggers plays a big part in parenting from the heart with more connection and patience. It can be valuable to take time to reflect on the things that your child does that can really trigger/activate some big feelings in you and explore what’s familiar about these situations?  For instance, if your child ignoring you is a trigger, does it evoke familiar feelings from your childhood years?  When triggered, words can pour out of our mouths that shock us to hear, often the same words that hurt so much as a child.  It’s a kind of unconscious re-enactment.  The more conscious we become of our triggers, the more we can mobilize and resolve these packages of pain inside and begin to bring conscious awareness to the process as it’s happening, or about to happen and change direction.  I developed my Stress Relief for Parents CD with this whole subject in mind.  The tracks equip the listener with exercises to help them resolve difficult feelings, gain insights into what unresolved emotions are being triggered and offers a blissful 15 minute body relaxation.

It’s okay not to feel okay.  When our child’s behaviour triggers a highly emotional response, by increasing our mindfulness of our reactions, we gain an opportunity to bring compassion to some sore feelings that need and deserve attention.  There’s a lot of power in observing the sensations in our body and recognizing the feelings that get activated at these times and where those feelings are held within the body.  We may identify feelings of sadness, overwhelm, perhaps fears or feelings of inadequacy.  The trigger might be your child’s resistance, lack of responsiveness, their lack of affection, their affection for their other parent, aggression, tantrums, neediness, their response to sleep, food, chores, school.  Something is experienced as familiar at a body instinctive level, feelings open in your body memory that your conscious mind was previously unaware of.

When we’re triggered, it can feel as if the hurt inner child is competing with our child’s feelings with sentiments of; “nobody cares about MY needs/ resentments/ frustrations/ disappointments/ grief”.  Such inner conflict can be very uncomfortable, but be assured that if you’ve even started to become aware of such internal reactions, you’re well on the road to breaking the cycles of disconnection and well on the road to claiming more peace of mind and heart for yourself and your child.

Listening heals.  Counselling and psychotherapy can be a great way to explore and resolve stuck feelings and patterns from the past that prevent growth in the present.  Counselling or organized listening partnerships differ from chatting with friends in that it gives you the chance to really drop into exploring where the related feelings are held in the body.  Crying can feel so very cleansing and relieving when the space is held by a calm, patient, wise and empathic listener.  Their acceptance of your feelings helps you listen to yourself to glean the deeper insights and resolve feelings that previously felt so unmovable like the big rage and grief that can compromise your clarity and confidence daily.

Taking the pressure off.  Parents carry so much stress and fear around getting to sleep, school, work, daycare or swimming lessons on time.  Children don’t and can’t function well within a busy time pressured timetable.  In aiming to lower the stress levels in the family, parents often realize that everyone is living under more pressure than they can sustain and it calls for a re-evaluation of their lifestyle.  It’s good to talk about down time and de-stressing, to model taking rests, reading, playing, meditating, support your kids to have free play time, time to day dream, time in nature, time to find and follow their interests.

Self-regulation skills.  As well as therapy, there are many self-regulation and self-healing skills that everyone can learn that really help to restore peace and calm when strong emotions threaten to dominate the scene.  I’ll share with you some of the tools that work for me and for many parents that I help:

Reconnecting with your heart. This simple act of putting your hand on your heart and asking; “what am I feeling, what do I need?” helps us reconnect with our inner world in a positive way. The response might be “I feel stressed!  I feel angry!  I need to slow down,  I need to ask for help, I need to cross something off today’s list of activities.”  Try it!

“Name it to tame it” is a phrase coined by author and psychiatrist Dr Daniel Siegel.  There’s a lot of power in simply naming what we’re feeling.  When we tell our child “you’re making me so angry”, we give them the message that they control how we feel and it’s their responsibility to keep us happy.  Whereas, when we say “I feel angry, I really need to slow down and relax”, we show them that we can not only identify and be honest about how we feel, but also take responsibility and relieve them of responsibility for our feelings.  This really is fantastic modelling for our children.  The child who can clearly express that they’re angry is more likely to seek support and less likely to take their anger out on others.  I love how, in response to inquiring “you seem really stressed, what do you need?” my children often reply with simple expressions like “I’m angry”, “I feel overwhelmed”, “everything feels really hard at the moment”, “I feel like I need to scream”. When such feelings are expressed, accepted and understood, the emotional charge can dissipate significantly.

Positive self-talk.  We tend to respond to our emotions with similar words and messages that our parents responded to our emotions.  Becoming mindful of our self-talk and consciously practicing empathic and supportive messages, we begin to re-parent ourselves.  Being kind to ourselves creates the foundation for kindness to others.  For example instead of berating yourself for feeling angry and overwhelmed, you might say to yourself “it’s OK, this is just a tough moment, it’s okay to feel what I’m feeling”.

Simply sitting. There’s a Chinese proverb that says “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”  Even though anger can give us physical super powers, attacking the housework in a manic passive aggressive frenzy can be pretty scary and overwhelming for our kids and isn’t the best modelling!  When we become overly stressed, our system becomes flooded with stress hormones, everything speeds up, our breathing, our thinking becomes irrational, our tone of voice intensifies and we speak faster, which every child knows to be a warning sign!  Simply sitting down in an arm chair or even lying on the ground or the grass slows everything down, totally changes the dynamic with our child and gives us a chance to emotionally re-stabilize.  This modelling teaches our children what they can do in overwhelm.

Visualizing a red stop sign.  To help you hold back from speaking words or taking action that you’ll later regret and need to repair with your child, if you just remember one thing, remember a red stop sign.  When feeling emotionally charged, it’s hard to remember the theory, but the brain responds very well to visual messages and bringing to mind a red stop sign, or even better creating or printing a drawing to put up on the wall, may help you stop and slow down enough to begin to remember some more positive things you can do.  If you draw or print one, you could write some key reminder words on it like; “breathe”, “centre”, “de-stress”.

Fresh air brings a fresh perspective.  When stresses rise in the family, the walls can start to close in, everywhere we look jobs demand our attention.  Being in nature helps us decompress and relax. The sights, sounds and smells of nature remind us of life’s small pleasures and help to put things back in perspective.  Most people can literally feel the stress starting to drain away when they put their bare feet on the earth.  Looking up at the sky, looking out to nature helps us lift up and out of the scenario that we’ve got ourselves tightly wound into.

I can see clearly now … Once we return to a calm state, many options open up.  We again remember our child’s goodness and can reconnect and repair after conflicts.  Our child feels and experiences our emotional storms and instinctively protects themselves by muffling the communication. Yet when a parent restores calm inviting communication, their child’s usually right there waiting for them, power struggles dissipate and warmth, connection, cooperation and humour return to the scene.  I also recommend buying the recorded audio download of a “Getting Back on Track – Why we Explode” teleseminar on the same subject with myself and Patty Wipfler of Hand in Hand Parenting.

I also recommend reading this blog post: “Parenting Help: Burn-out Can Be Lightened by Listening” on the Hand In Hand blog.

About the author: Genevieve is the founder of the Peaceful Parent Institute in New Zealand. She is an Aware Parenting Instructor, a Heart to Heart Parenting Facilitator and Beyond Consequences Instructor. Genevieve is an International speaker, who over the last twenty years has presented hundreds of courses and weekend residential workshops in parenting, self-healing, meditation and personal development. She shares her in-depth study of many experts in the fields of early childhood development, personal development, attachment and neuroscience. Genevieve brings to her work the culmination of many years of various trainings in the fields of parenting, counselling, emotional healing, personal growth, family systems, energy healing and medicine wheel work.