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