How to Raise a Problem-Solver

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 4 comments

We want our children to be able to recognize problems and have the initiative to tackle the issue and find a solution. Yet most conventional parenting practices involve parents solving the problem for the child. Methods such as spanking, time-out, and removal of privileges put the problem in the parents' hands, considering the problem solved when the punishment is issued. This causes parents to “police” their child's behavior continuously because the child isn't learning how to solve his own problems or correct his own mistakes.

I believe we need to give the problem to whom it belongs – the child. Otherwise, how will she learn to solve them without constant parental direction? Here are 4 questions to ask your child each time a problem arises that will help her grow to be a problem-solver.

What caused you to do this?

This question gets children thinking about the relationship between their environment and their actions. “What caused you to hit your sister?” “What caused you to get a bad grade this semester?” “What caused you to leave your room a mess?” We want to get children thinking about cause and effect and understand how feelings affect their behavior so that they can learn to make better choices in the moment.

What was the outcome of your choice?

This question serves two purposes. It teaches the child that their behavior is always a choice that they made (whether there was provocation or not, the choice was their's), and it builds empathy because they begin to see the affect their choice has had on those around them. “Look at your sister's face. How did hitting her make her feel? How do you feel about that?” “Would you have lost your baseball glove if you'd have kept things in their place?” “When you don't do your chores, how does it affect the rest of the family?” The point is to help them see their actions don't only affect them but others as well.

What could you have done differently?

Here is where the child brainstorms better options or is taught better options by the parent or caregiver. Here's what this may look like so far:

“What caused you to push your brother down?”

“He took my toy. I was mad.”

“What was the outcome of your choice to push him down?”

“He's crying.”

“Yes, he's crying because that hurt him and made him sad. What could you have done differently?” 

“I don't know.”

“Let's think about it. You could have asked me for help when he took your toy. You could have chosen to let him play with it and picked another toy for yourself. You could have taken a deep breath and asked him to give your toy back. Which choice will you make next time?"

How are you going to fix this?

This question puts the responsibility for solving this problem squarely on the child's shoulders...continue reading at Creative Child

The Changing Seasons of Motherhood

I remember the season when I had two tiny ones under my feet all day long, and the days were long. The nights were often even longer. It was a season filled with wild emotions, exhaustion, unbelievable joy, discovery, and what felt like a never­-ending marathon of diaper changes. I was very often bleary­-eyed from another night of waking with multiple children or teary­-eyed from seeing my firstborn son give his brother a gentle kiss on his head while he slept.

I captured a lot of miracle moments in that season, but I also wished too many away. I used to wish they were out of diapers. I used to wish they'd just sleep through the night. I used to wish for a bit of “me time.”

There were nights when I would lie down with them until they fell asleep, and I would be entirely present in that moment, running my fingers through silky hair as I told them story after story. Those were beautiful nights.

Then, of course there were other nights when I just wanted to be done. I felt frustrated that they couldn't go to sleep on their own, and I questioned every parenting decision I'd made up to that point. Those were wasted nights. I accept grace for those nights. I am only human, after all. What felt like the season that would never end suddenly did.

I realized recently that I can no longer pick up my youngest son. He's too big. Too heavy. When did that happen? When was the last time I sat him down off my hip? My oldest son is nearly half way to adulthood now. Wasn't he just under my feet, asking me to play trains while I was trying to feed his baby brother?

If you are in a tough season, I want to offer you some encouragement today. I know it feels like she will never be potty trained or that he will never sleep through the night. I know you wonder if he will ever stop hitting or start sharing. You lie down at night weary from the day, unable to rest because you feel guilty for yelling.

You wonder if you are doing anything right. You are. You're doing just fine because you care enough to wonder. This season will pass, and while I won't tell you to enjoy every second because that is pretty ridiculous. I will advise you to be intentional about being present and capturing as many beautiful memories as you can, because in no time at all, those memories are all you will have of this season.

I'm in a brand new season now – a season of cub scout camp outs and baseball games. My big boys don't need me to get them to sleep anymore. Some nights I kiss them goodnight and go to my own bed, grab a book, and think of how relaxing and nice it is to have some time for me. Oh, but there are other nights, mama. Nights when I lie there listening to them giggle with each other in their room, and tears silently fall to my pillow because they don't need me to get them to sleep anymore. They need me just a little less than they used to. And that's okay – that means they're growing, but I would like for them to grow a bit slower.

These days I find myself making new wishes. I wish they were back in diapers. I wish I could still rock them to sleep .....continue reading at Creative Child

8 Tips to Ignite Your Child's Love of Learning

Children naturally love to learn. Unfortunately, that love often gets stripped away by middle childhood as learning becomes competitive, directed, and overwhelming. Whether your child attends school outside the home or is home educated, these 10 tips will help ignite (or fan the flame of) your child's love of learning.

1. Let them see your love of learning! We know that we are our child's first teacher, and we have a tremendous influence on their worldview. Find your own passions and pursue your own interests. Talk to your child each day about something new you've learned or questions you plan on seeking the answers to.

2. Be enthusiastic about your child's interests. This is not only a wonderful way to connect with a child but to also fuel their passions. If you don't understand why your child loves a particular interest, get curious and ask questions. Discuss it in depth so that you really understand your child's view and feelings.

3. Read books - a lot! Reading aloud is especially beneficial as it increases vocabulary and comprehension, improves reading and listening skills, and sharpens your child's focus. Read lots of great classic literature and poetry which exposes your child to a whole wide world of wonder and beauty.

4. Allow plenty of free play. Today's children are often overscheduled and overwhelmed, leaving little time for free play and exploration. Not only does play do wonders for your child's brain, it also offers opportunity for your child to discover her interests. If a child is directed in school all day, and then spends the evening in more directed activities, there is nearly no time to discover what she really loves.

5. Expose him to a variety of experiences. Listen to different genres of music, show her different forms of art, read a variety of books, and play thinking games. Visit museums, see some live shows, and explore parks! When learning is a natural part of living and exploring, your child can't help but love it!

6. Focus on the process, not the outcome. Maybe she's really interested in dance, but struggles with getting the steps down. Let her know that trying her best and having fun matters more than dancing perfectly. Be a supportive encourager, but don't push too hard. It can be difficult not to get caught up in our own dreams and goals for them, which sometimes leads us to push when we should let go. Be mindful of which goals are theirs and which are yours.

35 Things Positive Parents Can Do to Reduce Sibling Rivalry

I am delighted to welcome Sumitha Bhandarkar to Positive Parents today. Sumitha is the creator of A Fine Parent, one of my favorite resources!


As parents we all have certain dreams for our children. We want them to be happy. We hope they will be kind, gentle and well-liked. We wish for their positive growth and success. Equally important, parents with more than one child dream that the kids will grow up to be friends for life – supporting and being there for each other even after we are long gone. So, when we see them squabbling and bickering all the time instead of playing together blissfully (like we had fantasized), it’s a little unsettling. And tempting to rage on, punish or in some other way force them to get along. That never really works though, does it? You can’t force two (or more) people to like each other and get along well simply by dictating they should. So, what can we parents do then? I’ve put together a list of 35 simple things below that we parents can do to encourage our kids to get along better and establish a nurturing sibling bond that stands the test of time. These are great ways to positively and gradually alleviate sibling rivalry. Try some of these and see how it goes –
  1. Avoid comparison between kids
  2. Commit to a blame-free household
  3. Encourage kids to find win-win solutions
  4. Avoid labeling the kids
  5. Celebrate each child’s individual successes separately
  6. Make failure palatable
  7. Encourage teamwork – be it with chores or at play
  8. Make it a point to spend some one-on-one time with each child
  9. Do as many things together as a family as possible (grocery trips, visiting extended family, volunteering etc.)
  10. Institute zero-tolerance policy towards unkindness, name-calling, being hurtful to each other, etc.
  11. Be respectful towards the other parent – kids do pick up a lot from how we treat others in our lives
  12. Teach kids to set, and respect, each other’s boundaries
  13. Do not interrupt happy play
  14. Have a couple of games stashed away that they love to play together, for times when they start to drive each other up the wall
  15. Commit to non-punitive positive parenting – if they see you punishing them when they are wrong, they will fall back on “punishing” each other when they feel slighted
  16. Acknowledge often how lucky you are to have each other
  17. Encourage enthusiastically when you notice kids helping each other
  18. Buy material things based on need (just because the child who joined soccer gets a new pair of soccer shoes does not mean the other child who is not interested in soccer should get it too), but lavish love unconditionally
  19. Create memory books with happy pictures and handwritten notes that you can look at on days when things go downhill
  20. Create a gratitude jar where kids leave notes for siblings (and parents!) when they are happy with something the others have done for them. Mark a special day (eg. Valentine’s day) to read the notes out loud
  21. Let kids help with household chores, home improvement projects, gardening etc. Everyday moments of doing things together strengthens the bonds
  22. Establish the rule of repairs – if one child hurts the other, intentionally or accidentally, he must do what he can to repair the situation. Don’t insist on (empty) apologies
  23. When one child is hurt let the other kids help with the healing (even if they are responsible for the hurt, particularly if they are responsible for the hurt)
  24. Make sure each child has some physical space which is all their own, even if it is a small space at the corner of the desk
  25. Teach them to recognize their own strengths and live up to it, so they can be proud of each other’s accomplishments, without feeling pressured to live up to the other person’s strengths
  26. Teach them good listening skills so they can be supportive of each other
  27. Make sure every child has a voice, and their voice is heard
  28. Try to have at least one meal together as a family where each child is acknowledged
  29. Teach them to disagree with each other and negotiate respectfully
  30. Encourage games that require them to work with each other
  31. For competitive games, whenever possible, pit them together against you (the parents)
  32. Discourage tattling or telling on each other, unless it is a real emergencies. Help them see what constitute as real emergencies and teach them to sort the rest out by themselves
  33. Encourage them to get things out in the open and communicate, rather than harbor misgivings and grudges
  34. Work towards improving the emotional intelligence of each child
  35. Establish a daily bonding routine – eg. Kissing each other good night every night, or a hug goodbye each day before they go to school etc.
While all these will help alleviate sibling rivalry, it is just not possible to entirely eliminate it. Conflicts are a part of day-to-day life and the best we can do is teach kids to handle these conflicts effectively. Here is an infographic on how to deal with sibling rivalry effectively that discusses more ideas about conflict resolution and if/when you should get involved when conflicts arise. (You can download a free printable version here). How to Effectively Deal With Sibling Rivalry

About the Author:
Sumitha Bhandarkar is the creator of, an exclusive community for parents who believe that great parents are made, not born. If one of your life goals is to be a better person and a better parent, she invites you to join her and the A Fine Parent community in their slow and steady quest for personal and parenting excellence.

Positive Strategies for Better Behaved Kids

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 1 comment

Children, like all human beings, behave better when they feel good about themselves and the world around them. As a social species, we all need to be seen, heard, understood, loved, and connected. When those needs are met – when our hearts are content – we all do better.
Think about a few times when you weren't on your best behavior. Maybe you yelled at your children or said some hurtful words to your partner. Chances are, one or more of those needs weren't being met for you at that time. As parents, we can proactively foster good behavior by being intentional about seeing, hearing, understanding, loving, and connecting with our kids.

Stop and See
Take some time every day to really look at your child. Notice her trying to do things on her own. Notice how he shared a toy with his sibling. Comment on what it is that you see.

“I saw you give your truck to your friend to play with. That was so kind.”
“I love the outfit your picked out for yourself today! What nice colors!”

We are so quick to see and comment on what they do wrong. If we can get into the habit of being just as quick at seeing and commenting on what they do well, we will see them blossom.

Children chatter all day long, and believe me, I know sometimes you just want to tune them out. Their latest video game achievement or another rendition of “Let It Go” isn't the most exciting for us to hear, but it's important to them. Take the time to hear what they have to say, because you'll really want to be in the loop in a few years, and you want them to know you'll listen.

It can be oh-so tempting to brush off a child's seemingly over-the-top emotional waves. “It's not that big of a deal!” or “There's no reason to cry about it!” are common responses, especially when the trigger of their upset seems so trivial to us, like the wrong sippy cup. I think we are afraid of creating little drama kings and queens if we show empathy for big feelings that well up over small matters. But, the truth is that the feelings are going to well up either way, and while we don't have to change the cup, we can at least let them know we understand those feelings - because certainly we have felt them too at some point. In fact, talking about them is a great way to teach emotional intelligence.

Speak Their Language
Have you heard of the Five Love Languages for Children? They are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. While all of these communicate love to every child (really every human!), each person has a primary love language, one in particular that really speaks love to them. Once you know their primary love language, you can make adjustments to fill your child's love tank. For example, my oldest son's primary love language is words of affirmation, closely followed by quality time. With that knowledge I was able to put more intention into affirming words and finding ways for us to spend one-on-one time together, which really improved our connection.

Make Connection Top Priority
Connection is the parenting key. Connecting with your child engages the upper brain where reasoning, logic, and empathy take place. The result is a better behaved child, who wants to please you because you're so close. Looking for ways to connect? Read this article for 10 ways to connect with your child.

If poor behavior is a problem, take the one month challenge. Commit to seeing, hearing, understanding, showing love, and connecting with your child every day for one month. I think you'll be amazed at the positive changes you see!
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