Planting Seeds

As parents we are always planting, sowing and harvesting seeds through our actions and behaviors. We want to be sure we are planting seeds we want to see flourish, and not weeds that we will have to yank up later.

Plant the Seeds of Calm: We need to manage our anger (not eradicate, or pretend it isn’t there). Click for a 3 part blog posting about anger. We help our kids identify and manage their anger as well. Not ‘letting’ kids get angry is not getting rid of their anger - it’s usually planting seeds of feeling suppression (eek!). Calm grows in a soil of routine and predictibility with lots of buffer space in our calendar, our clutter and our minds.

Plant the Seeds of Independence: Chores and self-care are great ways to sow the seeds of independence. Be aware we must be willing to endure our kid’s mistakes as they are learning. Independence comes at the cost of trial and error, mess and slowness. Best if they make a bunch of cheap mistakes when we are around to help them clean up. We don’t want to send them off to college and have to experience the inevitable hard knocks of life with no experience.

Plant the Seeds of Order: Routine is a calming, relationship building, overlooked, hard to start, irritating to maintain parenting tool. AND, we would all be well served with solid, reasonable, respectful, age appropriate routines. The up front effort to start a routine is immense AND pays off in spades when you magically find your child mindlessly unpacking their lunch box and plopping their tupperware in the dishwasher (it can happen!).

Plant the Seeds of Connection: Connection comes through communication. The most important and overlooked kind of communication is listening. Our kids behave from what they think and believe, the don’t behave from what we told them to think and believe, and they don’t behave from what we think they think and believe. Best way to change/modify/impact behavior - find out what they think and believe by asking open ended questions and listening.

Plant the Seeds of Love: Have fun together! I believe the glue of long lasting relationships is problems and fun. Life throws us problems - no need to go and create anymore, but FUN we need plan form, make time for and be open to. Anchor your weekends with a goody or two - maybe a family walk in the park for you and a lunch at Chuck E. Cheese for them. A good laugh over a tv show or a hilarious YouTube video can give you stress relief, bonding and something fun to talk about besides how controlling you are and how messy they are.

Plant the Seeds of Discipline: Discipline and freedom go hand in hand. Some of us a are too stingy with the freedom and some are too lax about the discipline. We want to balance these two out. When we give a freedom, what’s the new responsibility and when we hand over a responsibility, where is the new freedom? Click here for some examples on HOW to do this!

Plant the Seeds of Growth: It’s a paradox, the more our kids need us, the more we need to focus on self-care. When things get stressful we need to double down on taking care of ourselves. It feels selfish, and it’s really the best energy source so that we can continue planting, sowing, tending and harvesting all our little seeds. Click here for some quick self-care tips.

Weeds to AVOID Planting: Yelling, nagging, reminding, rescuing, enabling, scolding, punishing, permissiveness, making excuses, doing things for kids they can do for themselves, pity, solving other peoples problems, worrying, ignoring problems, not taking care of ourselves, awfulizing.

When we focus on what we WANT to see we will watch our little family flourish and grow!


Messy children, whiny children, a bad back, a crummy boss, a lack of motivation, too much procrastination, a stale marriage, a load of debt, a cluttered house, an extra 15 lbs, an 'experimental' teen (drugs, drinking, sex), an unsupportive mother.

It's easy, comfy and safe to stay in the rut of complaining and blaming. As a MASTER of this type of thinking, I know it's a long road to nowhere worth going. Trust me, or don't trust me, and come meet me later when you are done with your own long road to nowhere worth going. We can meet on the path to responsible (not enabling) thinking, behaving and action. How?

1. NOTICE that you are complaining. Are you telling the same story again and again? Are you kind of excited to tell the story to strangers about this tragic thing that HAPPENED TO YOU? Now, this is tricky, the telling can be cathartic, affirming, opening and good. The over-telling can be habit forming, keep us stuck, whiny and victimized.

2. TRY NEW LANGUAGE. Easy as that (hahahhaha), try some of these new phrases to lead you out of victimization and into new thoughts, new habits and new action. AND . . . Bada Boo Bada Bing,  NEW RESULTS. This will take a LOT of practice. Luckily life throws lots of whiny kids, stale marriages, bad backs, crummy bosses, cluttered houses and those middle age extra pounds to keep us in practice.

Instead of: You should clean your room.

Try: It's important to me that you know how to clean up after yourself. Would you be willing to meet once a week for 15 minutes to tidy your room?

Instead of: I need to lose 10 lbs.

Try: I choose to focus on realistic portions for the next few months until I am back to a healthy weight range (plug in actual number!)

Instead of: You NEVER are on time.

Try: I am often waiting for you when we say we are going to meet. Tomorrow,  I'm willing to wait 15 minutes and then I'm going to go ahead and leave and run errands.

REPEAT as needed.

For more expert information, inspiration and language, read parenting coach Suzanne Ritter's Washington Parent Article, Empowering Yourself With Words. Check it it out for more details!

Organizing: Best of Summer

Summer vacation is a great time to get organized!

Summer vacation is a great time to get organized!

Just today I helped a client, who is selling her house, clean out a little kitchen closet. Peeking in, it wasn't so bad, nothing to be ashamed of AND when we attacked it. . . WHOA what energy, motivating thoughts and pride did it unleash. When we were done we had generated 1/2 a bag of trash, 4 boxes of donate and 1/4 bin of recycling. As we stood back together and looked at our work we were filled with satisfaction, pride and energy to attack something else. We underestimate what a cheap and wonderful drug sorting, purging and organizing our stuff can be. (And no side effects!).

Here's a breezy summer listicle to get you thinking about tidying up before school starts

1. You don't have to begin with the end in mind. When we walk into our kids messy, cluttered, over-stuffed room we don't have to KNOW what to do. One thing professional organizers are really good at is sorting as WAY to figure out what the answer is. The answer comes THROUGH the sorting up into our brain, NOT from our brain into our sorting. 

2. If you need sorting primer, please click here!

 3. When we start we often get mad at ourselves that we didn't do it earlier so we ruin a perfectly good organizing session by ending it with beating ourselves up. Guys, sometimes our stuff needs to ripen or marinate. Sometimes time is exactly what those papers needed to get either thrown our put in the new memory box. Speak nicely to yourself. Here's a little piece on how Turmeric from 2007 showed me how discouraging I am with myself. 

4. Kids act like it's Filene's Basement, but want it to be Barney's. Less is more to them. Kids will use more art supplies the less they have of them. Artfully display them on an empty kitchen counter, just a couple things, don't say a WORD and watch how they suddenly use those oil pastels Nana gave them last Christmas. (Marketing is very important when it comes to kids).

5. Organizing is one of those tasks, like weeding, that is more fun if there is a group. If you have trouble getting started, don't go it alone, ask a fun friend or a non-judgey relative, or a professional organizer to come and help. When we try to go it alone we get lost in thoughts, in perfection, in the memories.

6. Anything you can do now to decrease the clutter before the school year starts will pay off in spades. A clear physical space promotes calm AND creativity.

Bad Behavior! Teens and What To do About It

Teens are experimenting . . .

Teens are experimenting . . .

Eventually, our teen tries stuff. They lie, they experiment with drugs, booze, sex, porn and many, many other normal and annoying teen behaviors. When we find the red solo cup, or the beer pong balls, or discover they have partied at our house - we can be ready instead of devastated. Below is a short list of ways to handle the bad behavior, WHILE keeping the connection with our beloved teen.

Logical Consequence: Logical Consequences are something we set up with our teen on a topic that has been repeated. The consequence includes these 5 “R’s”. Related, Respectful, Responsible, Reasonable, Revealed in Advance (meaning we don’t spring this on our teen in a moment of exasperation). Logical consequences do not include: shame, blame, pain, or humiliation. Now, the teen might feel pain or humiliated, BUT we do not try MAKE them FEEL anything in particular. We are always looking for ways to promote responsibility and respect. For example, teen is over 30 minutes late for curfew on Friday, they don’t go out Saturday night. Next weekend they can try again. They might feel humiliated when they have to tell their friends, it might be painful to stay home, AND we are not concerned with that, we are concerned with upholding a limit with mutual respect

Solve the Problem: Define the problem (consider whether this might actually NOT be OUR problem - grades, social life, their bedroom, their money), brainstorm options, consider and choose a solution, try it for a trial period - then talk again - did it solve the problem? Problem solving takes more time then punishing, dictating or yelling, AND problem solving is very relationship building. Just a parent and a teen listening to each other define the problem is a way to get to know each other better, to expand our understanding and empathy. I can assure you, middle aged people see problems VERY differently then teens. I can also assure you, teens are good problem solvers -they are creative, they are willing to try new things and most of them have a very developed sense of justice (I’m not saying they are always right or wise, just that justice is a real teen thing).

Natural Consequence: What happens if I do nothing? Nothing except show compassion and understanding without enabling or rescuing. What happens if they get a bad grade? Get caught underage drinking at a party of friend? Sometimes the teacher, the friend, the friend’s parent, the cop can deliver a message in a way our teen can receive it WAY better then our lectures (especially if we have said it more then 2-3 times). Most of us, if we go back into the rolodex of our mind, have learned our lessons from a natural consequence, not from a punishment/lecture doled out from our parent.

Share Information: Information can really help. But usually in micro-doses, and most of it from the teen discovering the information. As problems pop up, have the teen research - actually research the law - not what they think, not what their friends have told them, but the actual law where they live. What happens to an underage kid caught smoking weed, caught with weed, caught speeding, caught shoplifting, caught sexting, what is the legal age of sexual consent? Then it’s not all your judgment, but the actual law adding its two cents to the conversation. You can add in some stuff you learn, but BEWARE over researching FOR the teen, they won’t be able to receive that information as well as if they research themselves.

Get Outside Help: If you have passed ‘alert’ and moved into ‘alarm’ - go get help, for your teen, for you, for your family. Mental health issues, substance issues. Ask for help early (before a major crisis) so that you have a person, a place, a trusted advisor should things get worse. Again, remember to get help for yourself too - focusing 100% on the teen and getting them ship shape can be a dangerous place to be.

Soothe Our Own Anxiety: Living with teens is like hiking the Rocky Mountains - majestic, awe inspiring, uncomfortable, scary, filled with high highs and low lows. Click here for a little essay on this topic. Remember that our anxiety is not helpful. Our anxiety can make us over-react or under-react. Build up your arsenal of self-care (click here for some self care ideas and click here for some help knowing with junk food stress is vs. nourishing stress). When our kids are teens is the perfect time to pick up a new hobby - meditation, Scottish Dance, needlepoint, a new language, photography, pilates, spinning, birding, join a band, learn the banjo, start a podcast (these are all ACTUAL things people I know with teens have DONE). Remember that this phase of teens and bad behavior isn’t forever. When we take the time to soothe our own anxiety we can then stay connected to our beloved teen.

So You Have a Picky Eater!

Use Positive Parenting to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits**

As the parent of a picky eater, I tried every trick in the book to get my child to eat. I lectured, bribed, bartered, cried, cajoled and took rejected foods out of rotation. Along that journey, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn't, and I gradually found a way to approach food with energy and enthusiasm - and without control and obsession.

Food and eating are topics that generate a lot of parental guilt and angst, as well as repeated (and continually un-resolved) power struggles. Breakfast and dinnertime can become battlefields. Sometimes we score a victory. Maybe, after much coercion, one lima bean is consumed. But we often win that teeny lima bean battle at the cost of our relationship with our kids and a predictable, peaceful mealtime. Add to that situation the ever-increasing diagnoses of obesity, anxiety, depression and ADHD, and food and nutrition become dicey parenting dilemmas.

Food and nutrition are important and deserve our attention and care. However, attention and care do not include control, anxiety, permissiveness, giving up/giving in, lectures, demands or bribing. In order to create healthy attitudes toward food, we need to keep two parenting priorities in mind: meeting "the needs of the situation" and maintaining mutual respect. We call this positive parenting and this method can get us out of the weeds of power struggles or permissiveness and into good, healthy and productive relationships to last a lifetime. After all, childhood eventually ends, but our relationship with our child never does.

The needs of the situation

Meeting the needs of the nutrition and food situation begins with gathering information about the impact of food on our moods, our mental health and our physical well-being. To find out more, I interviewed Linda Petursdottir, a certified nutrition and wellness coach with expertise in functional medicine. Linda explained that our gut and brain are in conversation with each other and surprisingly our gut talks more to our brain than vice versa. In other words, what we ingest directly impacts our moods and behavior. The typical American diet, which is high in refined sugars and processed food, gives our brain a quick surge of energy and good feelings - but at the cost of feelings of depression and anxiety as soon as that high wears off. Poor gut health directly impacts our ability to produce serotonin, and decreases in serotonin trigger symptoms of depression.

Mutual respect

When we find that our family's nutritional options and meal preparations need fine-tuning, it is up to us as parents to take responsibility. Linda Petursdottir explains, "Parents are responsible for the food they bring into the house, and kids are responsible for what they eat." While our kids are young, we parents have almost 100 percent control over what comes into our house and enters our kids' bodies. That changes as kids get older and have money and access to convenience "food" stores. Mutual respect means that as we make changes we allow kids time and space to adapt. Mutual respect means we provide for our kids' needs and some of their wants.

Getting started

Where do we begin? Do we throw out ALL the sugar? Go vegan? Eliminate gluten? Petursdottir has a saner suggestion - one we can all start working on today: adjusting our mindset. "I always like to focus on the mindset of abundance rather than deprivation," Petursdottir says. "While I don't disagree that parents need to cut things out, I think it's healthier to think of what's missing. Start by simply tracking what you eat in a day, and if you are not eating the recommended 4-8 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, then that's where you can start."

Use family challenges. How can we go from 1 to 2 servings a day to 3 or 4? When we start adding healthy foods to our daily routine, then naturally some of the unhealthy choices start falling out - without creating feelings of despair and deprivation. Petursdottir says, "It becomes a more positive environment when we create healthy new habits rather than just thinking, ' We have to cut out soda. The fried food has to go. No more Chinese take-out .' That needs to happen, too, but I always want to start with the mindset of abundance. What foods can we add that are really health-promoting?"

Making lasting changes

Let's look at the family's development of healthy eating habits as a platform on which to grow our parenting muscles. We can create deeper and more robust relationships with our kids while at the same time improving our own health and getting to know ourselves. The important thing to do is to be honest about our current habits and start exactly where we are. Guard against drastic changes that are too hard to maintain and that will just make you throw in the towel in frustration. If you slip up, get right back on track rather than putting it off until tomorrow or next week.

Here are some steps you can take right away to get your family started on the path to better eating habits.

To Do This Week

  1. Go through your cupboards and pitch half of the high-sugar items

  2. Add fish once a week

  3. Put healthy options in prime real estate - for example, at the kids' eye level in the pantry, within easy access on the fridge door, on the countertop, washed and ready to grab

  4. Add in Meatless Monday

  5. Sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture or take your family to the local farmers market

  6. Plant a basil plant (or any other easy-to-grow herb)

  7. Drink water instead of juice or soda

Learn More

  • Check out the blog and the book "100 Days of Real Food" by Lisa Leake

  • Watch the documentary "Fed Up" on Amazon or go to website

  • Make better food choices by using the Healthy Living app put out by the Environmental Working Group (, which enables kids and parents to scan foods in the grocery store and get a rating on their selection

  • Get personal support from Linda Petursdottir, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Coach, at

**Published in Washington Parent


Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.
— Viktor Frankl

Usually, us parents either hand freedom over without the corresponding responsibility (give them a phone without knowing they can either help pay or act responsibly with it), or we are heavy on the responsibility but stingy with the freedom (you are in charge of your own laundry, but you have to do it my way, when I say it's time).

This July 4th let's balance out the two. Here's some examples to get you thinking. . .

Phones are purchased AFTER child has earned/saved some of the money needed to get it. AFTER the child has shown they are reliable with the parents devices (stays on age appropriate websites, forks it over when it's time, has minimal breakdowns over the handing over of the device). Child shows responsibility BEFORE they are given a GIANT freedom that most GROWN-UPS have a hard time managing THEMSELVES!

Child is in charge of his laundry.  Child chooses when to do it, child can watch tv while clothes are being folded (they might take longer then one show to sllloooooowlllyyyyyy fold their clothes).  Child then experiences the delicious freedom that comes with the laundry responsibility. 

Child's room is a disaster, parent can decide that there will be no more money spent on clothes because the parent is unwilling to add to the mess. Child experiences the lack of freedom to purchase new clothes when the responsibility is shirked for caring for the current clothes he has.

When a child wants a new freedom, brainstorm a matching responsibility. When you give the child a new responsibility, brainstorm a new freedom that comes with it.

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
– Abigail Van Buren



Magical Thinking: The Land of Organized

There's no place like home - especially when it's neat and tidy!

There's no place like home - especially when it's neat and tidy!

We think "Being Organized" is a mystical, magical land where you are your best self at all times. In "Being Organized", all the planning, purging and organizing will stop strep throat, tantrums and device over-usages in their tracks. Because it's so mystical and magical over there we never really believe we can get there from plain old, always late, slightly messy and disheveled over here.

Guys, "Being Organized" is just a regular old place. We can get there - think Dorothy's journey in Oz. Dorothy always had the power in those Ruby Slippers.  We do too.  I am not saying it's EASY, or RELAXING, or YOU WILL EVER FEEL LIKE DOING IT. I'm just saying, it's not some mystical techno-color situation over there. Here's what gets in our way of clicking our own Ruby Slippers together.

Magical Starting Place

I need to do the kids rooms first, and THEN I will be content and patient and motivated to attack all my college notebooks. I need to get the kitchen organized, and THEN I will be content and patient and motivated to attack that mess of an attic where I have stored every durn thing any relative has ever handed down to me, ever.

Magical Solution

FIRST I need to go to the Container Store and get that cart for my photo sorting, and THEN I will attack the photos. I need to really 'figure out' how we want to use the basement before I purge the linens. I might, one day, the day after never, need to use that slightly stained comforter, that I really should pitch, so I can fit the air-mattress in the stupid closet. But FIRST, I need to get my husband to sort his high school memorabilia his mom sent. THAT is what is holding me up.

Magical Mindset

I need to be in the mood and build my self-esteem, and THEN I will have all the energy in the world to attack, keep attacking all the clutter. During the entire project I just know I will feel positive and energized. If I stop feeling positive and energized I guess I will need to stop and wait until my Mindset shifts.

Magical Causation Determination

Once I journal about this room, and really am CLEAR WHY it's a disaster, what happened in my child hood - that time my mom scolded me about the room and I thought it was clean. Well, then AFTER that is figured out, THEN I can attack this space. Or I need to 'figure out' why my spouse makes me feel bad about my clutter and once I discover what's wrong with our relationship THEN I can purge my files.

What magical thinking is keeping you on the sidelines of your own life? There is no there there. But the here, right here, right now, could be tidier, more orderly, more on time and then we'd have a little more peace like a river in our soul. Let's click those shoes together and realize we have the magic in us already.

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Pampering vs. Self-Care

We get confused sometimes with pampering and self-care. Maybe we believe doing things like – candlelight, long baths, massages, getting dressed nicely – is saved for when we have a romantic partner. Let’s remember that LOVE is an energy source and what would happen to our energy if we spent time being in love with the ONE person we are with all day long. 

We can be disdainful during the busy season of parenting of all things pampering and spa-like, but let’s turn that on its head and consider that when we spend time on self-care, and self-love, and self-acceptance, we are actually re-energizing the patient part of us, the joyful part of us, the part of us that can give to others. Consider adding in some self-care (love & and acceptance), remember . . . little bits add up. It’s not selfish, it’s a renewable, fabulous energy source! Here are some ideas to get you going. 

1.     Bath with bath salts or oils

2.     Hire a cleaning crew – even once a month to deep clean your house

3.     Massages – even 10 minute neck massages at the mall or the airport 

4.     Pedicures during the summer months

5.     Reading books we love, even if they aren’t productive or literature, or they are books we have read before

 6.     Protecting ourselves from relationships that drain us or make us feel bad (even making that relationship smaller) 

7.     Buying and wearing luxurious pajamas and robes

8.     Spending a little extra for fresh flowers, or the expensive cut of meat we favor 

9.     Sleeping in or napping on the weekends

10.  Taking ourselves out to a movie, or play, or the ballet, or the theater.


Discipline, It's Not Punishment

Discipline: to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control

As parents we usually think discipline means punishment. We often want to stick it to them so they suffer good and hard and then they will learn. Usually our lips are pursed, our face is pinched, our body is clenched. We can relax once they behave!

Ahhhhhh, though discipline is much, much different than punishment. Discipline is loving and working towards teaching our kids self-control, which is a much, much, much different skill set than obeying us, or defying us. Our kid’s self-control has very little to do with us.

  1. Discipline seeks to strengthen, improve or teach to a given standard (pssst . . . do you notice that it is process, not a destination or an instant).

  2. Kids value their dignity - when we use intimidation, shame, sarcasm, bluster and public humiliation the lesson is lost as they seek to preserve their own self-value.

  3. When we discipline kids (our 9 year old is throwing sand at his sibling, we ask him to stop, sand throwing continues, 9 year old is escorted back to the beach house for the afternoon) the child might feel sad, humiliated, outraged. Totally ok. However, we should not TRY to make him feel sad, humiliated or outraged to teach.

  4. Our spirit of discipline should always be that of course people make mistakes, and NONE of us are smaller or worth less when we’ve made a mistake. We recover so much more quickly when we live in a community of fellow mistake makers.

  5. Some kids/grown-ups go to the school of hard knocks and experience the same problem over and over and over. People ‘get it’ the exact moment they ‘get it’ and not ONE second before.

  6. Kids value their dignity - when we use intimidation, shame, sarcasm, bluster and public humiliation the lesson is lost as they seek to preserve their own self-value. (That one is so important it bears repeating!)

Splish, Splash. . . . Chores

Summer is the PERFECT time to train children in household chores AND let them practice.  Here's some hard won, personal, in the trenches, school of hard knocks lessons I've learned about training and practicing of chores.

The terrain of chores and children is never straight, narrow or smooth. The Chore Road is curvy, loopy,  bumpy, crazy and unpredictable.  Here are 5 particular bumps, curves, and loops to look out for:

1.  Waiting until you are tired to ask for the chore to get done - folks, we simply have to go to bed if we are tired.  Trying to engage children in "helping" us when we are tired and grumpy is impossible and almost always backfires.

2.  Wanting it to be perfect - learn to love a lumpy bed, cherish the few Doritos that don't make it in the ziplock, squint when you look at the swept-ish floor.  There will be time to do it perfectly, this summer ain't the time!

3. If the kids do one chore cheerfully . . .. well, we add on another.  If they do one cheerfully, be grateful and quiet and satisfied.  We all are so annoyed when we give kids an inch and then they ask, whine and beg for a mile! Don't BE that person.

4. We don't follow through or we aren't consistent.  We probably won't be 100% consistent, nor will we follow through every time, but at least try.  Aim lower to hit the mark, to get in the game, rather then announcing some big management change and then giving up because it's too hard to enforce. Better they unload the groceries and change the towels to the dryer then nothing at all.

5. We are too controlling.  We monitor, we check in, we comment, we give unsolicited nifty tips, we re-do.  Stop.  Take off your glasses so it all goes into soft focus and  pour yourself a cucumber infused water (or cold beer or margarita) and sit down. Good enough is good enough.

Here's a sample of age appropriate chores to get you inspired, thinking and into action:

4-5 Year Olds:  Set the table, put sandwiches and chips into baggies, dress by self (including choosing outfit, remember YOU are in control of what clothes are in their room and available to them), pour drinks for self and family.  Keep your expectations in line for this age group -- chores will stay interesting about the same amount of minutes as their age.  

6-10 Year Olds:  Wake up to own alarm clock (summer is PERFECT training time for this.  Late for camp, who cares? Miss a morning playdate, so what?)  If you stay out of their way you will learn their preferences, pitfalls, habits and when the school year starts you will be able to work with them.  After a late and harried morning in which I didn't BUTT in I realized the sleepy son I was so often annoyed with WANTED to get to school on time.  He experimented with setting his alarm clock LATER  and gosh darned if that kid didn't start getting up on time with a minimum of drama.  Magic.

1t - 12:  Making or changing an appointment.  This age group can practice looking at a calendar, determining when they can go the orthodontist (or dentist, or doctor) and then CALL the orthodontist (or dentist, or doctor) to make the appointment.  A good tip here is to role play the call a couple times and then leave the room when they make the call.  Watch out for the drama of, "I can't do that!  YOU do it MOM!  NO ONE else has to do this."  The more you accept and tolerate the drama, without reacting or feeding into it, the sooner it generally dies down. 

13 - 18:  Menu planning & cooking:  Gotta learn some time, might as well be the summer of 2015.  Kids this age can certainly plan and cook a meal and get it on the table.  Have them select something when you are making your shopping list.  Offer up your recipes, or let them explore on the internet.  Watch out for the speed bumps of squishing their ideas, not eating the food, or making them choose something else to cook because what they want to make is too easy (or too hard).  I learned to love, nay ADORE, a meal of pasta (white, delicious and yummy and fabulous ALL white pasta -- nary a whole grain to be found) with sauce from a jar, broccoli and a warmed up breaded chicken patty from A BAG.  Don't knock it til you try it, we forget how sublime a breaded chicken patty can taste!


The Art of the Consequence

Photo by aluxum/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by aluxum/iStock / Getty Images

What trips us parents up when it comes to consequences is consistency. It's a magical, mystical, paradoxical art. Some of us are super duper inconsistent. "I don't really feel like getting them to bed right now, one more game on the i pad won't ruin them." Some of us are too consistent, "No way, they can't stay up to hang with their out of town cousins, bed time IS 7:30, NO exceptions!" What's a parent to do?

1. Your child will help you figure out if you have a consistency problem. If there is a lot of push back, whining, negotiating around every single limit or boundary - you might be the teeniest bit inconsistent. I've said it before, I'll say it again, kids are very, very under-employed and have a lot of time on their hands. IF they want that sleepover tonight with Zoey, even though they slept over at Zoey's last Saturday, and Sunday was a living hell of over tiredness. . . . they will beg, borrow, plead, barter and cry to get to you to let them do it. Because, why not? They don't have anything else to do but hit their little brother and take a bath!

2. Better to be very disciplined about a very few things then to inconsistently hold-ish up a bunch of things some of the time. Pick very few topics that reflect your core values and work on those. Let the rest go. Meal times important? Have a consistent meal time with consistent consequences for lateness, rudeness or bad manners and let go of making the bed for a while.

3. Let the house rules help with consequences by heading off common problems and areas of conflict.  Sleepovers once a month.  TV & video games played Friday - Sunday. Desserts every weekend night. (Do you see what I did there? I phrased everything as a positive - I didn't say "No desserts during the week!" "NO TV during the week", "You can NOT have more then one sleep over a month." Language matters!

4. Let the ecology of the house support consequences. Devices and screens live in public areas, if devices are found elsewhere they are put away for 24 hours (be reasonable folks, making kids suffer does not teach).

5. Keep your cool, man! Seriously, kids are gonna sneak, and beg, and get over tired, and roll their eyes, and try, try, TRY to get one more minute on their phones. They just are. You might want to review this nifty tip, I'll wait. The Only Shocking Part . . . . Kids aren't bad AND they aren't angels. The more we keep our cool and stop being totally shocked and have our hearts broken when they test limits and need a consequence, the better we will be able to handle the situation AND get on with our day.

How Do I Help Without Rescuing?

It’s so hard trying to find the edges of our job as a parent.

What is helping? What is rescuing? What is letting go? What is abandoning? We don’t know, we DON’T KnoooooooOOoooooW!


Helping: Laying out clothes the night before. Getting dressed or brushing our own teeth WITH our pre-schooler.

Rescuing: Dressing people who know how to dress themselves.

Letting Go: Having child choose their own clothes (we are smart enough to take any non-regulation clothes out of their room - think seasonal or overly dressy clothes).

Abandoning: Not engaging about brushing teeth and just ‘trusting’ they will do it.


Helping: Creating a 10 minute routine to pack bag, get stuff together the night before. Reviewing the next day together - who needs a baseball glove, did anyone volunteer to bring in snack, does everyone know where their shin guards are?

Rescuing: Running the forgotten baseball glove, snack, shin guards to school the next day.

Letting Go: Once child has problem solved with parent how to remember to bring trombone on band day (sticky notes, calendar pings, pre-set alarms) parent allows child to experience not having the instrument. What we will all learn, I do not know AND am excited to find out.

Abandoning: Saying, “I’m sick of your forgotten trombone, you are on your own buddy, life is hard, you have to figure it out.”

Middle School

Helping: Creating a homework routine. Through observing, chatting and experimenting - finding a set time and space where homework can be done, AND packed up. Maintaining a dinner schedule to support this timing. Being sure homework area is tidy and house is relatively quiet and stress-free.

Rescuing: Daily interrogating about what homework needs to be done. Going online to find out and remind. Getting last minute supplies for a long term project.

Letting Go: We stop interrogating child and watch who they are. Do they want B’s or A’s? Do they care more about friends then sports? Do they study only to get the grade or are they passionate about a particular subject?

Abandoning: Stop going to parent teacher conferences.

High School

Helping: Review online grading portal once a week with handout high schooler has printed out. Notice everything they did RIGHT first. Ask if they want any assistance in time management, project completion, or organization. Respect their response.

Rescuing: Edit their papers, check their online grading portals daily, text them regularly about what they’d did not turn in.

Letting Go: Their grades are not our grades. Their social life is not our social life. Their hygiene is not our hygiene. Absorb this. Soak it in. Lather.Rinse.Repeat.

Abandoning:NOT monitoring that internet, phone and devices are off and secured NOT in bedrooms at appropriate times. NOT checking in with other parents that adults are present at parties and sleepovers - especially in early high school. NOT training kids in basic life skills - driving, cooking, laundry, making appointments, advocating for themslebes.

College and Beyond

Helping: Reviewing their plans with them - travel plans, packing plans, social plans to help them be aware of potential bumps in the road or avoidable mistakes. Listening to their joys and sorrows. Knowing when finals are, when vacations are, when they might need a healthy dose of parental attention/encouragement/goodies from home.

Rescuing: Knowing their syllubus for class and reminding them of due dates. Editing papers online. Calling to wake them up. Being sure they sign up for next semesters classes.

Letting Go: Establishing a base line grade expectation and then NOT checking grades, but expecting them show us. Trusting them to arrange their own holiday plans and making their own plane reservations (with a budget). Really believing that if they don’t get something done they will either make a correction, advocate for themselves or accept the consequence.

Abandoning: Assuming we are done once they are 18 and they can figure it out, because we had to, didn’t we?

Check out The Self-Driven Child for more information and inspiration on this!

3 Ways to Help Our Little Procrastinators

It’s EXCRUCIATING . . . watching them procrastinate

It’s EXCRUCIATING . . . watching them procrastinate

Have you watched your child procrastinate lately? Have you given a good, solid lecture AGAIN on the virtues of time management? Have you nagged or shamed this past week? Excellent! You live in a normal family. Kids procrastinate, we procrastinate. Even before the invention of the SmartPhone people procrastinated. As parents we can get in a nagging/power struggle spiral over procrastination and that cycle becomes a real relationship drainer. Instead, try one of these three Nifty Tips:

  1. Offer up a Five Minute of Fury or Tolerable Ten Minutes. I get this from a must-read book, “Getting Past Procrastination” by Ann Dolin, a former school teacher and found of Educational Tutoring. Getting started is the HARDEST part, you know the analogy of the rocket ship uses almost 50% of it’s fuel just to TAKE OFF and climb into the air. This theory works for homework too (and exercise!). Hand a timer over to your kid and ask - “What can you handle right now, FIVE MINUTES OF FURY or the TOLERABLE TEN?” Then accept which one they choose - you will find that SOMETIMES the starting is just what they needed, and sometimes they stop when the timer goes off. Remember, we are more concerned with giving them life long tools then getting tonights homework done. I used the Tolerable Ten just this weekend to get me started on the dreaded seasonal mulching project and my front yard looks fabulous!

  2. Diagnose the cause of the procrastinating. This comes from Julie Morgenstern, author of the new “Time to Parent” and the perennial favorite, “Time Management from the Inside Out”. Lazy is not usually why anyone procrastinates. See if you can help your child identify any of these root causes of procrastination:

    You’ve Set Aside the Wrong Time: Parent might want kid to finish homework right after school, child might do better after dinner. Remember, especially teens, are actually more alert later in the evening. I had one kid who would stay up late to do homework and slept in and the other kid preferred to go to bed on time and wake up at 5:30 am to finish homework. If I set aside my ideal time for them we would have 4 long years of power struggles.

    You’ve Miscalculated How Long Tasks Take: Kids are usually too pessimistic (ugh, this is gonna take forever, I don’t wanna) or too optimistic (awww, this is no problem, I’ll wait awhile, until I’m in the mood). Helping kids estimate how long a task will take, and then taking the time to track it will help your child become a time realist. That might find that getting all their supplies out takes longer than they thought and that packing up the night before is shorter and less horrible then they thought. Either way, our kids will begin to have their own sense of time and urgency, rather than waiting until we, or the teacher, is angry or annoyed.

    Task is Overly Complex: Our kids pre-frontal cortex is not fully formed so time management is actually hard for them. Breaking down tasks to teeny, tiny bite sized pieces makes it much more appetizing and appealing to get started. Again, looking at the big project and learning, and practicing how to break it down is a skill for a lifetime!

    Your Space is Disorganized: Oh, this one I LOVE because parents have almost 100% control. Create a homework space, clear table, in the communal part of the house, a few supplies near them, easy to access and fun to put away. I like to have an open shelf and closed cabinet for each kid near the homework area - they could easily shove things on the shelf, and I could easily stow them behind closed doors. Win and win. Homework and screens are best kept out of bedrooms. We all sleep better without our responsibilities looming over us or that darn blue light and social media to keep us awake.

  3. Consider that procrastinating is about protecting and controlling our emotions. Take a minute to read, Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control). “Procrastination isn’t a unique character flaw or a mysterious curse on your ability to manage time, but a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond.” Self-Compassions and forgiveness is the quickest path out of the weeds of procrastination. (Makes our shaming parental lectures, that haven’t worked yet, seem even more futile). “In fact, several studies show that self-compassion supports motivation and personal growth.” We can lead our kids here by asking compassionate, curiosity questions - “That project seems large and unwieldy, did you do anything similar last year?” or “I wonder how you will feel going to sleep tonight if you get 4 paragraphs done?”

Watching kids procrastinate can be painful, especially if we have struggled (or currently do struggle) with procrastination ourselves. It’s so easy to spot it when you got it! Remember, nagging or shaming relieves our anxiety in the short term, but the price we pay is a diminished relationship with our beloved child and usually undone homework. Experiment with any/all of these tips and see if stuff gets done AND the relationship flourishes.

Getting Kids to LISTEN to US!

There ARE ways to communicate so kids will LISTEN

There ARE ways to communicate so kids will LISTEN

FIVE Down and Dirty Tips to Getting Our Kids to Listen to US!

  1. Talk at their eye level, in a normal tone of voice, giving short and reasonable commands. Transform YELLING at kids to brush their teeth to going to the child, bending down, looking in their eye (without being pissed) and say, “Teeth”. I know, I know it feeeellllsssss longer to do this, but start tracking how many times you say, “Brush your teeth, how MANY times do I have to tell you.” and I bet this respectful communication SAVES you time in the long run.

  2. Ditch, “I need you to . . . . “ and replace it with “Everyone may be quiet.” or “We’ll be on our way once seat belts are on.” or “ Quiet voices are required in the library.” — “I need you to . . . “ often INVITES a power struggle.

  3. Say it once and make it so. Again, this takes action and effort on our part. I agree, in the short term this is a huge bummer. In the long term it saves our kids from being accidentally trained that we only mean business after several repeated requests and then the final yelling command.

  4. Apologize first. When we want to change a bad habit - if we start with our part of the problem we often find kids are all ears. “I’m sorry I’ve been yelling and nagging at you to get out of bed, it must be awful to start the day with such negativity.” “I’m sorry, I’ve been inconsistent and a little crazy with the screen limits.” “I apologize, I’ve been treating you like a much younger child then you are, doing your laundry when you are 14 is disrespectful.” Do you feel your kids ears perking up already!

  5. Listen. Ugh . . . it’s the most resisted parenting tool, listening! And yet, when we take the time to listen to our kids, and listen compassionately (but not permissively) we will find that they are more likely to listen to us in return.