Parenting A Child With An Eye Towards Adulthood



My dar­ling daugh­ter sent me an arti­cle about par­ent­ing. She encour­aged me to write a sim­i­lar one. I read it and loved it. The author is a writer by pro­fes­sion and clearly has a gift. I wish I could write so well. The author admits that she is not a par­ent­ing expert but I was struck with how she zeroed in on some gems of wis­dom, most impor­tantly, the idea of par­ent­ing now for the adult you want in the future. She hinted at some strate­gies to accom­plish that goal. For instance, lov­ing our chil­dren but not to the point that you make excuses for bad behav­ior elud­ing to the ben­e­fit of let­ting chil­dren fail so they become more respon­si­ble. Another vari­able in par­ent­ing is the nat­ural instinct to see our chil­dren as exten­sions of our­selves. This is a deep, deep issue and rec­og­niz­ing that ten­dency in our­selves is huge.

In my book, “Strengthen Your Parenting Muscle,” I go into much more detail and pro­vide many strate­gies to sup­port fam­i­lies. It is avail­able on Amazon and is both worth­while as well as a quick read.







I am writ­ing this blog entry as I am liv­ing it. Most, really all, of my blogs speak from a place of expe­ri­ence and con­fi­dence. I have prac­ticed what I preach and know my insights and strate­gies can be very help­ful and effec­tive.

Today I am inspired to dis­cuss an issue that has long eluded me and it’s time to deal with it.


Ahhhh, I even love the sound of it. A per­fect evening, per­fect weather, a per­fect career, and of course per­fect chil­dren.

How crazy is it that I would strive for per­fec­tion in my chil­dren? How crazy is it that fam­i­lies live in an envi­ron­ment where chil­dren are com­pared and judged. Is my child pop­u­lar, are they smart, are they ath­letic and how beau­ti­ful are they?

Clearly no per­son, young or small can be per­fect. Perfect doesn’t even exist. But striv­ing for that goal, or want­ing that life, dimin­ishes the life we have.

At the Emmy award this year some­one and I can­not remem­ber who, thanked their mom for not wor­ry­ing about him. Imagine what that means.  Think about why we worry about our chil­dren. Do we want them to be dif­fer­ent? Does our worry impact them in a neg­a­tive way? Does it detract from their con­fi­dence level because clearly mom or dad may be con­cerned?

My goal these past years is to have patience and con­fi­dence. Set aside worry and live in the moment. It is huge for me as I tend to worry, and often need­lessly. But giv­ing up the idea of per­fec­tion and accept­ing what­ever it is I have, that would bring me peace of mind and that would be much bet­ter than per­fec­tion.




How We Encourage Arguing


How We Encourage Arguing

Ever see par­ents going back and forth with their chil­dren about the impor­tance of some­thing?

The par­ent comes up with all sorts of log­i­cal rea­sons why the child should do some­thing and the child responds with their own rea­sons why they don’t want to. Very often and clearly depend­ing on the age, the child’s ONLY rea­son is:

 I     DON’T     WANT TO

which is usu­ally accom­pa­nied by a well refined whine and those hard to resist sad eyes.

The other day a par­ent was telling me how their child wasn’t so into being tutored any­more, yet her tutor­ing was super impor­tant as she almost had to repeat a grade and was just reach­ing grade level per­for­mance. Giving up the tutor­ing was not an option.  The mom, try­ing to change her daughter’s mind, kept on point­ing out the impor­tance of read­ing and how much she will love get­ting lost in books. The daugh­ter had her own set of argu­ments which included……I don’t want to. The dance con­tin­ued. The mom, when asked if she were will­ing to stop the ses­sions, said no. I explained that by respond­ing to her daughter’s protests she was indi­cat­ing a will­ing­ness to change her mind.  I advised her to stop engag­ing in the argu­ment and repeat clearly and firmly, I love you but the answer is no.

I, as an adult had a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence when I was forced to stop my own argu­ing and coop­er­ate. We were stand­ing in line for a play at Delacourte Theater in Central Park. The tick­ets are free and the rules are clear. Get in line, friends may not join you, do not leave the park. It is not unusual for peo­ple to begin lin­ing up for these won­der­ful free per­for­mances as early as 5 AM.

My friend and I got in line at 6:35 AM and were fairly close to the front. At 9:30 AM we took a walk in the park, leav­ing our chairs and bags to be watched by the peo­ple in front of us. Upon our return we were told that the employ­ees guard­ing the line were ask­ing where we were. About an hour later they returned and ques­tioned us about our dis­ap­pear­ance. When I finally asked what they were get­ting at, I was told that we would have to move to the end of what was now a very long line. As ridicu­lous as this was, they made it clear that this ver­dict was not chang­ing. Once I real­ized that my fate was sealed I did what they asked. Was I angry? Sure. But I stopped argu­ing. The deliv­ery of their deci­sion, the tone of their voice and their body lan­guage, sent the mes­sage that noth­ing I could say would change their mind. By the way, we sucked up our indig­na­tion, were relieved that we still got tick­ets and saw an incred­i­ble show later that evening.

Discussing pros and cons with your chil­dren are part of the daily con­ver­sa­tions that teach val­ues and encour­age inde­pen­dence. They are valu­able. But when a par­ent makes a deci­sion the child will ben­e­fit from the clar­ity that no amount of argu­ing is going to change the sit­u­a­tion. The child can move on with respect for their parent’s author­ity. Once the pout­ing if over a more pleas­ant con­ver­sa­tion can be enjoyed.



Increase Responsibility Using A Checklist

There’s A Checklist For That

Everyday rou­tines can be exhaust­ing.

You know the kids are going to:
Ignore you
Put up a fuss
Do it slowly or poorly

You are tired of get­ting aggra­vated so you:
Give up and do it your­self
Or learn to let them do it it their own way

Many sit­u­a­tions fall into this dance of par­ent and child:
Getting ready for school
Coming home from school
Helping with chores
Cleaning room

Though there are many things that we try to ana­lyze and per­fect, for many rea­sons par­ents often resign to the stan­dard
prac­tices that come nat­u­rally but may not be effec­tive. When we take the time to eval­u­ate we can make big changes. A check­list, com­bined with bet­ter under­stand­ing can pro­vide har­mony in the home and more respon­si­ble chil­dren.

Sarah was a mom of 3 dar­ling girls ages 2, 4 and 6.
She fre­quently com­plained that the girls ganged up on her and it was espe­cially ter­ri­ble at bed­time.
Gymnastics in the bed­room includ­ing jump­ing on bed and using the win­dow sill as a bal­ance beam was their rou­tine. Once in bed the party con­tin­ued, start­ing with soft whis­pers and soon esca­lat­ing into wild laugher. Often the girls would sneak out of bed and get mas­sive amounts of food with­out the par­ents hav­ing a clue, only to find the remains under the bed the fol­low­ing day.

1- Examine and trou­ble shoot
What might be inter­fer­ing with your intended goal?
      When we exam­ined the sit­u­a­tion we saw that the girls had got­ten into a rou­tine that needed to be stopped in order to see change. The 6 year old, deprived of night time rest had resorted to tak­ing a long nap in school which made it harder for her to be tired at night.

The plan was to cre­ate a new look to bed­time. The fam­ily, includ­ing the girls and I made a check­list of what needed to hap­pen once the bed­time rou­tine was ini­ti­ated. Since one of the prob­lems was the amount of time mom spent talk­ing and read­ing at
bed­time we added a time com­po­nent so cud­dling and read­ing was rea­son­able. Talking would be saved for day­light hours, at least till things fell into place. I took pic­tures of them to fur­ther invite buy in. The neces­sity of sleep was explained. They knew that most flu­ids would stop after 6:00 and the restroom would be used prior to bed­time so access to the bath­room was not going to be granted. They also knew.…..and this was super impor­tant.…. that mom would be sta­tioned out­side their door and would know if there was any talk­ing or whis­per­ing.
2- Create a check­list
Think about what it would look like if your child inde­pen­dently, or close toin­de­pen­dently, began and fin­ished the cho­sen rou­tine. A bare bones approach is just as effec­tive as one that gives lots of details. Logic and the par­tic­u­lars of your sit­u­a­tion will guide your deci­sion. Do a run through to check for accu­racy.
• Let your child be involved with the sequence of events
• Have your child pose for pic­tures for each step. iPads make insert­ing pics very easy
exam­ple for Going to Sleep:
Take a bath
Put on paja­mas
Eat a snack
Brush teeth
Story time:15 min­utes
Cuddle time: 5 min­utes each
Close eyes, think of some­thing nice

The reward for a suc­cess­ful bed­time would be a prize that they had already picked out.
After many suc­cess­ful bed­times the girls tran­si­tioned to a star chart which trans­lated to a fun fam­ily trip. Now it’s just their rou­tine and rewards are unnec­es­sary.

The day we began mom and dad made sure the girls were tired out from the day. The check­list was brought out and the girls coop­er­ated. Once they got into bed the lights in the entire apart­ment were turned off.
Mom made sure they could clearly see her right out­side the room tak­ing away the temp­ta­tion of get­ting out of bed to assess the sit­u­a­tion.
They had rel­a­tively few issues and after only one bath­room request (which was ignored) and one warn­ing about whis­pers, they fell asleep
within min­utes.
Mom kept expect­ing the drama to start but the evening was unevent­ful, with the excep­tion of the silent cheers of a relieved mom and dad.

As the days unfolded the girls con­tin­ued to embrace this new rou­tine. The effect of har­mony at bed­time had pos­i­tive effects in the day­time as well includ­ing increased respect and coop­er­a­tion. School time naps ended and the teacher reported bet­ter focus.
I know that this sit­u­a­tion was extreme but the same process can be applied to more mild issues.
A mom I worked with was mis­er­able about how her child kept com­ing home from school and dropped their stuff all over.
She said she’s tried every­thing but a con­ver­sa­tion with her child which resulted in a jointly cre­ated check­list solved the prob­lem.


The Vaccine Debate


I feel com­pelled to write this.

My hus­band and I have great respect for our nat­u­ra­p­ath. His name is David Getoff and he has a very extreme atti­tude about health. He often appears a bit extreme, but most of the time his opin­ions become well accepted.

The first time I met him was 28 years ago when he was on his way to Colorado. He was of the opin­ion that the mer­cury in his fill­ings were dam­ag­ing to his health and there was a den­tist who would remove them. This was a painful and expen­sive process but he was deter­mined to get it done. Of course now we all know to avoid ingest­ing mer­cury.

He is also against chemo ther­apy, mam­mo­grams, soy by-prod­ucts, genet­i­cally man­u­fac­tured food, flour, sugar and vac­cines.

Recently I crossed paths with a mom who refused to give her 4 year old most of the vac­cines that are rou­tinely given. She is con­cerned about the bom­bard­ment of chem­i­cals on a young child’s brain and men­tioned that it has been linked to SIDS.

Since I will be a grandma soon I paid atten­tion and did some research. My con­clu­sion was to talk to my son and daugh­ter-in-law and sug­gest they look into it. My hus­band and I would be happy to bring our grand­child to the doc­tor more fre­quently in order to spread out the shots and there­fore les­son the neg­a­tive impact.

A week later we received sad news. My daughter-in-law’s niece had died from SIDS. She was 4 months old. I looked up the sched­ule for vac­ci­na­tions and saw that the sec­ond round was at 4 months. Last night  I had a chance to talk with my son about my con­cern. He looked at me with dis­be­lief. He told me that the lit­tle girl had been vac­ci­nated the day before she died.

please, please, do your research.


Plan For Misbehaving


Children will mis­be­have and par­ents will give warn­ing, after warn­ing , after warn­ing. If this sounds too famil­iar, you are not alone. Parenting is non­stop but if we put effort into prepar­ing for mis­be­hav­ior and imple­ment the plan con­sis­tently we can relax more and put aside the headache rem­edy.

When we make a plan that includes our children’s input we gain way more than peace of mind. Our chil­dren become more respon­si­ble, respect­ful and resilient.

The fol­low­ing gem from the beloved Jane Nelson illus­trates how mak­ing a plan can gain the coop­er­a­tion of our chil­dren.

1. make a plan

2. imple­ment the plan con­sis­tently

3. ignore atten­tion get­ting behav­ior that devi­ates from the plan



The Jones fam­ily is very excited. They have just fin­ished plan­ning a day at the beach. Seven-year-old Jason and five-year-old Jenny have promised that they won’t fight. Mr. Jones, has warned, “If you do, we’ll turn around and come back.” “We won’t, we won’t,” promise Jason and Jenny again.

The Jones fam­ily haven’t gone two miles when a loud wail is heard from the back seat, “Jason hit me.”

Mrs. Jones says, “What did we tell you kids about fight­ing?”

Jason defends him­self, “Well, she touched me.”

Mr. Jones threat­ens, “You two had bet­ter cut it out, or we are going home.”

The chil­dren cry out it uni­son, “Nooooooo! We’ll be good.”

And they are — for about ten min­utes. Then, another wail is heard, “He took my red crayon.”

Jason replies, “Well she was hog­ging it. It’s my turn.”

Mr. Jones says, “Do you want me to turn around and go home?”

Nooooooo. We’ll be good.”


All this mis­be­hav­ing should be no sur­prise. It hap­pens rou­tinely but always met with an “I don’t know what to do with them” response. 

And so the story goes. Throughout the day Jason and Jenny fight, and Mr. and Mrs. Jones make threats. At the end of the day, Mr. and Mrs. Jones are angry and threaten never to take the kids any­where again. Jason and Jenny feel bad that they have made their par­ents so mis­er­able.  They are begin­ning to believe they really are bad kids—and they keep liv­ing up to their rep­u­ta­tion.

Now let’s visit the Smith fam­ily. They have just planned their trip to the zoo dur­ing their weekly fam­ily meet­ing. Part of the plan­ning included a dis­cus­sion about lim­its and solu­tions.  Mr. and Mrs. Smith have told Susan and Sam how mis­er­able they feel when they fight. The kids promise they won’t. Mr. Smith said, “I appre­ci­ate that, and I think we should come up with a plan for what will hap­pen if you for­get.” The kids keep insist­ing they won’t fight. Mr. and Mrs. Smith know their chil­dren have good inten­tions, and they are also very famil­iar with the pat­tern of good inten­tions gone awry. So, they have decided what they will do and they will fol­low through.

Mrs. Smith says, “Well then, is it okay with you if we stop the car if you do for­get? We don’t think it is safe to drive when you are fight­ing, so we’ll just pull over to the side of the road and wait for you to stop. You can let us know when you are ready for us to drive again. How do you feel about that solu­tion?” Both kids agree with inno­cent enthu­si­asm.

Typically, it doesn’t take them long to for­get their promise, and a fight begins. Mrs. Smith quickly and qui­etly pulls off to the side of the road. She and Mr. Smith take out mag­a­zines and start read­ing. Each child starts blam­ing the other while protest­ing his or her own inno­cence. Mr. and Mrs. Jones ignore them and just keep read­ing. It doesn’t take long for Susan to catch on that Mom and Dad must mean what they said. Susan says, “Okay, we are ready to keep dri­ving.” Mr. Smith says, “We’ll wait until we hear it from both of you.” Sam says, “But, she hit me.”

Mom and Dad just keep read­ing.  Susan hits Sam, “Tell them you are ready.” Sam cries, “She hit me again.” Mom and Dad just keep read­ing. Susan real­izes that hit­ting Sam won’t help, so she tries to rea­son with him. “We’ll have to sit here for­ever if you don’t say you are ready.” Susan fol­lows her parent’s lead and starts to color. Sam holds out for about three more min­utes before say­ing, “I’m ready for you to start dri­ving.” Mom says, “Thank you very much. I appre­ci­ate your coop­er­a­tion.”

About 30 min­utes later another fight starts. Mom starts to pull over to the side of the road. Both kids cry out in uni­son, “We’ll stop. We’re ready to keep dri­ving.” There was no more fight­ing for the rest of the day, and the Smiths enjoyed a won­der­ful day at the zoo.

What is the dif­fer­ence between the Jones fam­ily and the Smith fam­ily? Are Jason and Jenny really “bad” kids?” No, the dif­fer­ence is that the Smith fam­ily is help­ing their chil­dren learn coop­er­a­tion and prob­lem solv­ing skills while the Jones fam­ily is help­ing their chil­dren learn manip­u­la­tion skills. Mr. and Mrs. Smith demon­strate that they say what they mean and mean what they say by using kind and fol­low through. Mr. and Mrs. Jones don’t. They used angry threats. This had a tem­po­rary effect, but the kids would soon be fight­ing again.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith stopped using words and instead fol­lowed through with kind and firm action. It took a lit­tle longer for the kids to catch on, but once they did it had a longer last­ing effect. Because they are kids, they just had to test the waters one more time. When their par­ents started to fol­low through again the kids knew they meant what they said. They were left with the feel­ing, not that they were bad kids, but that they were clever enough to fig­ure out a solu­tion to the prob­lem and that coop­er­a­tion was the most effec­tive alter­na­tive.


Misbehaving will hap­pen. Plan for it. 


Go To Sleep


Bedtime Wars

The life of a par­ent is not often easy, but get­ting your child off to bed may be the most dif­fi­cult rou­tine and at a time when your strength and patience are worn thin. 
When we talk about address­ing a child’s needs, pro­fes­sion­als often quote the beloved psy­chol­o­gist Abraham Maslow’s  hier­ar­chy of needs which sim­ply put, points out that a per­son can not learn and grow to their full poten­tial if  their basic needs are not met. The most fun­da­men­tal needs are: esteem, love, secu­rity, and phys­i­cal needs. This is a widely accepted the­ory and there­fore, as par­ents, we should be quite insis­tent about giv­ing our chil­dren the oppor­tu­nity for a good night’s sleep.

So what do you do if your child refuses to go to sleep, whines and manip­u­lates you for more time, more water, or com­plains about mon­sters as a last ditch effort to keep from going to bed by them­selves?

First,address this issue as if it is the most impor­tant thing you do all day. If you do this well.… and con­sis­tently, it will be smooth sail­ing for years to come. Does that sound worth it? Of course it does! It will take time so plan on mak­ing this sac­ri­fice for a big­ger pay­out.

1. Think about your bed­time rou­tine. Make a chart (I have included a sam­ple one here. Add your own pic­tures) and include tim­ing for steps that your child tend to daw­dle on. 

2. Discuss with your child the plan and show them the chart. The chart is visual and con­crete which helps a child under­stand what to expect. Since chil­dren are crea­tures of habit, once they fall into your new rou­tine they will con­tinue it nat­u­rally.

3. Start bed­time early.

4. Make sure drinks and toi­let­ing are taken care of prior to bed. If going to the bath­room is used as an excuse then limit flu­ids after a cer­tain time. A child should be able to sleep through the night with­out need­ing to uri­nate, unless there is a phys­i­cal or psy­cho­log­i­cal issue. 

5. Follow your rou­tine and take note of the time. Your chil­dren should be aware that you are tim­ing every­thing such as read­ing, cud­dling etc. It is impor­tant to be strict because you want your child to know that manip­u­lat­ing is not an option. Children love to play beat the clock so if you make it fun, they will enjoy the ele­ment of being timed. 

6. Let them know that after they go to bed they should close their eyes and think of some­thing pleas­ant. Music is fine if that helps. Do not engage in con­ver­sa­tion.

7. Reiterate the impor­tance of a good night’s sleep and that to insure this you will be out­side their room mak­ing sure they stay in bed.

8. Keep the noise to an absolute min­i­mum (a sound machine may be help­ful if the noise is too loud and can­not be con­trolled).

9. Turn off all the lights in their room and any other room where light seeps in. A night­light is fine.

10. If they try to get out of bed for any rea­son be clear and firm and redi­rect with­out any emo­tion or con­ver­sa­tion.

11. I like to keep a suc­cess chart so they can feel moti­vated. Rewards in the morn­ing for a suc­cess­ful bed­time can be used and then weaned.

12. Make sure your child is tired and going to sleep at a time when they can eas­ily fall asleep. Children need 9–12 hours of sleep depend­ing on their indi­vid­ual needs. Sugar can influ­ence their sleep cycle so if your child needs less sleep you may want to look at how much sugar they eat each day.

13. If night­mares and mon­sters come into the pic­ture be nur­tur­ing but aware that the more you empathize the more this will be used to manip­u­late sleep. Be clear that there are no mon­sters and that night­mares are just like a scary movie that is not real. Your child will feel more secure if you act non­cha­lant. The more you engage on this sub­ject the longer they will embrace it. Consider read­ing a sto­ry­book on these sub­jects in the day­time. There are many good ones to choose from.

Every house­hold is dif­fer­ent and your child may need a slightly dif­fer­ent strat­egy. The most impor­tant point to know and remem­ber is that if your are firm and con­fi­dent they will com­ply. There is much to gain if you con­vey this mes­sage. There is much to lose if you let your child call the shots and deny their body the sleep it needs. 

Sample Chart:

Going to Sleep Image 

Take a bath 

 Put on paja­mas 

 Eat a snack

 Brush teeth


 Story time: 15 min­utes

 Cuddle time: 5 min­utes

 Close eyes, think of some­thing nice






Family Dinner

dinner table

Importance of Family Dinner

What goes on at the din­ner table in homes across the world has been a topic of increas­ing inter­est. Research has even shown a cor­re­la­tion between fam­i­lies that eat din­ner together and accep­tance by Ivy League schools. There is some­thing spe­cial that goes on when peo­ple share a meal. We choose to dine out for many rea­sons other than  food. Sitting across from each other in a relaxed envi­ron­ment allows us to open up and com­mu­ni­cate with qual­ity.


Time Constraints and Other Options

Many house­holds must jug­gle the real­i­ties of ath­letic prac­tice, after school or work meet­ing etc. Parents decide how many evenings they can let go of the com­mu­nal expe­ri­ence of a fam­ily meal. In my opin­ion it’s impor­tant to keep fam­ily din­ner time a goal that is met with at least some reg­u­lar­ity. If this is a pri­or­ity for you, but just won’t work in your par­tic­u­lar sched­ule, I sug­gest try­ing a dif­fer­ent sce­nario with sim­i­lar goals.  Perhaps dessert or a weekly fam­ily game night. The impor­tant thing is to build the foun­da­tion of your fam­ily through reg­u­lar oppor­tu­ni­ties for open com­mu­ni­ca­tion dur­ing plea­sur­able and shared expe­ri­ences.


Why We Avoid Family Dinner Time

I don’t like broc­coli. Use your nap­kin. Stop bug­ging your sis­ter. Who would want to sit down to a steady bar­rage of those com­ments? That is one of the rea­sons many fam­i­lies avoid sit­ting down to din­ner together. It is so much eas­ier to relax in front of our favorite shows or hide behind our own indi­vid­ual screens. If this res­onates with you then you are not alone. The din­ner table reflects the dynam­ics of your fam­ily struc­ture. If it is unpleas­ant then you prob­a­bly need to explore what the issues are and make some adjust­ments. It will be dif­fi­cult but very worth­while.


Our Soundtrack

I know a fam­ily with four chil­dren. Each child is incred­i­bly com­pet­i­tive with each as well as their cousins and friends. They have no prob­lem inquir­ing about how much money the other makes and what they may make in the future. Absent from the con­ver­sa­tion is the sta­tus of their hap­pi­ness and con­cern for the world in which they live. Success is money and money is every­thing. Through fur­ther explo­ration I learned that this was the gen­eral topic at the din­ner table. Which neigh­bor was pro­moted, who made a killing in the stock mar­ket and what expen­sive item was next on this wish list. Money was a con­stant topic and there­fore it became an impor­tant fea­ture in their children’s lives.


Barbra Streisand sings a beau­ti­ful song called “Children Will Listen.” Often times the most pow­er­ful mes­sages are the ones the chil­dren learn from lis­ten­ing to their parent’s sound­track. I encour­age all fam­i­lies to mon­i­tor their casual con­ver­sa­tion and decide for them­selves if that is what they want their chil­dren to be influ­enced by, because thy will for sure be lis­ten­ing. We can’t change who we are but becom­ing aware will cer­tainly inform some adjust­ments


Food For Thought

So clearly fam­ily din­ner is more about fam­ily time. Quality fam­ily time is the foun­da­tion for your child’s future. Make those min­utes count and com­mu­ni­cate with care. 


Sibling Rivalry



Brothers and sis­ters fight, argue and tease. Parents tell them to stop, medi­ate, and apply con­se­quences as they see fit. I have learned a lot as a par­ent and teacher. One thing I dis­cov­ered, out of frus­tra­tion, is the sub­ject of a recent arti­cle by Jane Nelson: Put Your Kids In The Same Boat. In this piece Jane beau­ti­fully points out how allow­ing your chil­dren to work things out is the best approach to deal­ing with sib­ling rivalry.

Twenty three years ago my chil­dren were twelve and seven years old. My son was older and was often aggres­sive with his younger sis­ter. I spoke out against this behav­ior and applied appro­pri­ate con­se­quences. The con­flict not only didn’t decrease but inten­si­fied. One day I needed a break from the con­flict and sent them both up to their rooms. I took no sides, just needed them to sep­a­rate and give myself some peace. What fol­lowed gave me that “aha” moment. There they were, at the top of the stairs, as thick as thieves. No longer were they mad at each other, now they were both mad at me. That’s when I real­ized that my involve­ment was the pay­off. Getting the other in trou­ble was the reward. Taking myself out of the equa­tion reduced the con­flict and allowed my chil­dren to form a bet­ter rela­tion­ship.

Parents and teach­ers who look beyond the imme­di­ate con­flict and stay out of the solu­tion have a bet­ter chance of facil­i­tat­ing bet­ter rela­tion­ships in the future. There are many strate­gies that can be employed such as a peace table, ask­ing chil­dren to talk it out using I state­ments etc. Sibling rivalry may always be present. The impor­tant point is to avoid being the judge and teach your chil­dren to be empa­thetic and respon­si­ble. 


Put Kids In The Same Boat

Posted: 14 May 2012 04:42 PM PDT



If you can’t stand to stay out of your children’s fights, and decide to become involved, the most effec­tive way is to put your chil­dren in the same boat. Do not take sides or try to decide who is at fault. Chances are you wouldn’t be right, because you never see every­thing that goes on. Right is always a mat­ter of opin­ion. What seems right to you will surely seem unfair from at least one child’s point of view. If you feel you must get involved to stop fights, don’t become judge, jury, and exe­cu­tioner. Instead, put them in the same boat and treat them the same. Instead of focus­ing on one child as the insti­ga­tor, say some­thing like, “Kids, which one of you would like to put this prob­lem on the agenda,” or, “Kids, do you need to go to yourfeel good places for a while, or can you find a solu­tion now?” or, “Kids, do you want to go to sep­a­rate rooms until you can find a solu­tion, or to the same room.”

Mrs. Hamilton noticed two year old Marilyn hit­ting eight month old Sally. Mrs. Hamilton felt that Sally had not done any­thing to pro­voke Marilyn, but she still put them both in the same boat. First she picked baby Sally up, put her in her crib, and said, “We’ll come get you when you are ready to stop fight­ing.” Then she took Marilyn to her room and said, “Come let me know when you are ready to stop fight­ing, and we’ll go get the baby.”

At first glance this may look ridicu­lous. Why put the baby in her crib for fight­ing when she was just sit­ting there, inno­cently, and doesn’t under­stand Mom’s admo­ni­tion any­way? Many peo­ple guess that the pur­pose of treat­ing them both the same is for the ben­e­fit of the older child to avoid feel­ing always at fault. Treating them the same ben­e­fits both chil­dren. When you take the side of the child you think is the vic­tim, you are train­ing that child to adopt a vic­tim men­tal­ity. When you always bully the child you think started it, you are train­ing that child to adopt a bully men­tal­ity.

We can’t know for sure if Sally pro­voked Marilyn (inno­cently or pur­pose­fully). If she did, rep­ri­mand­ing Marilyn would not only be unfair, but it would teach Sally a good way to get Mother on her side. This is good vic­tim train­ing. If she did not pro­voke Marilyn, rep­ri­mand­ing Marilyn (because she is the old­est) would teach Sally the pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting spe­cial atten­tion by pro­vok­ing Marilyn. Marilyn might then adopt the mis­taken belief that she is most sig­nif­i­cant as the bad child.

Still, peo­ple object that it doesn’t make sense to put a baby, who did noth­ing wrong, in her crib. Okay, okay. I’ll give you another alter­na­tive, but first I want to explain again. The point is not who did what. The point is that you treat both chil­dren the same so one doesn’t learn vic­tim men­tal­ity and the other doesn’t learn bully men­tal­ity. Surely, the baby won’t be trau­ma­tized by being put into her crib for few sec­onds. Another way to put chil­dren in the same boat is to give them both the same choice. “Would you both like to sit on my lap until you are ready to stop fight­ing?” Do or say what­ever is com­fort­able for you—so long as they are treated the same.

I can still hear objec­tions. But, what if the older child really did hit the younger child for no rea­son? Shouldn’t the older child be pun­ished? Shouldn’t the younger child be com­forted?

Since you have read this far, you know that pun­ish­ment is not an alter­na­tive. It is such a ridicu­lous exam­ple to give to chil­dren: “I’ll hurt you to teach you not to hurt oth­ers.”

I sug­gest you com­fort the old­est child first, and then invite her to help you com­fort the youngest. Again this is not reward­ing the old­est child for start­ing it. It is rec­og­niz­ing that, for some rea­son, the old­est child is feel­ing dis­cour­aged. Maybe she is feel­ing dethroned by the youngest. Maybe she believes you love the youngest more. The rea­son isn’t impor­tant right now. (Dealing with the belief behind the behav­ior is.) It is impor­tant to know that she feels dis­cour­aged and needs encour­age­ment.

Encouragement might look like this: “Honey, I can see that you are upset.” (Validating feel­ings is very encour­ag­ing.) “Would a hug help?” (Hugs.) Can you imag­ine her sur­prise to receive love and under­stand­ing instead of pun­ish­ment and dis­tain? After she feels bet­ter you might say, “Would you be will­ing to help your lit­tle sis­ter feel bet­ter? Do you want to give her a hug first, or do you want me to?” Can you see that these ges­tures encour­age lov­ing, peace­ful actions?

Suppose the older child is too upset to give you a hug, or to want to hug the baby. Still, make the ges­ture. Then say, “I can see you aren’t ready yet. I’m going to com­fort your sis­ter. When you are ready, you can come help me.” The baby is not going to suf­fer that much more while you take a few min­utes to com­fort the oldest—and you will avoid vic­tim train­ing that could invite the baby to decide, “The way to be spe­cial around here is to pro­voke my older sis­ter.”

If you are hear­ing these meth­ods with you heart, you will get the idea. Put your­self in the shoes of your chil­dren. What would help you the most and teach you the most? And, don’t for­get to use your sense of humor.

One father would stick his thumb in front of his fight­ing chil­dren and say, “I’m a reporter for CBC. Who would like to be the first to speak into my micro­phone and give me your ver­sion of what is hap­pen­ing here?” Sometimes his chil­dren would just laugh, and some­times they would each take a turn telling their ver­sion. When they told their ver­sions of the fight, the father would turn to an imag­i­nary audi­ence and say, “Well folks. You heard it here first. Tune in tomor­row to see how these bril­liant chil­dren solve this prob­lem.” If the prob­lem wasn’t dif­fused by then, the father would say, “Are you going to put the prob­lem on the fam­ily meet­ing agenda so the whole fam­ily can help with sug­ges­tions, or can I meet you here tomorrow—same time, same station—for a report to our audi­ence.”

When adults refuse to get involved in children’s fights or put the chil­dren in the same boat by treat­ing them the same for fight­ing, the biggest motive for fight­ing is elim­i­nated.




Is This Normal?









Is This Normal?

We have all seen that wild child; run­ning around, yelling, even aggres­sive. We won­der why these par­ents allow their child to act that way or per­haps, is it some­thing that goes beyond dis­ci­pline? As par­ents we may be ask­ing our­selves about the our child’s behav­ior is nor­mal.  Recently a New York Times Magazine arti­cle asked a sim­i­lar ques­tion; (When Is A Problem Child truly Dangerous, 5/12/12.) Seeking advice from a pedi­a­tri­cian is often frus­trat­ing and teach­ers and friends are usu­ally too polite to tell you what they are think­ing.  Parents may also be unaware or in denial, and there­fore tol­er­ate behav­iors that are unac­cept­able.

Every par­ent ben­e­fits from a tune up now and then. Parent edu­ca­tion work­shops are help­ful and more per­son­al­ized atten­tion even more effec­tive. But many par­ents avoid this sup­port for so many rea­sons. The ques­tion is why and how can we make par­ent edu­ca­tion more cus­tom­ary? Children are a parent’s biggest pri­or­ity and being a mom or dad is the most impor­tant job on earth. Why don’t we rou­tinely seek out pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment sup­port just like in any other career? Whether a child’s beahv­ior is nor­mal or not, bad behav­ior need not be tol­er­ated. 

Last year I met a woman and as we chat­ted the sub­ject of what I do came up. She was instantly inter­ested and said she could prob­a­bly use my ser­vices her­self. Her child was dif­fi­cult but prob­a­bly nor­mal for his age. As time went by, and our paths con­tin­ued to cross, the sub­ject of her three ram­bunc­tious boys resur­faced. At times she looked worn out from the stresses of rais­ing her fam­ily. She began to make more seri­ous over­tures about get­ting my opin­ion and said she would call.

There was an inci­dent in school that even­tu­ally con­vinced her to take me up on my offers to help. We met and she dis­closed her con­cerns. Nothing sounded ter­ri­ble and I was sure I would be able to relieve some stress and help her set lim­its, but first I would need to meet her chil­dren.

Nothing had pre­pared for the out of con­trol behav­ior her five years old dis­played. He yelled in my face, hit, got up on the kitchen table and was hor­ri­bly rude to me. I was sur­prised to see that none of this par­tic­u­larly fazed her. She made some excuses for him and we set a time for me to observe him in other sit­u­a­tions. This truly was not nor­mal.

After work­ing with him alone, as well as in the pres­ence of his nanny, (where even worse behav­ior ensued,) I met with mom and dad to develop a plan. The child had no respect for author­ity, saw no con­se­quences for his bad behav­ior and behaved in an ani­mal­is­tic way to the point where restau­rants and pub­lic trans­porta­tion were unavail­able. These intel­li­gent par­ents were trapped and had got­ten accus­tomed to their fate.

After just two ses­sions with mom and dad they are expe­ri­enc­ing major changes. They now talk with their child about expec­ta­tions and con­se­quences and apply them con­sis­tently. They devel­oped check­lists so each of their boys can be more inde­pen­dent and effi­cient and she doesn’t have to nag them to get things accom­plished. Mom and dad are united in their efforts and their rela­tion­ship has improved as well. They are able to gro­cery shop, walk calmly in the street, and take buses and trains with­out fear of wild impul­sive behav­ior endan­ger­ing their youngest boy. They are thrilled! This adorable lit­tle out of con­trol boy can now fully engage in social and aca­d­e­mic sit­u­a­tions. His charm and intel­li­gence is evi­dent. Caring and empa­thy can now be revealed. This is just the begin­ning and it has already trans­formed their lives.

All par­ents ben­e­fit from sup­port. There are ways of gain­ing coop­er­a­tion, encour­ag­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion and increas­ing respon­si­ble behav­ior. I encour­age every par­ent to invest some time and money in learn­ing to be a bet­ter par­ent. Your chil­dren will thank you and you will never regret it.