Parenting Tip: Give Short Explanations

Just yesterday I was at the grocery store and I heard the following conversation between a mother and her first-grader:

5 brightly colored lollipopsNow, Suzie, I am sorry but you cannot buy any candy. It isn’t good for your body, which needs certain nutrients for you to grow big and strong. Plus sugar is not good for your teeth. If you eat that candy now, you won’t be hungry for dinner when we get home. . . .

All the while, Suzie was whining and complaining that she wanted to buy this special candy. Each point the mother made was countered with an argument from Suzie.

If you have ever found yourself in a situation like this one, you could benefit from this tip: Rather than give a long explanation, repeat a simple phrase.

Parents often find themselves trying to reason with their kids. If you say just the right thing, then perhaps your children will see the wisdom of your words. What happens more often than not, however, is that your children either tune you out or they use your words as ammunition to argue with you.

This mother could have simply said, “Sorry, Suzie. The rule is “No candy.’”

But wait, you say “Isn’t it important to teach our children and to help them understand the reasons for our rules and decisions?”

The answer is “yes” – with one condition. You must do your teaching at a time when your children are ready to be taught. When you are standing in the middle of a store and the candy is looming large, most kids are not ready to listen.

Ideally, you have already discussed the importance and reason for your rules when you set them. Then, if your children protest you can give them a quick reminder such as: “Remember we talked about how you need to eat healthy foods to grow strong. Our rule is “No candy purchases.’”

If your child continues to complain, you can restate the rule: “No candy.”

And, if in the course of your child’s tirade, you realize that you need to provide more information, you can tell your child: “We can discuss why it is important that you eat healthy foods when we get home. For now, the rule is no candy purchases.”

Remember, when emotions are running high, say less.

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Parenting Tip: Manage Children’s Frustrations by Changing the Mood

Has your child ever protested or refused to get ready to go when you tell him it is time to leave a friend’s house? This can be a very annoying – not to mention embarrassing – situation be in. When it happens, parents often don’t know how to respond.

The following tip can be useful in these situations: Manage your children’s frustrations by changing their mood while still insisting that they cooperate.

A lantern with bubbles floating byThe first thing you can do to ease some of the tension is acknowledge your children’s frustration and disappointment. That doesn’t imply giving in, it simply means listening and mirroring back what your children are feeling.

Sometimes that’s all children need to hear in order to feel less frustrated and do what they are asked to do. In the above situation, you could say,“I see that you are having such a good time and you don’t want to leave yet.”

If that doesn’t do the trick, you can give your children their wishes in fantasy.

  • “I bet you wish you could stay at Davey’s house all night!”
    Or maybe
  • “You wish you could stay forever. What do you think you would play if you didn’t have to leave? On our way home, let’s come up with a list.”

By trying to change the mood with a little listening and imagination, you help your children gain control over their emotions so that they can move on more easily and, in the end, be more cooperative.

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Parenting Tip: 3 Ways to Cope with Your Children’s Anger

angry red cartoon faceHave you ever had to deal with an angry child? Chances are, if you are a parent, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Dealing with your kid’s outbursts can be very frustrating. You may get mad at your child for being angry in the first place. It can be a vicious cycle, ending with everyone in the family feeling resentful and even angrier.

So what is the best way to handle your children’s anger?

Accept and understand that kids will get angry. Feeling disappointed and frustrated is normal for children as they proceed through childhood. Tell your children that it is okay to be mad and that you will help them handle their strong emotions.

Teach your children acceptable ways of expressing their anger. Emphasize the importance of not being hurtful with words or behaviors. Teach them to speak respectfully even when angry by using “I” messages to express feelings. For example, instead of name-calling or hitting, they can say, “I am really mad at you!”

Help your children to find ways to calm down. Useful techniques include:

  • taking deep breaths,
  • counting to 10, doing jumping jacks,
  • rocking in a chair,
  • or being alone for a while.

Once they are calm, then your children can talk about the reasons why they were angry. You can work together to find solutions.

Children do not get angry on purpose and they are not out to “get you” with their strong feelings. Your job is to model and teach your children as they grow and that includes how to handle difficult emotions. With this in mind, you can approach an angry situation with a little more empathy.

Posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, Anger | 1 Comment

Parenting Tip: Let Children Experience Natural Consequences

A note saying OopsLoving parents who want their children to be successful and to reach their potential often err on the side of being over-protective and overly involved in their children’s struggles.

They go to extreme lengths to keep their children from experiencing any kind of failure.

If this sounds like something you can relate to, then you may benefit from today’s tip: Give your children the opportunity to face the natural consequences of their mistakes.

Assuming they will not be harmed physically or morally, children often learn important lessons from making mistakes. When you run interference by rescuing them and bailing them out, you deny them the opportunity to discover their own limits and talents, to figure out how to do things better the next time, and to solve problems.

For example, when you assume responsibility for your children getting their work done and act as a personal assistant, you deny them the opportunity to discover why it is important to meet obligations.

When you turn over responsibility to your children, they may initially miss some deadlines, but ultimately they will learn better time management and organizational skills as well as what happens when they fail to do what is expected of them.

This does not mean that you abandon your children. You can still:

  • encourage them:
    “I’m sure you can figure this out.”
  • offer support:
    “Let me know if you want to talk about this.”
  • provide guidance:
    “What do you think will happen if you do this? What about if you try that?”

Remember, it can be more loving to let a child fail in the short term in order to let him grow in the long term. Life’s natural consequences are often the best teacher.

Posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, Discipline | 1 Comment

Parenting Tip: Plan for Success

an open calendar and clock to plan your dayIf you are like many parents, just getting through daily routines with your children can be a real hassle.

For example, take getting out of the house in the morning. Every day you wake up, thinking of how kind and loving you’ll be. Then within one quick hour, you find your voice and your blood pressure rising.

If this sounds familiar, then consider the following tips which involve planning for success.

  • Rearrange your schedule. Are your children little sleepyheads in the morning, but have free time in the evening? If so, move some of the morning steps to the nighttime, such as picking out clothes or packing up their bags.

  • Create a list of tasks that are repeated on a regular basis and post it in a prominent place. Put on it all of the steps, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, and making the bed. For younger children, you can include pictures. And yes, many children really do need to be reminded to brush their teeth every single day.

  • Limit choices. Children can get so caught up in all of the options that they become immobilized.
    • Rather than asking an open-ended question such as: “What would you like for breakfast?”
    • You can direct your child with: “Would you like cereal or a bagel?”

    To simplify things, you can specify the type of cereal or topping for the bagel. Another approach is to ask: “Do you want to eat something hot or something cold?”

With a little planning, your routines in the morning or any time of day can go a lot more smoothly.

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Parenting Tip: Focus on Children’s Actual Behavior, Not their Mood

sad looking girl

  • Have you ever had to say “no” to your children when they ask to do something?
  • Or have your children ever resisted doing something you tell them to do?

You use all your positive parenting skills to get them to cooperate. And when they finally do comply, they do so grumbling and frowning.

Many parents wonder whether they should address the complaints.

The tip for today is: Focus on your children’s actual behavior, not on their attitude or mood.

As a parent, you know how hard it can be to set a limit that your children obviously don’t like or to engage their cooperation to do something they don’t want to do. And they are often quick to let you know when they don’t like the restrictions or requests you make. But there are times when it is important for your children to obey you and follow your rules.

Remember that your job is not always to make your children happy, but to help them develop into responsible, caring people. And in order to do that, it is important that your children comply with your limits and requests.

There are a number of things you can do when your children protest:

  • First, allow some complaining; you can acknowledge their feelings.
    “You are really angry that you have to finish your chores before you play.”

  • Second, be clear, calm, and confident as you insist on the behavior you want.
    “We agreed that you would finish your chores before you watch your show.”

  • And finally, avoid getting distracted by their negative attitude.
    “Even though you are upset, you still need to finish your chores first.”

Even if your children grumble about the limits you set, you can choose to focus on the fact that their behavior ultimately reflected their compliance. Remember to highlight positive behavior and cooperation when you see it!


Posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, Anger, responsibility | Leave a comment

Parenting Tip: Know and Respect Your Limits

Have you ever felt that you are constantly giving to your children and doing so much for them that you are exhausted and even resentful of all their demands?

If so, then this month’s parenting tip is right for you: Know and Respect Your Limits

It is far better to give only as much as you can willingly – or perhaps just slightly more-so. After that, set limits calmly and firmly. Then what you do for your child will be done lovingly.

Parents need a degree of physical and emotional well-being so they can preserve their most important resources – their energy and their good will.

Parents usually take better care of their children when their own needs are met so it is actually better for everyone when parents respect their own limits and feelings.

For example, you can say:

“We don’t have time to take a walk this morning. I know you really want to go. After your nap this afternoon, we can go out for a walk.”

So, rather than feeling that you have to say “yes” to all your children’s requests, you can learn to say “no” to them sometimes with respect and understanding. If you do so, you will have modeled a valuable lesson in setting personal boundaries and taking care of oneself.

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Give Yourself Five Minutes: Reduce Holiday Stress

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year”

~ Songwriters George Wyle and Eddie Pola


There seem to be two camps: those who sing along merrily to the above lyrics and those who cringe when they hear it. I pitch my tent in the cringe camp.

I find this time of year s-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l.

Needing some stress relief ideas, I recently did what I usually do – I attended a workshop. The presenter at this “how to handle the season” class suggested we take a cue from nature and “surrender” to the season. Wear warm socks and shoes, eat hearty soups and stews, and only do what is absolutely necessary. Good advice. However, in between all that “surrendering,” you need to pay the bills, help with homework, take the dog to the vet, and, yes, prepare for the holidays!

But the best tip the presenter gave was this: find five minutes a day to close your eyes, sit quietly, and picture your dream version of the season. While you are hanging out there, brainstorm creative ways to make that version a reality.

By the way, science backs up the idea that meditation (just another word for sitting quietly) can boost your brain power, improve your memory, sharpen your focus, heighten your mental clarity, and lead you to more creative thought.

So for example, if your dream is to have a quiet holiday at home with your immediate family and not socialize with any, ahem, challenging relatives, is there a way you could limit visits with those relatives?

Or, conversely, do you love having lots of friends and family around on the holidays but many live far away or are just not interested in socializing? Maybe you can find a way to travel to them or reach out to other friends and relatives who live nearby and do want to celebrate with you.

As with many issues in life, there is usually a balance, a compromise. To find that right point that works for you and your family during this season, sit quietly every day for five minutes. You may be inspired in unexpected ways to adjust your plans to better meet your needs.

And this quiet approach may help you to create the life you want throughout the year – maybe it is smoother morning routines, healthier lifestyles, more laughter . . .


By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator



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Thankful for What I Have and Who I Am

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.

~Henry David Thoreau

Very often we hear, “Be grateful for the ordinary things in life.” Excellent advice.
So I try to be grateful for the big “ordinary” things – my children, my husband, a roof over my head – and the little ordinary things – wrinkle cream, hair dye, and craft beer (not necessarily in that order).
But Thoreau in his quote says he is also grateful for “what I am.” Hmmm, what does that mean? Maybe this might explain:

I help take care of my very ill sibling. It’s hard to be grateful for anything in this situation. So, for me, I think Thoreau’s more nuanced version of gratitude means be grateful for:

  • my tenacity: I fight to resolve the varied, complicated issues of my sibling’s condition

  • my knowledge: I (usually) know to take care of myself when I feel depleted

  • my insight: I (mostly) surrender to problems that have no resolution

Those would be the things that “I am.”
Unlike Thoreau, however, my thanksgiving is not perpetual; some days I am so spent that I can barely speak. But I try to remember to thank the heavens for the everyday “things” I have and I will work on being grateful for who I am.
What are attributes for which you can be thankful?

  • Are you a good listener?

  • Do you make people laugh when they are feeling down?

  • Can you sink a three-pointer with one hand tied behind your back?

See, we all have gifts for which to be grateful.
Try modeling Thoreau’s version of gratitude for your kids. When life gives you lemons, show them how good you are at making lemonade (figuratively speaking). And serve that lemonade with your Thanksgiving dinner. Mmmm, turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. I am eternally grateful.

By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator
Posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, Holidays, Overindulgence/Gratitude, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Laying the Foundation for Responsibility One Cookie at a Time

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? ….. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.
~Saint Augustine


Ah, foundation. It’s not just an undergarment. It’s what parents need to build beneath their children to help them become responsible adults.

Like when my son was in middle school and he and his best friend were hanging out at my house and said they wanted to bake a giant chocolate chip cookie. You know, the kind you get for someone’s birthday that’s decorated like a cake. They claimed they knew how to do it. Really? I was skeptical. I pictured a mutant, unappetizing cookie coming out of the oven and a kitchen that looked like the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald after they were done.

But I let them do it. Why? A few reasons.

  • They were of age to use the kitchen (about 13).
  • I was home to supervise if need be (I was available at the time).
  • I knew what kind of kids they were (they would live up to their promise to clean up when they finished their creation).
  • And I truly felt that it was my job to give them the confidence to bake a giant chocolate chip cookie (this took a little bit of faith).
  • I had also been on a diet for a week and really wanted a cookie.

So they baked the cookie. Guess what? It came out chewy, gooey, and delicious. And my kitchen didn’t look too bad either.

So how does one lay a foundation for promoting responsibility in kids? Here are a few ways:

  1. Consider the child’s age – know what a child is capable of at what age.
  2. Hold them to their word –promotes trustworthiness.
  3. Act as an advisor – provide support and help if the going gets tough.
  4. Give them some rope – takes courage on the parents’ part but promotes self-reliance.
  5. Know your child – each one is unique in what their skills are.
  6. Make some reasonable rules – a kid needs to know he’s got duties to be responsible for.

And remember, it takes time to build any type of foundation. Use the adage, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” when teaching responsibility. And like a marathoner, make sure you get enough calories. Chocolate chip cookies could help!

By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator
Posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, responsibility | Leave a comment