The Gift of Acceptance

Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.
~ Michael J. Fox

I thought I was an accepting person until I realized I wasn’t.

Case in point: a little over a year ago I developed very painful arthritis and visited a long list of doctors, getting only minimal relief. Friends suggested alternative healing methods but, me being me, I scoffed. Months passed and with the pain still there I decided to try the alternative methods. Guess what? I got much-needed relief. I’m not 100% pain-free, but I’ve been helped a lot because I accepted treatment that I used to consider humbug.

Just like every human being, I experience hardships. But via acceptance, I think I’m managing them a little better.

Which got me to thinking. The coming holidays can be a time of contemplation and reflection. What better season to work on acceptance? Consider accepting your situation (whatever it may be), learn about it, and forge onward as opposed to maybe denying that the problem exists, instantly rejecting possible solutions, or adopting a “poor me” attitude.

Accept also possible setbacks: children may not always live up to our hopes and expectations, efforts to manage a situation may not work out as planned, or your family may resist your new approaches to a problem. You may be disappointed to discover that you don’t always adopt this “I can” attitude when confronted with challenges. I still dig in my heels so deeply sometimes I need a ladder to get out. And I’ve been known to have so many pity parties that I really should hire an event planner!

But with the holidays approaching, the opportunity might be perfect to consider acceptance. It could be a gift to yourself and your family that may help you with some issues in very positive ways.

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

Parenting Styles: Two Different Reactions

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
– Mahatma Gandhi

Imagine the following scenario: A seven-year-old boy is caught stealing a game from a local toy store.

Now envision two different parents responding to the same situation:

The first parent screams at the boy that he is going to wind up in jail, calls him untrustworthy and a sneak, sends him to his room, and grounds him for a month. No explanation is given about why what he did was wrong or how he can fix the problem.

The second parent tells the boy how disappointed he is and lets him know that in their family, people do not take things that do not belong to them. He has the child think about what would happen if everyone took whatever they wanted and asks him to consider how the owner of the store might feel about his merchandise being stolen. This parent gets his son’s input about how the child could make amends – making sure that either the toy is returned or the boy finds a way to re-pay the owner. Furthermore, the parent helps the child decide what he is going to say to the owner when they go together to the store. This parent knows that it is not totally unusual, or indicative of a future life lived as a criminal, for seven-year-olds to pilfer; he also knows that he has to impress upon the child that stealing is wrong.

Which child do you think would be angry at his parent and focus on his resentment toward his parent rather than on what he did wrong? Which one do you think would attempt to steal again if no one were around who might catch him in the act? If you answered child number one, you would be right.

Which child do you think would be more likely to learn that stealing is not acceptable? Which one would feel that although he made a mistake, he can learn from it, make amends, and restore his own and his parent’s positive view of him? Which one will more likely take responsibility for his actions now and in the future? Which boy would feel that his parent is there to support him to get through life’s challenges?

If you answered child number two, you would be right. Although it takes more time, effort, and thought to teach children life’s lessons in a way that they can make them their own, it is a much more powerful approach.

By Audrey Krisbergh, Certified Parenting Educator
Posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, Discipline | Leave a comment

How to Enjoy Halloween

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
                            ~Author Unknown

pumkin funI used to love Halloween. It was frightening and creepy, but in a good way. Then I had kids. At first it was easy to celebrate because when they were really young, I could just dress them up in a funny pair of pajamas and schlep them to Grandma’s. Boom. Done. See you at Thanksgiving.

But as they got older, they wanted really different, creative costumes and begged me to allow them to go wandering the streets in the dark with their friends. Then they’d come home and want to eat 3 or 400 (approximately) candy bars. I started to hate Halloween.

Now that my kids are grown, I can see things more clearly. Here are some ideas that may help:

  1. To make imaginative costumes, go retro – cut a hole in a white sheet big enough to fit over your child’s head, cut it up into tatters, plop it on. Then put white make-up on his face with large black circles around his eyes. You’ve got yourself a ghost who can see where he is going! (Full disclosure: I didn’t think of this myself. I Googled “easy Halloween costume” – oh, Google, I love you!)
  2. When they come home and want to eat the aforementioned 3 to 400 candy bars all at once, and throw a tantrum if you say no, tell them ghosts don’t eat candy. It’s like diarrhea – passes right through them! Seriously, I always allowed my kids to choose 2 or 3 pieces of candy that night and stored the rest away on the promise that I’d let them choose a little bit from the stash every now and again.
  3. Check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be too cold out for a simple ghost costume, think of some costumes that require layers. What are some good examples, you ask? Oh, just Google it.
  4. If your kids are afraid of scary masks, noises, and the like, you don’t have to do the traditional “door-to-door” Halloween experience. Skip the trick or treating, stay home, turn off the lamppost, and have a little private party! Invite some of your kids’ more sensitive friends over, make homemade treats, decorate them with orange and black edibles, and consider yourself blessed.
  5. Finally, if your kids won’t go to bed because they are wound up from all the Halloween hoopla, you may have to push back bedtime just a little. Try to stick to the regular routine but once in bed let them tell you stories about their Halloween fun, or perhaps you could read them an extra favorite book in a calm, relaxed voice. Be firm when it’s time for lights out, but accept that on this night they may be asleep a bit later than usual.

All that candy, costumes, and scary stuff can be a real pain in the pumpkin. But if you don’t take it too seriously, and try to work around it, trust me, you, and they, may find this holiday to be a treat!

Happy Halloween!

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

Pledge to Stop Spanking

Were you spanked as a child? Sorry, but bad behavior from the “good old days” does not justify spanking today. We did many stupid things in the old days: we rode around in cars with no seatbelts; we smoked in airplanes; we slathered baby oil on our bodies and stayed in the sun for hours til we were lobster red. Do we do those things today? Heck, no! Science has determined those behaviors as unsafe for our health; just as spanking has been determined to be bad for our children’s emotional health. And in the case of Adrian Peterson’s son, a child’s physical health. Spanking has to stop now.

I hear the following arguments all the time, “I was spanked as a child and I’m okay.” “It’s a cultural thing.” “It stops the behavior, doesn’t it?” Listen up: you may not be as okay as you think you are, it’s time to change your culture, and, yeah, it stops the behavior but research shows that spanking causes your child to resent you. Studies also show that using violence to resolve problems causes aggression in children. One study shows that “children who were regularly spanked had less gray matter in certain areas of the pre-frontal cortex and that this has been linked to depression, addiction, and other mental health disorders.” Pediatricians concur.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says: “The use of physical punishment to discipline children has been linked to a range of mental health problems and is strongly opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.” (Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders: Results From a Nationally Representative U.S. Sample)

Parents may lose it at one time or another and maybe smack their children out of anger – no one is perfect. But a steady diet of spanking is very harmful to the relationship you have with your children. And very harsh physical punishment, such as what Adrian Peterson inflicted on his defenseless little boy, is of course extremely harmful emotionally to children and is traumatic for them. So, do you want to have a healthy relationship with your children? Do you want them to grow up in the best possible emotional environment? Do you want them to act appropriately? Then make a pledge to stop spanking.

There are actions you can take today to stop spanking and also to get your children to behave:

Learn about child development:

    Do you know why your four-year-old might still be wetting himself? He is not being stubborn or defiant. It’s caused by a whole range of factors but it is not abnormal. If you learn about what’s normal for a child at any age, it will help you maintain your cool and tolerate certain behavior when you realize that your child is not purposefully disobeying you.


Give yourself a time out:

    When you are about ready to blow and maybe hit your children, tell them how angry you are (no name-calling though). Then, if your children are old enough, step out of the room until you calm down. If your children are too young to be left alone, put them in their cribs, high chairs or some other safe place.

    • Take enough deep breaths so that you can repeat a mantra to yourself such as “Hitting my child will make things worse,” or “Hitting my child is bad for him,” or “There are better ways to discipline my child.”
    • You can also ask yourself “Will his (spilling this milk) really matter in ten years?” 
    • You may find it helpful to exercise vigorously, such as running around the block if your children are older or jumping jacks if your children are young and you can’t leave the house. Even cleaning the house can prevent you from boiling over.
    • Or it may work for you to imagine yourself on a peaceful island, listening to the waves in the background.

    When you have calmed down, then you can think about appropriate responses and consequences.


Know your child:

    his temperament, level of maturity, developmental stage. This will allow you to set realistic expectations. You can better teach your child how you would like him to behave when you take these things into account.


Know yourself:

    For example, if you are tired and cranky after work when you pick up the kids, give yourself a few minutes to relax before getting them (even if it’s only 5 minutes alone in the car). You are a better parent when you are not depleted physically and emotionally.


Find the positive in some of your children’s behavior.

    Compliment them on their appropriate behavior. It’s important that you find the good in your kids.

And you not are a “permissive parent” if you don’t spank. No one is saying that discipline is not important. But there are proven, practical, non-violent methods of discipline. Yes, they are harder to mete out because they require time, patience, self-control, and the willingness to think about how to respond rather than just lash out, but they are much more effective in the long run.

Please make a pledge today to stop spanking your children. Seek out help to deal with your anger if that is a problem, talk to your pediatrician or a trusted friend, and learn the many alternatives to corporal punishment. Do whatever it takes to learn how to discipline your child in a more humane, kind, loving, and effective way. Do it today – you will never regret it.

By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator

For more information about the long-term adverse effects of corporal punishment, and for tips about healthier and more effective ways to discipline your children, read the following articles:
A Case Against Corporal Punishment
Turning Down the Heat in your Home
Say No to Violence in Families
Discipline Articles Series

Posted in Discipline | 1 Comment

Allow Some Failure

 “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche


Remember the kid raised by wolves? Some experts might say he had the best parents ever. It could be because the wolves were literally hands-off; no car pools, no nagging, no checking the school website, and I assume the wolves didn’t have to tell the kid not to eat junk food – the ultimate “free-range” parents.

Michael W. Anderson and Timothy D. Johanson, authors of the book GIST, say parents should be more wolf-like. Anderson and Johanson write that it’s a tough world out there and the sooner your children prepare for life’s ups-and-downs, the better off they will be. Oh, and some failure is definitely an option; in small doses it can help your child become stronger.

Take the wolf kid again, for example. Let’s say he is trying to catch a rabbit for dinner but gets distracted by a bird up in the sky and the rabbit gets away. Oh, well, the kid goes hungry that night and voila, he learns that he needs to stay focused!

But seriously, parents, one of our main jobs is to teach our children life skills. Show them the ropes. Give them the tools. Then back off. Helicopter parenting does not help them fly out of the nest (mixed metaphors notwithstanding).

If we allow our children to struggle a bit and even fail at times it can help them learn how to navigate some of life’s inevitable rigors unscathed.  Check out the book GIST; it’s got some helpful, interesting philosophies (and, I might add, some views I totally disagree with).  All children and families are unique so as with all parenting advice, pick and choose only what could work successfully for your family and discard the rest.

By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator

Posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, Discipline, Overindulgence/Gratitude | Leave a comment

Playing with Your Children: It’s Important

“Waste time with your children.”

~ Pope Francis

No matter what your religion, you’ve got to like Pope Francis’ latest plain-spoken comment, made while speaking to a crowd about our work-centered world. It seems like a simple comment, but it is jam-packed with meaning.

If I may humbly dissect the complexity of the statement:

  • The obvious meaning: spend as much time with your kids as possible. No time spent with your kids is a waste.
  • The Pope has a great sense of humor and, of course, used the word “waste” intentionally. But isn’t it an interesting commentary on our society that spending time with our kids could even be facetiously talked about as a waste?
  • What some may consider a waste of time can actually be priceless. For example: simply sitting around chatting with our kids really helps us get to know them and what they are doing in their lives. It’s the definition of “quality time.” Sometimes doing “nothing” brings a family closer together.
  • The Pope didn’t mean to make us feel guilty if it’s difficult to find spare time to spend with our kids. Sometimes our jobs require us to work overtime and some of us have to work nights and weekends to make extra money to pay the bills. It can be hard to fit in down-time with the kids. Yet when we do have a few extra minutes, do we fill it with “productive” items from our to-do list such as cleaning the house, or do we take advantage of the time to kick-back and connect with our kids?

Obviously by using the word “waste,” the Pope was speaking tongue-in-cheek. Spending time with your kids is quite valuable and never a waste of time. In that vein, I’d like to end with another quote, this one from Laurence Steinberg, Temple University psychologist:

“There is no more important job in any society than raising children, and there is no more important influence on how children develop than their parents.”



By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator
Posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, Parents, Seasonal: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall | Leave a comment

Ten Tips for Building Self-Esteem

“High self-esteem is not noisy conceit. It is a quiet sense of self-respect, a feeling of self-worth.”

~ Dorothy Corkille Briggs

Ever wish you could take back something that you said? Yeah, me too. Once when my son was little he was playing outside and suddenly came running in the house excitedly exclaiming, “Mom, look what I found.” It was an old, mostly-used up roll of electrical tape. I apparently was having a very bad day because I blurted out, “Who cares?”

Jeez, what did I say that for? If I used my thinking brain I would have said something gentle like, “Oh, you find such pleasure in the little things in life, my sweet, sweet son.” But no, with my reptilian brain as a weapon I went right for my son’s self-esteem jugular. My son is now 27 years old and a great young man, but that incident is stamped into my memory for eternity. Even though most of the time I said and did the right things and tried hard to raise both my kids to be lovable and confident with a boatload of self-worth, boy, do I wish I could go back in time and re-do that moment.

Well, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, read on for some tips that encourage your children to have a healthy image of themselves. (By the way, none of them include asking “who cares?”).

  1. Show unconditional love; accept them for who they are and don’t try to make them who you want them to be.
  2. Have conversations with your children; don’t preach, don’t lecture, but teach your values.
  3. Listen to your children without judgment; not always easy but crucial for open communication.
  4. Set boundaries using discipline, not punishment (there’s a difference); and NO SPANKING.
  5. Encourage and support your children’s interests; give them the tools and information they need to succeed.
  6. Act the way you’d like your children to act; they pay lots of attention to your behavior.
  7. Don’t call your children names and don’t make fun of them.
  8. Use humor in your parenting (but don’t use sarcasm – children don’t understand sarcasm).
  9. Work at understanding what makes your children tick; learn about child development.
  10. Go for professional help if you are struggling.

This is by no means a complete list. And we all have our moments when we lose it and say or do the wrong thing. But if we try to do our best most of the time our children will be okay.


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

Parenting Tip #5: Stick Mom Says

Learn how your discipline “adds” to positive behavior:


For more information about what discipline is, click here.

Posted in A - Z Parenting Tips, Discipline, STICK MOM | Leave a comment

Parenting Tip #4: Stick Mom Says…

Ever wonder why your children’s behavior seems so out of sorts? Stick Mom sheds light on this “alien” behavior.


For more information about child development stages, click here.

Posted in STICK MOM | Leave a comment

Parenting Tip #3: Stick Mom Says….

Even though it isn’t always easy, listen to your kids!

Learn more about the very important skill of listening by clicking here.


Posted in Communication, STICK MOM | Leave a comment